November 13, 2015

Every once in a while, this spiritual columnist likes to go rogue. Today’s going to be one of those times, so consider yourself duly warned.

I’m going to delay spiritual commentary to say a few words about Carson and coffee.

First, Ben Carson. Truthfully, I hold no preference for Carson’s reflections on life. Nevertheless, I don’t like it when anyone takes an undeserved hit, so allow me to speak in his defense.

Ben and I have something in common. We are both products of high school ROTC where we were both offered full-service scholarships to our respective academies.

Actually, in my preference for accuracy, I’ve never called it a scholarship. I prefer the exact term of “service academy nomination.” (Normally, only congressional members nominate people to the service academies, but high schools with ROTC programs can submit three nominations.)

When Carson says he turned down a scholarship I wonder if he’s perhaps confusing the category of nomination with that of an appointment. A nomination is just that, but an appointment is the actual offer of a “scholarship.” My guess is that he turned down his principal’s offer of a nomination.

The only reason I didn’t experience a similar lapse in memory is due to the traumatic disappointment that came when my nomination failed to become an appointment.

I once made a similar miscategorization by boasting that my editors had nominated my column for a Pulitzer. Only later did I realize that my editors had only “submitted” my column for Pulitzer consideration – the prestigious “nomination” comes only from the Pulitzer committee.

I believe that Carson’s thoughts about the academy, like mine about the Pulitzer, are simply misguided.

Like Carson, Starbucks coffee has also been a bit maligned this month. Of course I’m no more interested in promoting Starbucks than I am Carson. I’ve never had a cup of coffee in my life. I’m a solid iced tea drinker who has little use for overpriced Starbucks beverages with Italian names.

Nevertheless, I won’t stand idly by when people attack Starbuck’s in Jesus’ name. Angered by Starbucks introduction of a culturally neutral red cup, The viral point: Starbucks is against Christmas. Feuerstein’s posted a viral video rant about the company. He not only slams their cup, but he also gives a random shout out for the second amendment by flashing his gun. Nice touch for Jesus, there Josh.

Never mind the fact that Starbuck’s has never carried religious themed cups. Never mind that Starbucks has no company policy that prohibits their employees from saying Merry Christmas. Facts are such a little matter when you get your exercise by jumping to conclusions.

Here’s my bottom line, folks. I don’t get my faith from a coffee cup or a barista wishing me a Merry Christmas. And I certainly won’t depend on salvation from a surgeon who says he’ll stand for the Bible if he’s elected.

But as a person of faith, I will stand up for those who are wrongly accused or harpooned. Left or right, up or down. Wrong is wrong. If I intend to show integrity in my faith, I must not allow anyone to be slandered.

Yes, that means that I’ve occasionally defended the wrong people. I once drafted a column defending Anthony Weiner when he said he never tweeted photos of his southern parts. Gratefully, that rogue column remained unpublished.

Well, you can’t say that you weren’t forewarned. Hopefully, my editors will bring me back to the straight and narrow next time.

Send comments to or P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, CA 95759. Twitter @chaplain. Leave your recorded comments at (843) 608-9715. Visit my website at where you can download a free chapter from my new book, “Hero’s Highway.”