Thursday, April 18, 2013

Coffee crisis: Why I still choose to buy coffee at Starbucks.

A few weeks ago, I was privy to this link on Facebook, as well as a few different statuses proclaiming that a boycott of Starbucks was in order. This was because their CEO told a stockholder, Tom Strobhar, that he was welcome to sell his shares and take his money elsewhere if he did not like that Starbucks stands behind gay marriage. Here are more details.

When this aired on the radio spread throughout the Internet, I found myself questioning whether or not I should also take part in the boycott of Starbucks, being a supporter of traditional marriage and all...  After-all, if a company wants to impose their beliefs on me, by saying they don't need my money if I don't support gay marriage, I don't feel very much like spending it there.

However, I met for coffee with a friend last week at Starbucks.  She's a broke student who had dwindling cash but lots of Starbucks gift-cards, so despite my little guilty feelings, we went there.  We then proceeded to discuss healthy marriages, interfaith marriages and how to raise (Catholic) children for the next two hours. The people beside us undoubtedly heard snippets of our conversation, peppered with talk about Natural Family Planning and how to bring people gently into the fold of the Catholic Church.

This morning, I had a half-hour before my mom's group, and a chapter of Christopher West's Theology of the Body for Beginners to read for our book study. Kid-free and faced with this situation, wouldn't a nice latte and a window seat in a cafe sound good?

Well it just so happens that Starbucks is across the street from the church where my mom's group takes place. I decided to go on in, despite the looming guilt of the above information, thinking,  "Am I supporting the stamping down of Catholic views?" and,  "What will my Catholic-mom friends think when they see me holding a Starbucks cup?"

I encountered pleasant staff while I ordered a latte.  I sat down in the sun in the middle of a lot of nice-looking people. The people beside me were in conversation about this and that, and wanting to finish my chapter (and not feel creepy, even though their table was two feet away) I tried not to listen.  Then they started talking about Starbucks itself - and "Did you hear that they support gay-marriage? Like, I think that's amazing, that they'd take that sort of stand - but I know A LOT of people who probably will stop coming here. My family is super-traditional, and go to church and all that."

In that instance, I had a bit of a revelation, and I said "I come here, and I'm traditional and go to church and all that."
The two looked at me in disbelief and I said (thinking "oh Lord, here I go opening my big mouth again - please don't let me say something stupid"), "Yeah, Jesus said to love people who persecute you - so if Starbuck's CEO wants to say people who support traditional marriage can take their money elsewhere, I'm still going to come here and love his coffee."  (Okay - not bad, but I still feel like a bit of an idiot)

I then hastily apologized for interrupting and said I often speak without thinking (urg...especially to strangers, and double urg... especially when they don't expect it.)

I guess I'd better explain myself:

If Catholics and others who don't support gay marriage stop going to Starbucks, it might hurt the business a little bit, but like this young lady, a lot of other people think it's wonderful.  I also (cynically) wonder how long people who've decided to boycott Starbucks will take to come back. Next time your aunt gives you a gift-card perhaps?

To me, boycotting Starbucks will only accomplish what CEO Howard Shultz has set out to do by letting his moral stance on support gay marriage be known: appeal to a certain crowd. He's willing to let the people who aren't in that crowd shop, or buy stocks, somewhere else.  I'm not saying "fight this man by continuing to buy his coffee!"  That's ridiculous.  I'm actually not saying fight this man at all. He's a successful business owner secure in the knowledge that he's not going to go under because of his statements.

I was imagining a scenario where all of the people who don't support gay marriage discontinue patronage of Starbucks.  No longer would I go there to read about JPII's Theology of the Body in the sunshine, and no longer would I sit with friends and discuss NFP over coffee, while a curious woman eavesdrops.  No longer would Catholics be present in the Starbucks space to show people in daily life what we're all about.

I feel like it's my job as a Catholic to uphold my beliefs, even if, and especially when, someone contradicts them, but I also think that what Jesus had to say about the greatest commandment supersedes my (sometimes egotistical) need to hit people with witty apologetics:
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  (Matthew 22:34-40)
How are we as Catholics supposed to show love to people if we avoid some of the places people go?  Jesus also hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors, and he forgave the people that nailed him to a cross - which is a far cry from Starbucks patrons who think that gay people should be treated in the same way as heterosexual couples.  Our problem as Catholics isn't that gay people want access to marriage; It's that the definition of marriage in a secular society just isn't the same as the view that we have of sacramental union between a man and a woman. It's our view - we think it's right, and thus far, we still by law are allowed to have that view. May I also point out - it is 100% wrong for Catholics to persecute and hate gays, lesbians, bisexuals and anyone else who doesn't share our views.  But... and this is a huge but, we don't really do a great job lovingly explaining our views if we just avoid the people altogether, do we?

To sum up - I think it does a lot more good for me to continue to go to Starbucks, meet my friends  and talk about my life as a Catholic within the cocoon of warmth, jazzy music and the smell of espresso, than it does to stand outside and close myself from the possibility of evangelizing in the style of St. Francis... using words if necessary.



1 comment:

  1. great piece. I very much agree. I still visit people who have misguided beliefs, and I still visit coffee shops with misguided beliefs.

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