Hyperactive Goats, a Pragmatic Pope, and the Bitter Red Cups of Satan

According to legend, sometime in the tenth century or so, Ethiopian goat herder Kaldi made a discovery that would forever change the course of the world. He noticed that his goats were suddenly acting kind of like two-year-olds at bedtime, annoyingly energetic and determined not to sleep.

These guys look like they could use some coffee beans. photo credit: little bobbies via photopin (license)
These guys look like they could use some coffee beans. photo credit: little bobbies via photopin (license)

Kaldi traced the behavior to a berry the goats ingested and alerted the local abbot who decided to try the magic berries himself. The abbot used them to brew a bitter drink that gave him the boost of energy he needed to make it through his evening prayers. Delighted, he passed on his secret.

Soon people (and goats) across the Arabian Peninsula were gathering in cozy coffee houses, discussing politics and the weather while sipping steaming cups of coffee and staying up way past their bedtimes.

By the 17th century, coffee reached Europe and while some rejoiced, adding sugar and cream to make the stuff more palatable, others were suspicious because whereas other popular drinks of the day, like wine and beer, made you sluggish and stupid, this new beverage instead made people thoughtful, productive, and pretentious.

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But no way would you have caught Pope Clement VIII drinking coffee from a plain red cup. I bet.

And so coffee was deemed the “bitter invention of Satan,” with the local clergy in Venice condemning the drinking of the dangerous stimulant. But the people weren’t having it, convinced as they were that if they didn’t start their day with a cuppa, then they might commit homicide. So Pope Clement VIII decided to step in and settle the issue once and for all. He hopped into the pope-mobile, headed to the corner Starbucks, and ordered himself a venti Iced Caffé Latte with skim milk. And you know what? He liked it!

With Satan’s drink safely exorcized, it quickly spread to the Americas. Then in December of 1773, a group of liberty-minded men got all hopped up on coffee and dumped a whole lot of tea (which, as far as I am concerned is at least Satan’s second favorite beverage) into Boston Harbor. Thomas Jefferson then boldly declared (among other notable things) that coffee is the “the favorite drink of the civilized world.”

And for many people, it is.  Personally I’ve never been much of a coffee drinker (though I do make the occasional exception for a Starbucks vanilla Frappuccino, but that’s really more milkshake than coffee), so maybe this isn’t my war to wage. But recently, Satan reclaimed the civilized world’s favorite drink.

Because nothing says Jesus like levitating under the mistletoe. photo credit: Starbucks 'Red Cup' 2005 (mistletoe) via photopin (license)
Because nothing says Jesus like levitating under the mistletoe. photo credit: Starbucks ‘Red Cup’ 2005 (mistletoe) via photopin (license)

In case you’re not familiar with the controversy, earlier this week a video went viral of a self-declared “former pastor,” and “disciple of Jesus” explaining how he pranked Starbucks. The company, which has traditionally changed its cup designs to reflect the holiday season with pictures of sleds and snowflakes, revealed that this year its holiday cups (clearly designed by Satan himself) will simply be red with a Starbucks logo.

The “prank,” in which video guy was encouraging Christians to participate, was to tell the barista that his name was “Merry Christmas” so she’d have to write that on his cup. His claim is that by eliminating reindeer from the outside of his coffee cup, Starbucks is somehow persecuting Christians and that it is time to stand up and fight back.

Ha! Take that, Satan!
Ha! Take that, Satan!

I can’t follow the logic either. But there’ve been a surprising number of people who have taken to Twitter with images of Starbucks coffee cups with “Merry Christmas” written on them. (Ha! Take that, Satan!). I think it’s safe to assume, most of these people have had entirely too much coffee because they’re behaving kind of like hyper goats.

Of course, I’m also happy to report that a larger number of Christians have taken to social media to say, “Um…what?”

Still, perhaps it’s time to call on Pope Francis to hop into the pope-mobile and settle this mess once and for all. Because I could sure go for a vanilla Frappuccino. But don’t worry, I’ll get the last laugh. I’m going to tell the barista my name is “Snowman.”

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9 thoughts on “Hyperactive Goats, a Pragmatic Pope, and the Bitter Red Cups of Satan

  1. I had no idea about the goats!!! Love it since I have my own.

    I guess Starbucks rubs people the wrong way when they force their workers (my daughter) to discuss race over coffee. Seems like most customers just wanted their coffee–thank you very much. If it’s true that corporate headquarters was worried about offending people who can’t bear the sight of a reindeer or Christmas tree I find that mildly annoying.

    Every waking moment should not be about politics and feelings. I just want my coffee, yet I also read history and despite what some modern people say most Americans until very recently shared a Judeo-Christian mindset and most who didn’t seemed to get by with few mental hangups even though they saw Christians sporting ugly holiday sweaters and cheerfully wishing everyone a happy holiday (or worse–a merry Christmas).

    I can’t see myself getting angry at someone for wishing me a happy Hanukkah or Winter Solstice. Maybe people had thicker skins back in the days of yore. 🙂

    1. I don’t know the motivation behind the cup design, except that Starbucks has said their intention was to reflect the simplicity of the season or something like that. I think most reasonable people are getting pretty tired of playing the PC game. I’d like for once to be allowed to get upset about something that mattered.

  2. As one of my Facebook friends pointed out, we don’t actually know of anybody who was offended by the plain red cup, but apparently there are a whole bunch of people offended by the (imaginary?) people who are offended by the plain red cup… I think a lot of people clearly don’t have real issues to occupy their time, and need to get a life… 🙂

    1. I think there’s some truth to that. I suspect the fear of those who aren’t bothered by it (the vast majority of Christians as far as I can tell) is that if Christianity in general is seen as on board with picking this silly fight, then it may lessen the impact of a more reasonable or meaningful argument down the road.

I love comments! Please keep them PG, though. I blush easily.

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