Thursday, October 14, 2010

In Defense of a Starbucks Faith

This is a guest post by my friend Sarah Bost-Askins. I met Sarah through the blogosphere and became friends with her on Twitter. I'm honored to have her as my first guest blogger here! Enjoy!

Growing up in a conservative Baptist church, I was convinced that somewhere in the pastor's secret library was a book of culturally relevant sermon illustrations. One of my favorites is the metaphor that Christianity was not a buffet. A middle-aged preacher would pace on the platform yelling to the congregation that Christianity  could  not be approached in  the same way we approached the buffet at Golden Corral. We couldn't skip the broccoli or the salad bar or the meatloaf and go straight for the dessert which in Christian terms means that we can't ignore the parts of our faith  that we don't like for the parts we do like. There was only one way to take the Christian buffet—accept everything that was slapped on your faith plate.
Unfortunately with our expanding waistlines and the need to be more socially relevant, the buffet analogy has morphed into a Starbucks metaphor. Yet again, preachers are telling their congregations that we do not have a Starbucks faith. We can't order up a tall soy vanilla latte or  non-fat, no whip iced white mocha latte. Again, we have to take coffee in its purest form—straight up, no sugar, no cream, just a good ol' cup of Holy joe poured out to everyone the exact same faith way, in the exact same faith mugs. Like the buffet analogy, we can't take the part of our faith coffee or the Bible that we like and choose to ignore the parts we don't like, or we can't alter the original faith coffee by mixing it with anything but more faith coffee.
Photo by Gunjan Karun
Here is the problem: when we take our faith “coffee” home with us, we  all secretly alter the faith-filled brew. We add cream or sugar or milk, but the faith brew never stays in its so called “purest” form. Like Starbucks' infinite coffee possibilities, we personalize our faith coffee so that we make it truly our own. We have a Starbucks faith.
The wonderful thing about a Starbucks faith is that we celebrate our different voices, different opinions, but always with a uniting theme underlying all of our choices—our faith. A Starbucks faith creates a discursive space in which we share how we have personalized our faith, how we see our faith being lived out, and how we perform our faith for others. But when we deny our faith differences for  faith sameness, we are silencing productive conversations about faith, and worse, we are in a sense lying to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We exacerbate our hypocrisy when we ignore how each of us views our faith differently. We have faith but not the exact same faith and that is what makes the Christianity a beautiful thing.
As with any metaphor, a Starbucks faith is far from a perfect analogy. But a Starbucks faith allows us to speak  about our differences, to question  our faith, to seek the truth. So, what's your Starbucks faith look like?

Sarah grew up reading, thinking, and writing which led her to pursue a Bachelor's and Master's degree in English. This Virginian settled in the Carolinas where she lives with her husband Mark, two beautiful step-children AJ and Ashley, and three rambunctious English Springer Spaniels Ginger Snap, Cupcake, and Ophelia(Ophelia was thus named when no one in Sarah's family was hungry). You  can find her blogging contributions at: From Tolstoy to Tinkerbell. A lover of all social media, she would love to tweet with you too.
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I'm a wife to an amazing man, and mom to four incredible kids. I'm a Christian woman who sometimes struggles with doubt. I'm a musician and a writer who is sometimes afraid to play and write. I'm trying to be more authentic every day.
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