Going to Starbucks is a Spiritual Experience

It is holiday season. Usher in the peppermint mochas. As soon as you walk in to Starbucks now the red and green embroidery can be seen everywhere. A tasteful collection of the latest trending pop music has you bouncing your head slightly against your will as you walk up to the cash register. Suddenly the 5 dollars or more you are paying for a coffee does not seem that bad. It is not just the experience you are paying for after all. You are getting the whole Starbucks experience, which includes the opportunity to observe the exciting chatter of all the interesting people around you who have more going on than you do. Maybe if you are lucky, a cute girl will smile at you and compliment those news shoes you just bought online.

This story brings to mind another place that I have attended many times in my recent adult past which brings upon me a similar feeling. It reminds me of when I go to church. Depending on the kind of church you are familiar with, you might be seeing where I am going with this. For those of you who are confused, allow me to explain. I do not speak of the sitting in pews, reading from hymn books, listening to the organ with priests that wear colorful robes type of church. I am talking about the new American Christianity where going to church is something exciting, a social experience where you say hi to your friends for half an hour in the reception area. There is usually coffee served here and maybe some snacks as well. Donuts and fruit. A warm greeter who seems genuinely inviting. This is a church experience that makes you want to stay instead of one that makes you feel forced into the motions of doing something that is out of the ordinary.

This is the church experience I had after I was baptized as an adult in 2013. It recreates the coffee shop experience an couples it with a spiritual narrative you are already kind of familiar with — the story of Jesus Christ dying for your sins and your need to accept him into your life. This makes it easier for non church goers and Christian skeptics to actually merge their already existing coffee experience into a church routine on Sunday morning. Except it is even better! Because it is technically free and less awkward to engage with strangers. Brilliant marketing, and I am sure that any pastor currently doing this with their church will justify it by saying that they are saving lives. They very well may be.

My intention in writing this is not to condemn either Starbucks or these modern churches. I enjoy both of these things. My wish is to draw parallels from this allegedly secular activity of drinking Starbucks and the so called religious activity of going to one of these churches to show how many similarities between the two things there actually are. To bridge the religious and secular worlds. You are not going to Starbucks to pay for a 5 dollar cup of coffee. You are also paying for the feeling of being connected to millions of other industrious and creative individuals across the globe who are drinking the exact same product. Similarly, your attending and inevitably tithing at the church with all the happy people at it not only helps you feel like an active contributing part of the church body, but it fosters within you a connection to the millions of other Christians who are also doing this very same thing at the very exact same time in a similar setting, to consume a concisely manufactured product- Jesus christ, salvation, forgiveness.

The biggest difference between Starbucks and church might actually be that you say happy holidays at one merry Christmas at the other. Let that sink in for a minute.

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Shawn Mason

Shawn Mason

front desk clerk at the Ridgeline Hotel in Gardiner, Montana next to the northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park.