Tag Archives: Skinny Latte

Burning Labels and Building Bridges

Tuesday Re-mix –

I recently pulled up to the Starbuck’s drive-through thinking about how to say what I want (it’s important in this culture to sound knowledgeable when it comes to coffee–after all, what barista worth his/her salt would be at all impressed with me if I stepped up and just asked for a cup of coffee?).  Here is how the conversation went:

Blake:  I’d like a Grande Two-Equal Skinny Latte please.

Barista:  What flavor?

Blake:  No flavor.  Just the Skinny Latte.

Barista:  So, you just want the Latte with Non-fat milk, but no flavor?

Blake:  That’s correct.

Barista:  Just so you’ll know in the future, “Skinny Latte” means a flavor.  “Non-fat Latte” means no flavor.

Blake:  Whose rule is that?  Who made that definition?

Barista:  I don’t know, sir.  I’m just trying to help you say it right.

Blake:  (humiliated)  I’ll have a medium-sized coffee with steamed non-fat milk and two Equals stirred into it, please.  Call it whatever you like.

As a peacemaker, both by temperament and by profession, I have never liked labels.  I do understand why we use them.  For communities who all use the same vernacular, labels can provide important short-cuts to having to use long explanations for things.  I get that.  If I learn Starbucks’ language, my orders will go a lot faster.  Still, there is that tension between the barista and me, especially when he/she “otherizes” me by pointing out that I’m not saying it right.

So it is with Christians and their communities.  They come up with short-hand phrases and labels to describe Biblical concepts and theological positions, and those terms are useful in most situations within that community.  But over time, we sometimes lose the fact that they are just short-hand for other, more accurate descriptions and we begin to …