Coffee Theology
Written by Maggie the Cat

It was the smell that drew him.

Granted, it was not the absolute premium aroma that it _could_ be; nor was it the light, toasted, appetizing ambrosial scent that it _should_ be. It was burnt, heavy, and nauseating.

But it was coffee, and that was all that mattered to Frank Pembleton at half of nine in the morning.

The detective veered towards the coffeepot, intent upon pouring a cup of that steaming elixir of life.

"Hey, Frank!"

Pembleton paused. Closed his eyes. "Yes, Felton?"

Beau continued merrily, never noticing that he was being a nusiance. "I want you to settle something. Munch here--" he gestured derisively across the table at the thin detective, who raised his eyebrows--"Munch thinks that there was a female God--"

"Godd_ess_," Munch interjected.

"Yeah, goddess, whatever--who was edited out of the Bible." Beau squinted at Pembleton's ramrod-straight back. "You were brought up Catholic, Frank. Tell him there's no such thing."

"Felton," Pembleton intoned with infinite patience, "not only am I manifestly untinterested in this particular topic as well as severely disgruntled at finding an empty coffeepot, but if I did choose to have a discussion on theology, deiology, or any other -ology with a co-worker, rest assured that _you_ would not be him."

"Fine." Beau was annoyed, but only momentarily. "I don't need you to tell Munch he's wrong. I could just ask any priest--"

Munch snorted. "Oh, that's good, Beau. Why don't we just ask the low-lives we drag in here night after night to put together their own defense cases in court?" He ignored Beau's glare and continued, picking up speed.

"The clergy perpetrates the edited text of the Bible because the have to show solidarity. They have to clan together in righteous brotherhood and make sure that they preserve the might, majesty and mystery of the Church of Rome so those collection plates keep rolling in." Satisfied for the moment, Munch dropped back in his chair, avoiding the sugar packets Beau had resorted to tossing at him.

Pembleton loomed menacingly over the coffee machine, which was painstakingly dripping a fresh pot. Any more time standing here listening and he'd have to correct their misconceptions on general principle.

But then he heard something that let him off the hook. Felton and Munch behind him at the table, chorusing, "Meldrick!"

Lewis paused in mid-amble towards the coffeepots, looking over at Munch and Felton. "Whut?" he asked, a fair amount of suspicion evident in his tone.

Squinching up his eyes again, Felton reiterated the debate. "Munch thinks there's a female God. Whaddyou think?"

"Well, honestly--" Lewis saw Pembleton standing forebodingly in front of the coffeepots and redirected himself off toward the vending machine--"I really try not to think about God all that much. I mean, God ain't something we _should_ try to unnerstand, y'know? I mean, God is _beyond_ human comprehension. You can't explain God. You shouldn't _even_ question him."

"Aha!" Beau half-jumped out of his chair, pointing at Meldrick. "You said 'him'. You referred to God as a male." He grinned, gloating, at Munch, who waved one hand dismissively.

"He's been programmed by centuries of biased church doctrine pushing the idea of a male God," Munch scoffed. "You can't honestly expect a product of the system like Meldrick here to come up with anything enlightening."

"I ain't gonna stand around here and get insulted for my religious beliefs, _Munch_," Lewis huffed, scooping up his tin of soda and marching back into the squadroom.

"Colloquial English isn't designed for gender-neutral pronouns," Pembleton said, almost to the coffeepots. "In fact, it was only because there was no gender-neutral way to express 'Jehovah' in Hebrew that we ended up with the masculine term 'God'."

"So what are you saying, Frank?" Beau needled. He'd get Pembleton into this discussion if it took all week.

"Hey, guys. You brewing fresh coffee in here?" Kay Howard strolled into the coffee room, her hands jammed into her pockets.

"There, ask your friend and partner," Munch prompted.

Felton grimaced. "Howie? She's a woman, Munch. Of course she'll agree that there was a female God who was wronged and oppressed. That's what women _do_."

"Ask me what, Beau?" Having caught the tail end of this exchange, Howard was curious. Besides, she had to wait for the coffee to stop dripping, and Frank seemed to be guarding it like a pitbull.

Sighing expansively and rolling his eyes, Felton repeated the question in a tone which clearly stated that he considered this a waste of time.

"So whaddyou think?" he finished, without much hope for backup.

Howard considered. "I think," she said musingly, pulling up a chair and turning it around so she could rest her arms along its back, "that there's only one Supreme Being, huh?"

