By now you’ve heard about the alleged “controversy” surrounding the holiday cup design at Starbucks. If you haven’t heard, you already know from that first sentence that whatever the “controversy” is about, it’s incredibly stupid. I can’t see how a justifiable outrage could be sparked by the beverage containers at a mass market coffee chain. If I were to hit the street one day in a desperate search for something to be offended by, I don’t think, even at my most creative and observant, I’d consider getting upset over the cups at Starbucks. But that’s just me. Actually, it isn’t just me, and that’s my point.
Let’s back up for a minute and review. See, Starbucks unveils their anticipated “holiday cups” every year in early November. In previous years, the festive cups have been adorned with sacred Christian symbols like snowflakes and polar bears. As far as I’m aware, they’ve never featured pictures of the baby Jesus sipping a grande mocha frappe, and that’s probably for the best.
This year, however, the throngs eagerly waited in line to catch a glimpse of the holy Starbucks chalice, only to be disappointed to find that the new holiday design is just a simple red cup. No snowflakes. No pine trees. No polar bears. It was, supposedly, quite devastating to many in the church. I haven’t actually met any of the devastated Christians, but the media tells me they’re out there.
Indeed, we know at least one attention-hungry Christian pretended to be furious about the whole thing. Joshua Feuerstein, who is a pastor or something I think, tried to start a viral campaign encouraging Christians to go to Starbucks and identify themselves as “Merry Christmas.” This would trick Starbucks into writing “Merry Christmas” on the cup, thereby accomplishing the goal of … something?
This Feuerstein character has been making the rounds on the mainstream media, embarrassing himself and all Christians by ranting that the Starbucks cup issue is a “parable” (whatever that means). He, according to him, is taking a stand against a company that “hates Jesus.” He’s a hero, you see. Because of cups.
But something has happened. Without our permission, Feuerstein is now an unelected representative for all of Christendom. Liberal outlets have been tripping over themselves to mock the “Christians” who, in their words, are “really angry” and “panicking” and “freaking out” and “seeing red” and making “martyrs” of themselves because of the lack of snowflakes on a paper cup. Yet in all of these articles, virtually the only Christian cited is Feuerstein. From what I’ve seen, it’s him and like three other guys. Together, they account for a worldwide “Christian panic.”
A New York Post piece declares in the headline that a “Christian group” is slamming Starbucks over the cup. But no Christian group is actually mentioned in the text of the article. It’s just Feuerstein. One guy, according to the liberal media, is a group.
In fairness, I have seen a few conservative blogs hop on the outrage bandwagon and laud Feuerstein for his “GENIUS” and “BRILLIANT” demonstration against the Scrooges at Starbucks, but these are mostly just clickbait websites that indiscriminately spill meaningless collections of buzzwords into cyberspace. They hardly represent conservative Christian thought, or any thought in general.
Speaking of lacking thought, Donald Trump said we should boycott Starbucks and promised that when he’s president “we’re all going to be saying Merry Christmas.” Apparently he plans to make the holiday greeting mandatory by federal law. But this is Donald Trump we’re talking about. Again, hardly representative of anyone or anything.
Is there an actual, substantive backlash over Starbucks cups, or is this something invented by anti-Christian bloggers and cable news personalities, aided by the work of one or two convenient patsies, and designed to make all Christians look weak and ridiculous? I think it’s likely a little of the first and a lot of the second.
It’s very simple, really. A handful of silly Christians expressed some inordinate outrage over the cups (and to be clear: any outrage over the cups is inordinate) and the anti-Christian camp ran with it because it made for a catchy little story that fits their narrative.
For the record, it’s not even true that Starbucks has removed all mention of Christmas from their stores. Despite what’s been claimed by Feuerstein and a few others, there’s absolutely no evidence that Starbucks is prohibiting their baristas from saying “Merry Christmas.” And it should be mentioned that Starbucks might not have snowflakes on their cups but they still sell Advent calendars, for God’s sake. I’d say an Advent calendar is much more religiously significant than a snowflake.
At any rate, whether or not Starbucks has engaged in a campaign to cleanse Christmas from their stores (they haven’t), the important point is that only a minority of Christians — a very small minority, I think — really care. Most of us aren’t going around keeping track of which secular retailers and restaurants have insufficiently adorned themselves in empty festive decor. The few who faint like school girls over a freaking cup don’t speak for the faith, trust me. Far be it for me to attempt such an endeavor myself, but I would like to give voice to what I believe is the view of most serious Christians, or at least the serious Christians I’ve spoken to:
I — and I suspect I’m not alone here — do not care if Starbucks garnishes their cups with snowflakes or not. Do you hear that media? Not all Christians are “panicked” over this. Indeed, it’s much more important to me that Christians avoid becoming snowflakes who melt into puddles at any perceived slight. Frivolous over-sensitivity is a crisis in our culture, and I don’t think followers of Christ ought to contribute to it. Especially these days, when there are so many ghastly examples of true Christian persecution.
