Thursday, October 2, 2008

When God Goes to Starbucks?

When I first saw the title in my local library the first think that popped into my head was ‘what is God doing in some place as chain-store oriented and big business as Starbucks; known for totally destroying locally owned businesses.’ My second thought was to chide my self for falling into the old trap of assuming God is somehow politically motivated, and one side or another ‘gets’ God on their team. God no doubt spends a lot of time in Starbucks and where ever else God is needed. I picked the book up and flipped through it while spending time studying and writing my most recent paper. When God Goes to Starbucks by Paul Copan is supposed to be a easy to read little book about good, Christian-grounded answers to the kind of questions most believers get every day: Do people really believe in miracles? is it ok to lie if your lying to a Nazi? doesn’t the Bible condone holy war? what about the Bible and homosexuality? and on. All of these questions are good question and they are questions I have found I have to answer quite often as I move in cycles of young people where being Christian is akin to having a disfiguring disease. The book is also well thought out and easy to read, light in tone and engaging. However I found as I began to read it, for me, a huge glaring problem that ultimately made me have to put the book down.

The problem was simply that the author assumed when he said Christian he was talking about a group of people who believed pretty much the same thing. Yet what he called Christian and what I believe to be Christianity was not even remotely the same thing. His God was not my God (although they may both buy coffee at the same play on occasion). Paul Copan is an extremely gifted writer, a man who holds multiple degrees including a professorship, yet he assumes that he speaks for all Christians when really he only speaks for some, mostly more fundamentalist leaning, conservatively minded, Christians.

I have tried to keep a good sense of humor throughout writing this, ultimately I didn’t walk away from When God Goes to Starbucks feeling angry that Paul and I didn’t see eye to eye on our Christian beliefs. I did walk way feeling sad though; sad because I know of no equally engaging little book that forthrightly examines the hard Christian questions for Christians like me. I know we exist, there are other liberal and/or ecstatic Christians out there, I have met so many and look forward to meeting many more. Yet when we look at the book shelves in our libraries and Barns and Nobles (God might hangout there too) we see books that assume there is only one kind of Christianity. Books that assume these Christians can speak for all Christians, although I know there are many of us where that’s not true. Yet we still let them. For many years I have been trying to understand why. Why do we stand quiet when other more fundamentalist Christians don’t? I have come to think that we are all, on some level, afraid and ashamed. Afraid to unwittingly hurt others and ashamed that we are Christians in a society where to be liberal often means to be against Christianity. I know I always pause before telling someone about my faith, especially if they know my sexual orientation or the kind of social activism I do, inwardly bracing myself for the onslaught of questions. Well I think it’s time, overdue actually to knuckle down. That kind of fear is not going to cut it, we can’t write books that way.

Copan points out that there are many important theological conversation taking place at Starbucks and his book might help many having those conversation, but there are some of us who will be giving different answers.

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