Starbucks and Seminary

So, I have made a habit of spending a decent amount of time at the Starbucks my roommate Marty works at, as I am finding that I study much better here (yes, this is my current location), and I also have access to incredibly fast and reliable internet. At any rate, I am making several observations and having some epiphanies here at Starbucks, many that have really been coming more to light over time in the past year, but particularly fleshed out in my time spent at Starbucks.

I love being away from campus. In fact, I am more and more discontented by being on campus for any time longer than I have to be for classes and work. Southern Seminary is a bubble, and is a completely unrealistic picture of the world. The fact that one is surrounded only by Christians, and the distance between those people, is very strange. It is not unlike being stuck in a typical Southern Baptist church for five days a week. Luckily, I don’t belong to one of those “typical” Southern Baptist churches. The main thing is, at Southern and in SBC churches in general, everyone is friendly toward each other (very friendly indeed), but nobody really wants to get to know each other and invest in each other on a deeply personal level. I can get more friendliness and personal investment from the baristas at the Hurstbourne & 64 Starbucks than I can in a typical church.

Again, Sojourn is different. But the analogy stands with that and very few other exceptions.

Starbucks is also a place where you can dare to be open minded. You mingle with not only non-Christians, but other Christians of various backgrounds, or so I’ve experienced. I am less willing to write off the faith of people of other denominations of Christianity than ever before. Sometimes it seems like the different traditions approach different questions of Christianity, and nobody tackles all of them. Frankly, I have begun to wonder if a lot of people at Southern really believe what they are learning and teaching, or are simply robots being programmed in this doctrine. Faith asks questions; as the old Latin phrase states: fides quaerens intellectum (faith seeking understanding). What I see at Southern is a society afraid to ask too many questions. Unfortunately, the world asks questions. And a response of “You’re not supposed to ask that” simply does not work. It should not work. Wrestling with the deep issues of Christianity is a part of growing in faith.

I have to keep at least a foot outside this campus. The Christianity and the Arts program at Southern is being really good about this, under the leadership of Dr. Steve Halla. Sojourn is helpful with this, as well, with numerous ways to serve that have nothing to do with Southern Seminary. Spending a few hours a week at Starbucks is helpful with this. Meanwhile, Fifth & Broadway, with the constant barrage of seminary “stuff” and constantly feeling like I’m being a whore of the system is trying. Of course, also being ingrained with Contemporary Christian music repeated continuously for the four to six hours a day is driving me further away from the school, not closer. Starbucks at least has a more eclectic, more artistic assortment of music as a whole (though this one song they’ve been playing lately sounds a bit like screaming monkeys). Fifth & Broadway is paying the bills for now, and I sincerely do like my coworkers and we occasionally have some fun conversations, but I have to get out of there in the next few months, or I may loose my sanity.

Well, I think it’s time to refill my coffee. Fifty cent refills with a Starbucks Card while you’re in the store. Just another reason I’m hanging out here.

(P.S. – I am continuing my bible reviews intermittently mingled with other posts.)