Years ago, my 6-year old nephew asked Hubby and me why we didn’t go to church.
We told him that when you are an adult, you get to choose your church, and that we were currently going to a different one each Sunday, shopping for the one we liked best. (This was, in fact, the truth of things until about 4 months later when we decided to give up on that quest and play more golf on Sundays instead.)
I was raised in a (progressive) Baptist church, in which I enjoyed choir and music, and a youth group that went on ski trips and mission trips, but I did not maintain a church connection into college. Hubby (apathetically) attended a Methodist church until about 9th grade, when his parents stopped forcing him to attend, and sees little connection between spirituality, kindness, and organized religions in general, so this task may be have been doomed from the start.
Are you a Methodist? The little one asks, since this is what he is. No, I don’t think so, I answer.
Do you believe in God? He asks. Yes, I do. We both do, I say, nodding at Hubby.
Do you believe in Hell? Certainly, I say, mentally cataloging a short list of people I hope are currently there.
How much to tell a 6 year old? Do you tell him that going to church doesn’t make you a good person? When his (Hubby’s) family is telling him that it does? Do you tell him that you know Lutherans who tell racists joke that some Catholics find hysterical? That you know Jews who have joined an Episcopalian church because they had the best pre-K program in the city? A couple who joined a Presbyterian church simply because of the collective social status of its membership, easily seen in the number of luxury cars in the parking lot on Sunday mornings? Baptists who were hypocrites? Methodists who were thieves and liars? HE’S SIX YEARS OLD.
Do you believe in Jesus? this six year old asks me.
For me, I believe that Jesus as a very cool guy, I say, but I don’t know if I believe he is the Messiah. I very much like the idea of him, and the ideas he shared. I believe that being kind to others is very important. I believe that God gave us both hearts and brains, and we should use them both. I believe that our actions define us, not our church membership.
Humanist! Hubby coughs, non-too-subtly, giggling.
What? The little one hates nothing more than feeling left out.
Hubby says, grinning, Vivi is a closet Jew.
Jesus was a Jew, the little one offers, happy to understand and contribute to the convo again.
Yes he was, I say.
Are you a Jew? he asks.
I’m like the mutts at the animal shelter, I say, I’m a little bit of lots of things.
Hubby sputters, simultaneously choking on his margarita and his own wittiness, and says Vivi is a MethaJew!
Methajew? The little one repeats, to the explosion of laughter at the table.
We are sitting in a post-holiday meal, awaiting more margaritas and fish tacos with Hubby’s/the little one’s extended family, all of whom are intent on this exchange.
Methajew! The little one says louder, reveling in the attention on him.
METHAJEW! METHAJEW! The more he carries on, the more the tension leaves the table, other customers looking at him as he dances around with joy, and then he is shushed and all the tension is gone, floating up and away over the coming drink tray.
So why am I thinking today about the moment I embraced this descriptor?
Facebook, that’s why. Facebook and the endless stream of news stories tethered to the Great Starbucks Cup Controversy of 2015 (I am suspicious too of Fox news… did they by any chance air this “news” first?)
In summary: some nutjob (read: evangelist) in Arizona, obviously eager for his 15 minutes of fame, received it when he made a video post in which essentially claims that Starbucks’ new (plain, red) cups are the company’s way of removing Christmas from their stores. His viral video has more than 2 million views and has been shared over 500,000 times. (1)
At first I thought this was brilliant. People who jump on this cracked bandwagon and stop shopping Starbucks keeps nutbugs like him out of their coffee shops, making it more relaxing for the rest of us. Excellent! (Case in point: Donald Trump swore he’d never grace a Starbucks again.)
But, damnit, to combat the attempts of Starbucks to “take the Christ out of Christmas”, his “movement” actually encourages wingnuts to go into their local Starbucks and, in protest, buy coffee and insist that their names are “Merry Christmas”.
