Gay Erasmus posted a story about an evangelical-Christian couple running an ex-gay cult out of an Australian Gloria Jean's. It made me wonder, just what is the deal these days with evangelicals and coffee?
Before Gay Erasmus, I assumed that the link between coffee and Christian conversion had been limited to my provincial settings. Then again, everything in this town has a dark Christian element. Heck, I can’t pick up my dry cleaning without having to listen to the good word. Still, I like their Judgement-Day specials that give my shirts extra starch for half price.
Every independent coffee house in this small Texas town reeks of moldering Christian piety. The local university newspaper even ran a (celebratory) full-length article documenting the ways that local java shacks double as Bible enclaves. “About 90 percent of our patrons are Christians,” one saved employee noted, “You can just tell from the Bibles on their tables and from the conversations that go on around the shop.”
They don't just keep those Bibles to themselves, either. A Jewish colleague once told me how an eager patron attempted to convert him over an espresso and cranberry muffin.
I consider myself a spiritual person, but would never identify as Christian. It always seemed like human hubris to assume we know all the complexities of the universe. Organized religion of all types seems to bring much suffering. Still, whatever evangelical Christians want to believe is fine by me. If they think I am going to hell, that’s okay because I don’t think they will end up in a pleasant place in the afterlife either.
When evangelical Christians start infiltrating coffee shops, though, they are intruding on what’s mine. You don’t see me trying to open all-night gay porn shops in their vestibules – yet. So, why are they trying to make scoring a java blast an opportunity to pass along their propaganda?
During the mornings and afternoons, coffee shops are supposed to be a refuge for academics and the fringe of society looking to ponder their existence with a caffeine buzz. At night, they should become a haven for drunks and Goth posers. Everybody entering a decent coffee shop should at least pause to think warmly about the Beat Generation, if they aren’t actually composing a beat poem right then and there. Wearing a beret and goatee is optional, but preferred.
Maybe this is why I can trust Mormons a bit more than evangelical Protestants. Yeah, Mormonism is just as insidious as other forms of Protestantism. Mormons hate everybody different from themselves. They hate sex. They hate gays. They hate birth control. They hate sheep (Uh -- I think). They hate women. Mormon’s anti-caffeine, anti-liquor stance, though, means I hardly ever encounter their crazy asses. If an eatery doesn’t offer either caffeine or liquor, I’m not showing up. Mormons don't come to my bars and coffee shops and I don't go to their stake houses or temples. We understand and respect each other’s space.
Don’t misunderstand me. I know creepy evangelical Christians have a right to open whatever business they want. Obviously, these Christian shops don’t get any of my money. If other caffeine-craving customers wish to substitute communion wafers for biscottii, that’s their own affair. I pray for them.
I see this as a much more serious problem, though. Bringing evangelical Protestantism into the coffee business threatens to make coffee radically uncool. We can’t allow that to happen. GayProf needs a decent cup of joe, people, that doesn’t involve scripture.
Evangelical Protestants aren’t content to just bring misery to their own coffee shops. Even faceless, soulless Starbucks© earned evangelicals’ wrath. Protestants couldn’t believe that they would have to drink coffee from a paper cup that quoted openly-gay Armistead Maupin. They probably imagined that their lips would soon be flamming.
What bothers me more than anything about the Christian coffee shops is that it seems radically inauthentic. These local shop owners claim they want to use coffee as a means to help others. Bullshit. These evangelical entrepreneurs just want to fatten up their own pocketbook. If they really had altruistic inclinations, they would be running soup-kitchens instead of steaming up $5 frothy mocha lattes.
Christianity has become another form of capitalistic branding. Why would you want to buy heathen coffee when you can have born-again Guatemala Estate? Why not buy a special $50 t-shirt to show you are a chosen one? There is nothing holy in these enterprises. I am confident, as well, that these Christian java shops don’t make any attempt to obtain fair-trade coffee, either. They don’t need to worry about the working conditions or human suffering that brought that coffee. These evangelicals can tell they are doing good by counting the number of Bibles on their customer’s tables.
Last night at the gym, I actually saw an ad for a day-spa that promised a facial and back massage “from a Christian perspective.” What the hell? I can only imagine that a Christian massage involves your masseuse making you feel guilty for having a massage in the first place.
Can Christian bars be far behind? Come to think of it, that might be an organized religion that I could get behind. Every cocktail could be counted as a prayer up to heaven. Of course, there would be a two prayer minium on weekends. Don’t bother, though, trying to go to confession unless you order a full round of prayers. The preacher isn’t going to want to hear your sins for the price of beer.