As a child I remember my grandfather coming in for lunch on hot summer days when it was 100 degrees in the shade with 98 percent humidity. He would sit down at the kitchen table, look at my grandmother, and say, “Bertie, get me some coffee.” He drank it straight and hot. No milk. No sugar. No flavors. No froth.
Today, coffee means weird concoctions with Italian names that are six parts milk, two parts syrup, and two parts coffee. The baristas (the guys serving up the coffee) seem to take as much joy in creating exotic names for their drinks as they do in making up the eclectic flavors. In some places, if you want a small cup of coffee, you order a tall cup. I don’t get it.
Coffee is no longer the predominate flavor of the drink. It’s mocha (pronounced “mo-kuh”) or caramel or raspberry or whatever. They have successfully attracted people who don’t even drink coffee by making cold drinks that have about a teaspoon of coffee in them: frappe-whatever-you-call-‘ems. For men like my grandfather, coffee was “good” or “not bad.” Today, coffee is evaluated by its acidity, its finish, or some other high-falutin’ nonsense.
The king of contemporary coffee beverages is probably the latte (pronounced “lah-tay”). A latte is basically a cup of foamy milk with a shot of coffee stirred in for good measure. Lattes are for people who like the ambiance of coffee shops, but who do not like coffee. Lattes are for people who want their coffee diluted and sweetened. Lattes are for all of those yuppies who didn’t have a grandpa like I did. Lattes are for all those people who want to be able to say, “I drink coffee,” but who really can’t stomach a good, strong, black cup of coffee.
What ever happened to the throbbing, boiling, spewing sound of an old percolator? Most coffee drinkers today have never heard of such a thing, but there’s nothing like hearing those babies perk! (The sound of a teenager with purple hair and multiple body piercings heating and foaming milk in a stainless steel jug in a dimly lit room full of city-slickers can’t even begin to compare to the music of a percolator.) Or what about the old drip pots like my great grandmother had? (If you don’t know what a drip pot is, I won’t even go there.)
It seems to me that coffee is not the only thing that has changed. I have also noticed a lot of latte Christians. A lot of people like their relationship with God about the same way they like their coffee—all sugared-up and mostly froth. Latte Christians are the ones who love the idea of grace, but who haven’t discovered the concept of repentance. They are the ones who want to be identified as believers, but they really don’t know what a Christian is supposed to believe. Latte Christians like the feeling of belonging to a community of believers, but they can’t quite digest discipleship. Latte Christians have created a whole industry of feel-good books, key chains, and bumper stickers.
I’ve noticed something else too: There’s also a lot of latte men out there. A latte man likes saying he is a man, but he is a rather watered-down version of what a man ought to be. A latte man likes the appearance of strength, but he hates the workout. He likes to do his own thing and have everyone else wait on him. He wants good housekeeping and a love goddess at home, but he’s a lazy bum who can’t even pay the bills. He likes to do his own thing and be his own man—until he gets in trouble. He’s more concerned with looking good and driving cool wheels than being reliable and full of integrity. A latte man has a crusty heart and doesn’t know how to cry. A latte man wants to look big and be in charge, but he doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to shoulder the weight of true manhood.
In times like these, we don’t need latte men. We need strong, pure men. Men who will not bend to materialism. Men who will not allow their families to go in debt for trinkets and toys. Men who will keep their eyeballs off of other women. Men who will not allow their God-given passions to be diluted with pornography. Men who will study their Bibles on their own. Men who will roll out of the bed and pray. Men who will lead their families in worship. Men who will respect and cherish their wives. Men who will ask their children for forgiveness if necessary. Men who will honor the man of God. Men who will be accountable. Men who will show up when showing up is important.
I heard Dr. Laura ask a man once, “Besides your genitalia, why do you call yourself a man?” That’s a pretty good question. Why do you call yourself a man? Are you a latte man—watered down, sugared-up, and mostly foam—or are you a man through and through?
We need real men to serve a real God in a real world with a real challenge. Real men love Jesus. Real men pray. Real men are responsible with their finances. Real men spend time with their families. Real men are faithful to church. Real men back up their word. Real men don’t flirt. Real men let their wives know when they will be late for dinner.
I say no more distractions. No more dilutions. No more additives. No more latte!
NOTE: The author drinks dark roasted coffees, preferrably French or Italian roasts. Sumatra is tolerable. His favorite espresso drinks are Americanos and properly made cappuccinos. He has never ordered a latte.
This article was originally printed in the October 2003 Pentecostal Herald. I received a lot of input on this article, so I thought it was worth reprinting here.
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