The Bethlehem Star(bucks)

As Tony Campolo once styled it, sometimes it is a matter of “Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God.” For the current brew-ha-ha, so to speak, over the “Christmas Cups” at Starbucks is a good example of when Christians overreact to perceived cultural slights.

In case you’ve missed it, the controversy stems from the fact that the ubiquitous (not a word you can use everywhere, by the way) coffee chain has unveiled its holiday cups that are simply red with their corporate logo on the side. No snowflakes, Frosties, Rudolphs, or other spiritually significant symbols of the season, mind you, just plain red.

And, in turn, some Christians have seen red as well, with a few even suggesting that in failing to acknowledge the meaning of this season that what Starbucks is actually saying is that it hates Jesus. One evangelical pastor and self-described “social media personality”–which almost sounds like an oxymoron in and of itself–has posted a video which has already received over 13 million views, in fact, suggesting that others follow his lead in telling the baristas while ordering that your name is “Merry Christmas,” thus forcing Starbucks to write it on the cup in spite of their pagan policies.

What’s more, one of the presidential candidates has now chimed in, promising that when he is in the Oval Office that people will freely say “Merry Christmas” once again across the fruited plain, no matter what the political correctness crowd may argue.

All of that rather misses the point, however. Indeed, if those of us who actually believe in Jesus are depending upon a coffee shop or even a candidate to help promote our faith to others then we’ve got it wrong ourselves. For when it has been at its best, Christianity has often been a counter-cultural force of God’s love, calling men and women to a Kingdom with a different set of values altogether.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like it when either the government or the culture uses its power to put down people of faith, or to ridicule the tenets or ideas in which we believe. But in the end, it’s not up to others to interpret God’s love–it’s up to us. And we can do so best not by arguing against our adversaries–real or imagined–but by living in such a way that those around us cannot help but notice the difference and wonder why.

In the end, it should be pointed out that Starbucks indeed will continue to sell both a “Christmas Coffee” and even Advent Calendars within their stores, as well as a rather delicious Peppermint Mocha drink that is essentially a candy cane in a cup. If you want to really understand the meaning of this season, however, I would suggest that you concentrate less on Starbucks and more on the Star of Bethlehem.

Unless, of course, you’re a Christian just daring someone else to offend you.

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18 Responses to The Bethlehem Star(bucks)

  1. Richard Haase says:

    Dr. Temple,

    Very well stated. IMO, what you wrote should be repeated.

    Thank you.

  2. Kathe Behrend says:

    Yes! Well said, and love the humor also.

  3. Bill Penczak says:

    …and had Starbucks emblazoned their December cups with a picture of the Child in the Manger, some would have criticized them for commercializing Christmas. I think this whole thing falls into the category of getting a life. Its easy to cast dispersion like this. Living as Christ taught us is hard, and most people will take th path of least resistance (and more rancor)

  4. Wes whiddon says:

    As someone on the “ubiquitous” (see that’s twice in one day) Facebook commented: Get a life, people.

    Great post, Chap.

  5. Edward Monto says:

    Merry Christmas to all!

  6. Steve Matthews says:

    I must agree. I think we as Christians do a great disservice to the Church by seemingly wailing about these perceived cultural slights. If we looked as hard for opportunities to LOVE another out of a response to God’s grace and mercy as we look for these cultural slights, we’d be doing a lot more for the Kingdom of God that way,

    Let’s not forget that we live in a multi-cultural, multi-religious society, and that all of us are Starbucks’ target audience. I think the cups are great (less is more), and I don’t need Starbucks to promote my faith – or any other faith.

    I just want them to serve a great cup of coffee. 🙂

  7. Nancy Schulz says:

    Love it, Chap – you ALWAYS do such a great job w/ your entries!!!

  8. Jack Howard says:

    Is this a UMC site, or a demiocrat party/starbucks site?

    • Believe it or not Chappell Temple is actually my name and not that of a church. I am a United Methodist pastor in Texas and while I have been accused of being many things a Democrat had rarely been one of them! But thanks for asking.

    • johnjshaffer says:

      Sadly, what we say and what we do are not always the same. Have you ever read the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church? Go and do likewise. When I was a pastor in Alaska, I made sure that no one read some of the positions of the United Methodist Church. I might not have had any church members left. Of course, the members were/are wrong and the Social Principles are right. But many of us who claim to follow Christ do not do so: “Go, sell ALL that you have and give to the poor.” Well, surely he didn’t mean me. He was thinking of Bill Gates. Not me.

  9. Doug Dowling says:

    As a retired UM pastor and endorsed chaplain I’m always amazed at how often we want to commercialize what is a religious holiday and have corporate America constantly remind us of what we should know and practice. Dr. Temple states it very well. Because of the many religious holidays at this time of year, I always ended my outgoing voice mail message with “Blessed holy days.”

  10. David Samuelson says:

    I love your analysis and comments on Starbucks cups. I mentioned at our ROMEO group (Thur Breakfast Group -retired old men eating oatmeal) that I was not going to stop getting my daily latte. That we as Christians should not be depending on Starbucks for spiritual guidance. That is when One of them told me of your blog. Now every day when I buy coffee I will think of Christ. So maybe something good did come out of this.
    David. <

  11. johnjshaffer says:

    This tempest in a coffee cup almost makes me want to drink a cup of coffee, but I was imprinted very early in my life to avoid caffeine and it has stuck. It causes trouble once in awhile, once with a mentally disturbed (United) Methodist. Another time I was the guest speaker at an United Methodist Church in Michigan and foolishly I declined a cup of coffee saying that I was a Mormon. A short time later the pastor of that church was dealing with a very irate woman wondering why a Mormon was being allowed to speak from their pulpit. Unwisely, I figured everyone knew that a guest speaker was coming that day from United Methodism. My weird sense of humor gets me in trouble now and then.

  12. Robbie Ausley says:

    Amen – you make be proud to be a Methodist!

  13. Bob Harper says:

    I totally agree that there are a lot of other more pressing matters in our work for Christ than worrying about how a coffee cup looks. But on the other hand you know for a fact with political correctness in place, no one wants to upset anyone, that Christianity is slowly been fading away, within our government, our schools, our towns and community’s but more importantly our homes where it all should start. I believe Christ would have us take our unmovable stand for Him with the love He has given us to share with others in our government, our schools, our towns and our community’s and our homes then we would not have to worry about those red coffee cups.

  14. Gail Stein says:

    All I can say is Merry Christmas where ever I go & I’m wearing a cross as often as possible just in case my actions don’t let people know I’m a Christian. God loves everyone rather they want Him to or not. Goodwill to all!

  15. Bill Hood says:

    Right on Pastor!!!

  16. Susan Keirn Kester says:

    Chap, thank you for a well stated comment. Just what was needed. Susan Keirn Kester

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