10.19.2005

Starbuckling to the Religious Right

Starbucks Stirs Things Up with a God Quote on Cups

from USA Today

Coffee drinkers could get a spiritual jolt with their java in the spring when Starbucks begins putting a God-filled quote from the Rev. Rick Warren, author of the mega-selling The Purpose-Driven Life, on its cups.

It will be the first mention of God in the company's provocative quote campaign, The Way I See It. In 2005, Starbucks is printing 63 quotes from writers, scientists, musicians, athletes, politicians, and cultural critics on cups for company-run and licensed locations to carry on the coffeehouse tradition of conversation and debate.

Some mention "faith in the human spirit," but none is overtly religious. Last month, Baylor University pulled Starbucks cups after objections to a quote from writer Armistead Maupin saying that "life is too damn short" to hide being gay.

Warren says the idea of a grande pitch for God as creator came to him after seeing a Starbucks quote on evolution from paleontologist Louise Leakey. Because Starbucks solicited customer contributions for 2006, Warren sent his in. On Tuesday, Starbucks spokeswoman Sanja Gould confirmed that it would be used.

The cups carry a disclaimer that the opinions "do not necessarily reflect the views of Starbucks."

But a few companies plant clues to Christianity in their wrappings, music, or signs precisely because the owners are believers.

In-N-Out Burger, the California-based fast-food chain, has included tiny notations for Bible verses in some of its burger and drink packaging since Richard Snyder, son of the founders, called for it in 1987. "He told me, 'It's just something I want to do,'" company spokesman Carl Van Fleet says. The Bible book and verse in minuscule type "are so subtle most of our customers never notice."

One who did: Don Chang, the deeply religious founder of clothing chains Forever 21 and XXI. Five years ago, the clothier copied In-N-Out by stamping the Bible book, chapter, and verse notation John 3:16 on the bottom of his stores' shopping bags: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Other owners making a faith statement in the secular marketplace include David Green, whose craft chain Hobby Lobby plays only Christian contemporary music in its 362 stores, and S. Truett Cathy, who advertises that Chick-fil-A sandwich shops nationwide are closed on Sundays to free employees to focus on faith and family.

Alaska Airlines has put baseball-card-size prayer cards on hot-meal trays for 30 years "just to differentiate us from the competition," spokeswoman Amanda Tobin says. "Compliments have always far outweighed complaints."

"Americans are more accepting of overt religiosity these days, and corporations are good at figuring out how to do it with a light touch, one that's not going to scare off unbelievers," says sociologist David Halle, director of the LeRoy Neiman Center for the Study of American Society and Culture at the University of California-Los Angeles.

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