"Hah! _One_ God! Oh, Howie, I never should've doubted you!"

"Yeah, hang on there, Reverend," Munch said, folding his arms. "Kay, am I right in assuming that since you used a gender-neutral term to describe the Almighty, you _don't_ believe in an exclusively male God...?"

Howard smiled. "Nothing gets past you, Munchkin." She pushed her hair back and looked over at Pembleton. "Frank, is that coffee _done_ yet? Some of us have cases to get back to...."

Pembleton didn't budge from his station, glaring at the machine with growing intensity. "A pot of coffee," he pronounced ominously, "brews faster for no man."

"Or woman," Munch corrected, just to be difficult.

"How about 'for no-one'?" Fed up with waiting, Howard got up, passing Bayliss on the way out.

"Watch it in there, Tim," she warned. "Munch and Beau are finding religion, and Frank's a coffee fascist."

Bayliss craned his neck, glancing about in interest. "Sounds like fun...."

Howard's answering snort fell on deaf ears as the tall detective went through the doorway.

"Ah! A new victim!" Felton rubbed his hands together and kicked out a welcoming chair for Bayliss. "C'mon, Tim--you've gotta get in on it."

Bayliss sat down in the proffered chair, bemused. "What's all this about?"

"The gender--or lack thereof--of the Lord our God," Pembleton supplied.

"And the existence of a female counterpart. A Yang to His Yin. A Mama to His Papa," Munch grinned.

"Oh." Bayliss fiddled with one of the sugar packets on the table, considering. "Well...."

Felton leaned back smugly. "This should be good."

"I believe," Bayliss continued, "that the Christian representation of God, the Holy Trinity, all of that, is a corruption of pagan creation lore."

"Pagan?" Munch was personally offended. "Wiccans dancing in circles and drawing pentacles in the dirt have something to do with the holy beings in the Bible? I don't think so, Tim."

"Let him talk," Felton remonstrated. "We asked his opinion."

"I changed my mind. Look, there _has_ to be a female Goddess. That's the whole basis of life as we know it--the assurance that there's a balance for everything. A woman, apart from harassing, tormenting and generally destroying a man, is there as his isometric opposite, his helpmeet, his biological counterpart. Women complete the circle; they're half of the whole. Without them, we're not fully functioning beings. Now how could the world be arranged like that if there aren't co-Creators?"

"Munch has a good point there," Bayliss said thoughtfully. "Except it's not the whole picture."

"Oh? And what _is_ the whole picture, Swami?" Munch was on a full-throttle irritation jag.

Bayliss cleared his throat. "The pagan creation myth is centralized on the Goddess. Now, she gives birth to the Horned God, who then becomes her lover, after which he dies."

"Sounds believable," Felton chuckled.

"And then," Bayliss continued, "the Goddess once again gives birth, restarting the cycle."

"All this is very interesting, Tim," Pembleton said, "but what bearing does that have on Christian doctrine?"

"They cleaned it up. Christians separated the Goddess into two female figures--Mary the Virgin Mother, and Mary Magadalene, the Lover. They've even given them the same name, which, actually, is kind of a lack of creativity _and_ foresight on the Church fathers' part...."

Felton sighed resignedly. "So, who else can we ask, now that Bayliss has shot his credibility to hell?"

"Ahhhh..." Pembleton poured himself a cup of fresh coffee, eyes half-lidded in anticipatory pleasure. He took a careful sip, hungrily inhaling the aromatic steam that curled up from the brim. "The day can begin!"

Cradling his cup, Pembleton began to head out to the squadroom.

"Frank, you can't leave _now_! It's just getting good!" Felton protested.

"On the contrary, Felton--if I value my immortal soul, now is the perfect time to leave. This room is so filled with blasphemy I might be consigned to perdition by just _being_ here."

"But you haven't even taken a side!"

"I don't need to."

Felton frowned. "Why not?"

Pembleton favoured the detectives with a wide grin. "Because, Felton--unlike the rest of you, I know the _truth_."

Felton, Munch and Bayliss quietly watched him go. Then Bayliss sighed, shifting his tall frame on the chair.

"Anyone else," he said, "get the feeling that Frank didn't finish that sentence?"

"Yeah," Munch smirked. "He was supposed to say, 'I know the truth. I AM God.' ...Anyone want some coffee?"