My inner Methajew asks (all 12 of) my readers:
Since when is Starbucks responsible for keeping the Christ in Christmas?
Just as I suspect that a 12-pack of chicken nuggets (while delicious) from ChikFilA(2) has never brought a customer closer to Jesus, I am equally doubtful that anyone has ever been moved to Christ through a Caramel Macchiato.
Admittedly, Starbucks’ ubiquity might motivate this move (as much as fame-grubbing); the coffee chain is indeed everywhere.
Lewis Black once remarked that he recognized the End of Days when he exited a Starbucks and saw, not 40 yards away, on the opposite side of the same street, another Starbucks. Indeed, Subway restaurants, Starbucks and the cranberry industry may in fact be leading the most effective “in plain sight” plan of global dominance.(3)
And I know that some people prefer to support locally owned coffee shops, viewing Starbucks as an economic evil that (along the Wicked Walmart) is destroying America. To these folks, I say, your choices matter. Don’t want “made in china”? Shop local. And if you believe that Starbucks is soul-sucking, drink your java elsewhere. That’s cool. Because actions speak louder than words.
Personally, I will continue to support Starbucks when I feel the need for a mocha frap with whip because of these ACTIONS:
FAIR TRADE COFFEE. While Starbucks is not a Fair Trade Company, they have made considerable effort and expense to support Fair Trade Coffee growers. While only one line of their brewed coffees is “Certified Fair Trade”, they offer several others that can be purchased as beans. And due to their size, this makes them one of the largest purchasers of Certified Fair Trade coffee on the planet.(6)
They TREAT EMPLOYEES WELL
It is true that Starbucks spends more on healthcare for its employees than it does on BEANS. Starbucks offers full and part time employees COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH coverage, including vision and dental, a feat I have yet to see any of the universities I’ve worked for (both large public, and rich private ones) offer to PT employees. Employees (FT and PT) also get free food, coffee, stock options, and a 401K plan. (7)
This also includes FREE COLLEGE TUITION PROGRAMS (8) Tuition reimbursement and full four years paid tuition are available through an amazing program like no other, through Arizona State University online. Yeah. ARIZONA. The same state the wackadoodle launching this stupidity lives in… (9)
Starbucks has also added FREE COLLEGE opportunities for the spouses and children of OUR VETERANS. In a nation, where overwhelming, the treatment of our military vets is little more than shameful, Starbucks makes this impressive commitment. (10)
Starbucks is not perfect; I’m not suggesting that they are. But these actions speak to me.
So this Methajew will continue to shop Starbucks.
I believe we should be putting our energy and efforts into tackling true problems that matter, like sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, seeking justice, helping the lost and desperate and ill, supporting those who spread joy and enrich our communities, those who actively contribute to peace in our world; you know, all those things Jesus was talking about?
(1) The dude’s name is Feurstein. I will not embed his link in this blog; if you want to watch him, you’ll have to leave my site to do it, sorry.
(2) ChikFilA (unlike Starbucks) is a company which openly professes itself as a Christian company
(3) While Hubby has long eyed the cranberry industry with suspicion of global dominance plans, I tease him a little less each month. And now that you’ve read it here, you will start to notice the ubiquitous (seemingly innocuous) cranberry campaign and consider, too, that he may be right. And maybe, when the end comes, you will recognize him as prophet and your death at the hands of the Cranberry Overlords will be quick and painless.
(5) Schultz biography: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/197692
(7) For a detailed list of these benefits, hit this 2014 Time article: http://time.com/2885743/starbucks-benefits/ and this article on defending FULL coverage for PART time employees: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/08/27/2531751/starbucks-ceo-obamacare/
Also, these actions do not come at a small price:
(8) Starbucks employee college tuition plan details/news:
(9) Wackadoodle also bragged about smuggling his firearm into Starbucks to order this Merry Christmas Mocha, who has discouraged carrying of such in states where concealed carry license are legal, but has not banned them outright as other companies have done.