[sharequote align=”center”]The few who faint like school girls over a freaking cup don’t speak for the faith, trust me.[/sharequote]
How could I find the time to take inventory of the Christmas ornamentation at Starbucks or Macy’s or Best Buy or wherever, when even here in America Christians are being locked in prison and fined and brought up on human rights violations for adhering to their beliefs? Overseas, Christians are shot, stabbed, decapitated, drowned, and burned alive on a daily basis simply for believing in Our Savior. Whining about a “war on Christmas” because of a cup or a greeting not only ignores these real life examples of oppression, but trivializes the plight of Christians by perpetuating the meme that we are all just a bunch of fussy cry babies.
Moreover, private companies can do what they want. If public schools or other government institutions are preventing citizens from expressing and celebrating their faith, then we have a problem. But private retailers and restaurants will do whatever’s best for business. So if they don’t deck their stores out in Christmas paraphernalia, it’s probably because they made a business decision. If they do, it’s probably because they made a business decision. Either way, it’s effectively meaningless.
There’s certainly nothing particularly religious about a snowflake or a Christmas tree. These are fine traditions associated with the Christmas season, but they’re largely secular traditions. A religious Christmas celebration will probably include some of these things — I love putting up trees and lights in my house, personally — but plenty of secular Christmas celebrations consist only of them. Growing up, I knew Jews and Hindus who put Christmas trees in their homes come December. To them, Christmas was just a fun time to get gifts and watch Charlie Brown specials. To a lot of Christians, it’s about the same.
I can’t possibly imagine why any Christian would consider it a “war on Christmas” if secular people and secular companies drop the secularized Christmas routine in favor of a secularized “holiday” routine. It means the same thing in either case. I think most Christians know that.
But there’s a deeper issue worth exploring. Here’s the truth of the matter: Christmas is a Christian holiday, and America is no longer a Christian nation. If you aren’t seeing Christmas decorations or hearing Christmas greetings (although I see and hear that stuff everywhere), that’s not a “war” on the holiday or the religion. That’s just one minor result of the decay of the faith in this country. If Starbucks is guilty of stripping Christmas from it stores to any extent, it isn’t engaged in a conspiracy to “secularize” the country. It’s just recognizing that the country is secularized already.
Look around. Forget the cups. The faith is rapidly disappearing in our culture, and it’s been headed in that direction for quite sometime. While a small minority of Christians worry about the “war on Christmas,” the real attack on the church has happened not in coffee stores and shopping malls, but in the family.
A million children are murdered legally every year, with the support of large percentages of alleged “Christians.” The institution of marriage has been redefined to accommodate perverse lifestyles. Divorce is endemic. Pornography is a billion dollar industry. Even the distinction between “man” and “woman” has come under sustained assault. We have become a nation of hedonists and self-worshipers.
So our cups are less religious? Sure, that makes sense. Even our religious are less religious these days. Fewer and fewer Christians bother to go to church, although they may still attend on Christmas and Easter. I wonder: of the minority who are actually offended by a lack of Christmas decor in big box stores and corporate restaurant chains, how many are the type who only feel like being “Christian” in December and one weekend in late March or April? I’d wager that the serious church-going Christians see the secularization in our society, notice how few of their brothers and sisters in faith join them in the pews 50 weekends out of the year, and are therefore neither shocked nor angered by the supposed “war on Christmas.” They know that Christmas is just a secular feast day to most people anyway, even to many Christians.
In fact — and, again, I speak for myself, but I believe others would agree — I think it would be helpful, or at least honest, if we stopped seeing all the the secular “Christmas” affectations in this country. Jesus isn’t welcome in our culture for 11 months out of the year, why should we pretend we want him around for the 12th? We treat Christ like the kid in school that nobody likes but everyone still goes to his birthday parties because he’s got a nice house and a big TV and he gives out great party favors. Are the party attendees honoring him by using him for his cool stuff only to shun him for the other 364 days of the year? No, I wouldn’t call it honoring; I’d call it exploitation.
What I’m saying is this: in our country, fewer people proclaim their faith in Jesus, and of those who do, many will not act upon it in any noticeable way from January through November. Meanwhile, our culture is one that embraces and makes a religion of murder, perversion, and selfishness. We are not a nation on fire with the faith. We are not an orthodox, pious people. We are not a civilization that collectively bows with fear and trembling before the Almighty God. We are not. We simply are not. Maybe, then, it’s best if we stop pretending during the “holiday season” just because we like the presents and the eggnog and the songs.
If you don’t go to church any other time of the year, why go on Christmas? If you don’t show your faith in Christ every day of your life, why put up a tree and colorful lights in December? If you’re a secular progressive company that rejects Christian principals most of the time, why write “merry Christmas” on your cups or sell Advent calendars in your stores? If you’re a society that spurns Christianity every step of the way, why try to appropriate the celebrations of the very faith you refuse?
Yes, I want to live in a culture that celebrates Christmas. But celebrating the birth of Christ means celebrating Christ Himself every day. Our culture does not do the latter, so why should it do the former? It’s probably best if it drops the act entirely and shows itself for what it is. We aren’t going to turn our culture back to Christ by forcing companies to engage in rote Christmas-themed displays. We must turn it back to Christ first, and then we can worry about the decorations. For now, we are a secular nation. Our churches, our families, and our culture as a whole already reflect that fact. Why shouldn’t our coffee cups?
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