Grande, no foam latte for the blood and fire salvationist, please
by Jennifer Hood, Cadet –
At the mature age of 21, I was introduced to coffee, God’s beverage of choice. Having recently moved to Seattle—coffee capital of the world—I was jeered at for being a “newbie.” Within a year I had worked my way up to the level of amateur coffee snob, waiting impatiently behind Starbucks customers who did not know what they wanted from the colossal list of beverage choices.
Over the years, my love of coffee, specifically Starbucks, has become my second religion. I have sipped Seattle’s finest in Canada, Mexico, Spain, England and France. Many of my best friendships have started or grown in Starbucks coffee houses. Despite my comfort in ordering and my knowledge of their methods, I have not yet reached the level of community my friend, Gina, has attained.
Gina is a Starbucks barista. While in Madrid for the 35th anniversary celebration of The Salvation Army, we visited a local Starbucks. My Spanish is limited, so I asked Gina to make her order as simple as possible for the sake of translation. She proceeded to outline, in what I affectionately call “barista speak,” a complex formula that was her order. While the order was being rung up Gina pulled out her “partner card,” which grants Starbucks employees discounts and other benefits as “partners” in the business. I was amazed at the instantaneous response we received as Gina revealed her card. The barista reached over the counter and hugged Gina, thrilled to meet a fellow “partner,” one from Seattle no less. We heard the words “Pike Place Market” not fewer than half a dozen times.
Gina and I have been to numerous Starbucks together. When she pulls out her card, the result is always the same—she is recognized as a member of the family. Stories are shared, barista-speak flows, and new menu items are discussed. Such camaraderie is not exclusive to coffee drinkers. People who love sports, music, cars, or politics speak a language all their own. Intentionally or unintentionally, once we find each other, we act in a way that often excludes others.
As Christians, and more specifically as Salvationists, we often follow this Starbucks pattern. The culture infiltrates our lives, and we forget what it’s like to be on the outside. We pull out our “membership card,” we speak the language, we know the answers to the questions, and we are aware of all the latest products. I am guilty of this on almost a daily basis.
Several months ago a non-Christian friend went to lunch with me and a group of other Christians. Initial conversation was great: weather, local happenings, and movies. Once these had been discussed, many of us fell into the old habit of talking about “holy living,” “spiritual gifts,” “fellowship,” “the corps,” “songsters,” and “band.” During this dialogue my friend grew quiet and non-participatory.
“I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings” (I Cor. 9:22a-23 NRSV). Paul took on the appropriate “vocabulary” whether dealing with Jews or Gentiles. We must strive to do the same. I know that if I spend time with Gina, we will eventually end up at Starbucks and the barista-speak will flow. The fantastic thing about Gina is that she only lets it go on for so long before she pulls me back into the conversation. She brings the culture to me. I wish I could say the same when it comes to my friends outside the church.