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.