E Pluribus Unum?

By Paul Koch

With all the media coverage focusing on the divisive politics of an incredible election, I fear we have lost sight of something incredibly positive—something that calls for genuine unity and praise of community. No, I’m not talking about the Church or the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; I’m talking about the new Starbucks cup.

That’s right. Lost in the shuffle of all the other things going on in our country was the news that Starbucks, beloved caffeine trafficker and purveyor of good vibes, released a new cup design on which you can find, in their own words, an intricate picture in which “A single line connects the figures. A coffee farmer, a family, a barista, friends embracing. A mosaic of more than a hundred people drawn in one continuous stroke is featured on a new Starbucks green cup.”


Like Coca-Cola making us feel like one happy family because we bought a bottle with someone else’s name on it so that we might share, Starbucks is expounding the virtues of community (at least community within one of its 23,768 locations worldwide) by pouring their delicious drinks into these creative cups.

In the after-glow of Trump’s acceptance speech and Hillary’s concession, the call for unity is once again brought to the fore. Now that the vote has been tallied and Madonna is off the hook for her promise, what do we do?

We are told that we must find a way to work together, to reach across the aisle and try to get something done for the benefit of this great country. Now that all the nastiness of the election season is over, it’s time to play nice. After all, we are the United States of America, and united we must stand.

But I wonder if that is possible. Is unity something we can achieve? Is it foolish to believe so?

The thing is, you don’t have to spend much time inside a Starbucks to see the failure of their own campaign for community. They can promote the idea in a wonderfully designed cup, but those who come to drink from their cup are not moved to unity by it. As you stand in line, everyone has their faces buried in their phones. Catching up on their Instagram accounts or twitter feeds, they give their orders and then give the dirty eyeball to someone who gets their order first though they ordered after. There may be a single line of unity on the cup, but all that unites those customers is a common addiction to caffeine and sugar.


In fact, perhaps it is not only likely that we will remain divided but even that division is a good thing. Division and the disorder that comes with it brings the opportunity for creativity and new ideas. Division means that there is still a fight for the truth, still arguments to be had. And those arguments and fights bring with it the character-forming tools we and our children need.

The only cup that promises unity is the cup we receive around the fellowship of the altar, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16) But that unity is first with our Lord himself and the forgiveness of sins and then unity within the body of Christ. But unity in the body of Christ, unity in the fellowship of the altar, is certainly not unity with this world. “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Matt 10:21-23)

Outside of Christ, I say bring on the disunity. Let the arguments begin. Stop with the safe spaces and hand wringing, for this is a great time to be alive. Get your Grande Mocha in the cool green cup and then start talking religion and politics with anyone who will engage.

Who knows, we might just surprise ourselves…