Evangelical Quoted in Starbucks Cup Campaign

International coffee retail giant Starbucks decorates its cups with quotes from cultural icons as part of "The Way I See It" campaign. Now the words of prominent evangelical Christian Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, will be featured on some of these cups. Jason DeRose examines the company's motives, and the possible public reaction.

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And now to the coffee shops of America. A new marketing campaign by Starbucks is causing quite a stir because it involves a religious quotation. As part of The Way I See It campaign, Starbucks asked famous and semifamous people to write a short paragraph to grace the side of the store's paper cups. One of those who contributed a quotation is the Reverend Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose-Driven Life." NPR's Jason DeRose reports.

JASON DeROSE reporting:

"You are not an accident," begins the quote from Warren, pastor of the 82,000-member Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, California. It goes on to say, "Your parents may not have planned you, but God did." Warren says he was inspired to write something for Starbucks because of another quote he read on the side of his grande latte, one by paleontologist Louis Leakey.

Reverend RICK WARREN (Author, "The Purpose-Driven Life"): "You know, we all started out as animals or apes in Africa." And I thought, `Well, you know what? I don't believe that. I believe we were created by God, and so I'll just turn in an alternative view.'

DeROSE: The actual quote from Leakey doesn't say anything about apes, but rather mentions common ancestry. Warren says there's precedent for this mixture of commerce and religious education.

Rev. WARREN: Jesus taught in both the temple and the marketplace. About half of his teaching was in the temple and half of his teaching was in the marketplace.

DeROSE: For its part, Starbucks insists it's not taking a stand on the brewing political storm over evolution/creationism or so-called intelligent design; rather, says senior vice president of marketing Anne Saunders, the campaign is about getting people to discuss ideas.

Ms. ANNE SAUNDERS (Starbucks Vice President of Marketing): Wouldn't it be great to do something that really furthered the traditions that started in the coffeehouses: dialogue and conversation? And with 800 million cups going out, perhaps what we could do is begin to create a national dialogue.

DeROSE: A dialogue that involves science, the arts, politics and religion. Referencing God in this context appeals to a larger trend in America, says former advertising executive John Greening.

Mr. JOHN GREENING (Former Advertising Executive): It's holding up a mirror on a society that has gotten more spiritual just in the quest for happiness.

Ms. SARAH TAYLOR (Northwestern University): There's the one true faith and then there's the one true coffee.

DeROSE: Northwestern University's Sarah Taylor teaches about the intersection of religion and pop culture. She's cynical the inclusion of the Rick Warren quote isn't just about an appeal to spirituality or fostering dialogue.

Ms. TAYLOR: I was curious as to whether this might be some kind of atonement on Starbucks' part for the controversy over their inclusion of a gay author on one of their cups and the furor it caused at a religious university in Texas.

DeROSE: Earlier this year, the coffee seller printed on some of its cups a quote from "Tales of the City" author Armistead Maupin that said, "Life is too short to hide being gay." Those cups stirred up such a brouhaha at Southern Baptist Baylor University in Texas, the school removed all the Maupin quote-bearing cups from the Starbucks on campus.

Ms. TAYLOR: Starbucks has very shrewdly recognized something that demographers are increasingly telling us, which is that evangelicals are a very powerful economic and political bloc in this country, and not a bloc that Starbucks can afford to offend.

DeROSE: The quote from Rick Warren, which, in a bit of synergistic convergence, is actually a direct quote from his book "The Purpose-Driven Life," will begin showing up on Starbucks' paper cups early next year. In the meantime, coffee drinkers will have to be sparked into dialogue by quotes currently in use, ones from ice skater Michelle Kwan, conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg, and musicians Wynton Marsalis and Moby. Jason DeRose, NPR News.

ADAMS: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I'm Noah Adams.

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