CONFESSIONS OF A CAFFEINATED CHRISTIAN: Wide-Awake and Not Alone
Tyndale House Publishers
Sit down with musician turned author John Fischer and enjoy a cup of joe over CONFESSIONS OF A CAFFEINATED CHRISTIAN, 19 short shots of espresso for the soul.
Fischer, like many writers, finds inspiration for his writing direct from the bean, as he plugs in his laptop at his local coffee shop. "I love coffee. I love it dark, oily, and with a burnt chestnut aftertaste," he writes. Unsurprisingly, he loves Starbucks --- indeed, the book is almost an endorsement for the chain. "...Just about everything I can think of about my experience with Starbucks coffee also corresponds to something true about my experience with Jesus."
Although he is a Starbucks aficionado, many of the essays Fischer crafts are birthed at the Koffee Klatch, a local hangout. Surprisingly to him, as he becomes a regular, his little coffee shop turns out to be a magnet for the gay community in his little corner of California. This realization leads Fischer to ponder evangelism and his own desire to keep to himself. Is he there as only a coffee drinker? Observer? As a Christian looking for converts? Should he offer them some "answers?" He's not sure. With honest puzzlement, he muses over why he feels motivated to evangelize those around him. Is it truly that he cares about them, or "Is it to speed up their change so I don't have to be so freaked out around them?"
Fischer's discomfort with his feelings at the Koffee Klatch leads him to peel back more layers. He thinks back to his earliest experiences in an ultra-conservative Christian home (he carried a note to school excusing him from dancing in gym) and his teen perceptions of evangelism, and participation. He finds he enjoys observing life rather than participating and engaging with it. "Confession: As a Christian, I am the bearer of a message packed full of love for people I am afraid to be around." His favorite part of evangelism, he confesses: "busing out" after witnessing in a neighborhood. Throughout the book, he continues turning over thoughts about his lack of empathy with others and his desire to withdraw. Sometimes there is a point to his musings, sometimes it is a little difficult to discern what the point is.
In another essay, Fischer, a hardcore caffeinated coffee drinker, acknowledges that his own faith has been "decaffeinated" too long. "Religion without a kick...faith without the buzz --- a sanitized human experience with its heart and soul removed...." He reflects on his early experiences in the church: prom night without the dancing, Rook instead of regular cards, Billy Graham movies instead of the headliner down at the theater. "We simply tried to take out what we thought was bad and still have the experience," he writes. He decides he wants an "earthy" faith, not a life lived in isolation. "My caffeinated Christianity is a relationship with God that takes into account my life in this body and my handicap as a sinner."
As for the gay community at the Koffee Klatch, where everyone is "out of the closet," Fischer realizes, "Me? I tend to be a closet sinner, keeping my coffee and my conversation to myself. So I keep coming back to the Koffee Klatch. And each time, I find my heart a little softer, a little more aware of how special everyone is in God's eyes." As for witnessing there, he decides, "It's time to get over myself and start being a friend...(to) find out what I have in common with all the other caffeine fanatics here."
Those who listened to Fischer back in the early 1980s will recognize some echoes of his songs in these essays, including the inspiration for "Roses on Wednesday," a sweet essay about marital commitment (and no coffee themed relationship in sight, by the way). However, despite some strong material, there is a rambling aspect to this book that makes it a better choice to pick up and read in short bursts rather than as one long narrative. Some of the essays never really go anywhere --- the reader just gets a companionable slice of whatever is on Fischer's mind that particular day. That said, however, this book might prompt Christians who are "observers" to become more engaged with their world, to risk being more uncomfortable and vulnerable --- or, as Fischer might say, to put the kick back into their coffee.
And, oh yeah. Forget the decaf. Make it full strength.
--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby. Contact Cindy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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