He was honest, at least. He told the counselor, “If I tell you about it, you will take it away.” The counselor asked, “Can we talk about why you don’t want to talk?” He looked at her and said, “No.”
We love our addictions. Around the church, where people often want to keep relationships tidy and, irrespective of our openness and grace, persist in trying to look presentable — even when they don’t think they are presentable, someone can easily teach us the rules about what topics are on the table and what aren’t. I learn what you don’t want to talk about quickly. When someone says, “I only smoke to go to sleep,” we may not be welcomed into a conversation about how addicted that seems. The other night at a wedding one of us caused quite a stir because he was not carrying a flask full of whiskey like all the other guys. It was assumed that getting drunk was one of the goals for the evening so he caused a little problem by not having the right equipment. No one had ever violated the flask rule before, apparently!
Given that environment, it is no surprise that it was socially unacceptable last week to ask questions about coffee. This time it was me. My friends were talking about coffee and I discovered that both of them do not think they will be able to function well if they don’t get up every morning and drink coffee. I had a dilemma, “Can we talk about that?”
I thought the answer was probably, “No.” But I had just seen a graphic somewhere (I haven’t found it again, yet) that gave all these crazy stats about coffee drinking that I did not know, like
- About one-third of the country’s drinking water is used to brew coffee each day. and a lot of that goes to waste when we pour out what’s left in the pot. If every household measured more accurately and saved just a cup of water each time, America would conserve about 7 million gallons of water a day. We would also save the 259 million gallons that would have been used to grow the wasted coffee beans.
- 54% of Americans over 18 drink coffee every day. That’s 100 million people. 65% of that takes place during breakfast hours, 68% within an hour of getting up.
- 60% of U.S. coffee drinkers claim to need a cup of coffee to start their day. 54% say coffee makes them feel more like their self.
- $18 billion is spent on specialty coffee in the U.S. each year.
- One Vivarin caffeine supplement pill (200mg) equals a cup of coffee.
I kind of wandered back into a subject that I had stopped talking about. I am not a coffee drinker, mostly because I can’t stand the taste (although I can enjoy mocha ice cream now). But due to an immersion trip to Colombia back in the 90s I also feel conviction about not drinking coffee out of principle. Coffee is not just a drink. It’s a global commodity. As one of the world’s most traded products—second in value only to oil—the coffee industry employs millions of people around the world through its growing, processing and trading. But while the coffee trade is vital to the politics, survival and economies of many developing nations, the industry’s pricing and futures are decided in conference rooms and on stock exchange floors in some of the world’s wealthiest cities. Recently, big operators (like the IMF) undermined Colombia’s growers — who are overwhelmingly poor farmers managing mountainous plantations, by finding even poorer farmers in Vietnam to flood the market and drop the prices. Doing what I can to stick it to Nestle by abstaining from a useless, addictive, and expensive drink makes sense to me. (It is even easier to abstain from soon-to-be-legalized marijuana and stick it to Monsanto). The rush to deregulation of everything is a great boon to the one-percent who want cheaper beans produced by poorer people to provide ever-higher-priced coffee to you and me.
I am not talking about a new holiness code, here. I don’t want to assess your relationship with God by how you eat, drink or smoke. But are you over assessing it, or assessing at all? The fact is, one of the basic expressions of my freedom is how I do what I can choose. If I am addicted to what I don’t need, if I adopt a lifestyle that is an expression of excess and exploitation, or if I even make my body subject to some monster like Monsanto, shouldn’t I be thinking about that? Besides, a lot of these societal habits Jesus-followers adopt without thinking are not just a matter of personal holiness, they are a matter of justice. Who are we serving and to what end are we living? I think talking about that makes a difference. But can we still do that? Is there a rule against that now?