coffee

Ten religion stories that made us ooh, ah, chuckle, scratch our heads and otherwise go 'hmmm' in 2015

Ten religion stories that made us ooh, ah, chuckle, scratch our heads and otherwise go 'hmmm' in 2015

Religion news was heavy in 2015.

Heavy, as in weighty subject matter ranging from the legalization of same-sex marriage to the atrocities committed by the Islamic State terrorist group to the shooting deaths of nine worshipers in Charleston, S.C. 

But occasionally this past year — as is the case every year — the Godbeat blessed us with headlines that were a little different. They were heartwarming or quirky or simply far enough off the beaten path to catch our attention.

In chronological order, here are 10 of my favorite GetReligion posts from 2015 that concerned news that — surprise, surprise! — didn't make the Religion Newswriters Association's year-end list:

1. Lawmakers in my home state of Oklahoma made headlines as they considered — seriously, it seemed — getting out of the marriage business.

 

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Red Cup Diaries: Mainstream media cover Starbucks' Christmas brew-haha

Red Cup Diaries: Mainstream media cover Starbucks' Christmas brew-haha

So this Christian guy online aims a camera at his face and says that coffee cups show Starbucks "hates Jesus."

Can you say click-bait? There go those religious crazies again. Just the kind of story that mainstream media like to pounce on, eh?

Except, to my surprise, most didn’t this time. Instead, they just covered it, pro and con, and looked for facts.

Our story starts with Joshua Feuerstein, a former evangelical pastor based in Arizona. Feuerstein saw Starbucks' new cups for the Christmas season -- plain red with the company's green mermaid trademark -- and freaked.

"Do you realize that Starbucks wanted to take Christ and Christmas off of their brand-new cups?" the fast-talking minister says in a video.  He boasted that he entered one of their coffee shops and told a barista his name was "Merry Christmas," forcing the worker to write the phrase on his cup.

He chortles:

So guess, what, Starbucks? I tricked you into putting "Merry Christmas" on your cup. And I'm challenging all great Americans and Christians around this great nation: Go into Starbucks and take your own coffee selfie. And then I challenge you to not only share this video so that the word gets out, but let's start start a movement, and let's call it, I dunno, "#MerryChristmasStarbucks," and I know that by sharing this video, and getting other Christians to do it, well …

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Las Vegas churches love coffee, except for maybe -- hmmmm -- can you think of anybody?

Las Vegas churches love coffee, except for maybe -- hmmmm -- can you think of anybody?

It's one of those cutesy little newspaper features that is what it is.

The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that Las Vegas Valley churches take their faith — and their coffee — seriously.

If you like your ledes with plenty of cream and sugar, this will one will give you just the right jolt of "java and Jesus":

Coffee, tea and Christianity. Las Vegas Valley churches take their caffeine consumption seriously.
We're not talking about a simple pot of joe and a few cookies in a cultural hall after church. Many valley churches operate full-service coffee bars and shops with equipment and service to rival Starbucks.
From The Crossing and Central Christian to Calvary Chapel Spring Valley, coffee is a way of life before, after and even in the sanctuary during services.
At Holy Grounds, the shop inside First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Jill Smith, one of the managers, said they serve more than coffee. There are juices, fresh fruits, doughnuts, bagels and "delicious quiche."
"Our coffee shop is relaxed and gives members and visitors a comfortable place to mingle and get to know each other in a casual setting," she said. "Music is playing, and laughter is always heard. It's our fastest-growing ministry."
"It goes together — java and Jesus," said Vikki Sergio, manager of the Coffee Tree at the International Church of Las Vegas' Westcliff campus.

It's a mildly interesting trend piece, even if churches with espresso bars aren't exactly breaking news.

But as I kept reading, I kept wondering: Um, what about you know who?

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Your weekend think piece: M.Z. spots religion wrinkle (sort of) in #RaceTogether campaign

Your weekend think piece: M.Z. spots religion wrinkle (sort of) in #RaceTogether campaign

You can take M.Z. Hemingway out of GetReligion (although I am still struggling to get used to that), but it does appear that you can't take those GetReligion instincts out of Mollie the journalism critic.

Consider for a moment what is actually going on in this recent short written by the GetReligionista emeritus over at The Federalist. It focuses on that whole Starbucks (with help, believe it or not from USA Today) #RaceTogether campaign that has been getting so much mainstream news ink and commentary lately. Here's the headline on her piece: "With Race Together, Starbucks Is Using Worst Of Evangelical Practices."

Evangelicals? Wait for it.

Now, lots of that commentary has been either nervous or critical or both. Is it really a good idea for a major corporation to try to push its customers -- people who just trying to mind their own business while buying a cup of overpriced coffee -- into a hot-button conversation that may or may not be constructive in the long run?

Still, Starbucks is one of those urban prestige brands that must be taken seriously buy the press. Right? Mollie's insight, if you read between the lines, was to ponder what kind of press reception this campaign would have received if attempted by another institution on another hot-button topic. What kind of reception would, let's say Hobby Lobby, have received with a #TalkMarriage campaign or even a safer #TalkParenting effort?

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One thing wrong with that 'give up one thing for Lent' thing

I don’t know precisely when it happened, but somewhere during the past decade or two Lent became cool for all kinds of people, including Godbeat reporters. Lent wasn’t just for Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox (whoever they were) anymore. Lent was for edgy free-church Protestants, bookish evangelicals and all of the mainline Protestants, not just the Episcopalians. You had church leaders handing out Lenten meditation booklets and holding Lenten retreats and maybe even adding a mid-week Lenten service for the truly die-hard worshippers.

Lent was both cool and innovative. In other words, all of this new create-your-own Lent stuff was news. And at the center of it all was one central theme: What are you going to give up for Lent?

This was the big question, of course, the question that linked the new Lent, supposedly, to the old Catholic Lent.

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One thing wrong with that 'give up one thing for Lent' thing

I don’t know precisely when it happened, but somewhere during the past decade or two Lent became cool for all kinds of people, including Godbeat reporters. Lent wasn’t just for Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox (whoever they were) anymore. Lent was for edgy free-church Protestants, bookish evangelicals and all of the mainline Protestants, not just the Episcopalians. You had church leaders handing out Lenten meditation booklets and holding Lenten retreats and maybe even adding a mid-week Lenten service for the truly die-hard worshippers.

Lent was both cool and innovative. In other words, all of this new create-your-own Lent stuff was news. And at the center of it all was one central theme: What are you going to give up for Lent?

This was the big question, of course, the question that linked the new Lent, supposedly, to the old Catholic Lent.

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