It’s Not About The Cup: Christmas, Starbucks, and (fake) outrage

12231584_10205082080028249_925360132_n-e1447076092701As the calendar turns to November we have found ourselves wading once again into the time that is the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. This is that special time of year where we will gather with loved ones, share in a good meal, and make preparations for the coming of Advent and Christmas. During the next several weeks we can look forward to food, football, fellowship, good-will, and, of course, the predictable protests of those who feel that some how, some way, Christmas and all of Christendom is under attack.

Is it just me, or does it seem that the “War on Christmas” crowd has gotten an early start this year? The less-than-fortunate and early season target to draw the bulls-eye of this crowd? Starbucks. This makes sense, of course, the coffee giant has long drawn the ire of the Evangelical community due to it’s company-wide stances on hot-button issues such as marriage equality and gun control. If we’ve paid any attention to the interwebs over these past few days we know that there is now this great uprising over the release of the 2015 edition of the famous “red cup.”

If by some chance you’re not familiar, during every Christmas season since 1997 the Starbucks corporation has been practicing the tradition of serving their coffee in red cups (as opposed to the usual white). It is a practice that, over the years, has taken on a life of it’s own and has spawned things such as the Twitter handle @RedCupCountdown. As frequent (some would say chronic) Starbucks patrons, my wife and I get way too excited when the new red cup makes its appearance.

Usually these cups are decorated with some sort of wintery design such as snowflakes. However, to the shock and dismay of some, this year’s red cup is simply…red. That is, the cup looks exactly like the one that is used the rest of the year…except that it is red.

Immediately following the release of the cups a self-proclaimed evangelist named Joshua Feuerstein produced a video that has since gone viral on Facebook in where he proclaims that Starbucks is continually seeking to “take Christ out of Christmas” with the latest example of this agenda being the lack of any design on the red cup. If you want to watch the video, I am confident that you can find it, so I will not post it here. Since the video was posted, other Evangelicals have joined in their dismay while may other cooler heads have asked the logical question, “Is this really a thing?”

Look, I don’t know what went into the design of the 2015 red cup, and frankly, I don’t care. But here’s the thing, this “outrage” isn’t really about the cup. This is just the latest pointless battle in an otherwise silly and contrived “controversy.” If it wasn’t the cup at Starbucks it would be a retailer wishing somebody “Happy Holidays” or it would be the lack on a nativity scene on the lawn of some courthouse. Every year it’s the same predictable and embarrassing “outrage” over the so-called, “War on Christmas.” It’s boring, tiresome, and frankly, people are sick of it.

Here’s what I think. Those that allow themselves to get caught up in the fervor of “Keeping Christ in Christmas” (more on that in a minute) are really just looking for something to attack or for a phantom enemy from which they feel they need to protect Jesus. I don’t know what it is but there seems to be this deeply embedded fear within the theological worldview of this small minority of believers that causes them to feel like if they are not attacking or defending then their faith and perhaps their world will crumble. This saddens me deeply. This is not in keeping with The Way. The Christian life and faith is not one of fear, but one of hope.

Two things to keep in mind:

1. Christianity is at it’s very best when it is NOT state or corporate sponsored. Let us remember that Christianity began as a subversive and dangerous movement that put followers of The Way in direct conflict with the powers that be. Early Christians promoted radical ideals such as hospitality, forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace. The first followers of Jesus did not rely on the local coffee shop to proclaim their beliefs because they were too busy putting skin on the things they so strongly believed. Church, have we really devolved to the point where we require the corporate world to do our evangelism for us? If so, then God help us.

2. We can feel a certain level of dismay and perhaps feel a little rage during the Christmas season, but, for the love of all that is holy, let’s get worked up about the same things that Jesus did.

For example:

16 million children live in poverty in the United States. This is a cause for outrage

There are over 600,000 Americans who are classified as homeless. This is a cause for outrage.

During the Christmas season, the average American will spend $804 on gifts and entertainment. The average American family brings home somewhere between $3000 and $4000 a month. If these averages hold, this means that we have succumbed to the advertising fallacy that we need to buy expensive things to show people how much we care about them. This is a cause for outrage.

According to fivethirtyeight.com Americans will exponentially increase the time they spend shopping and decorating but do not increase their time spent at religious activities. This is an example in missing the point.

So let’s get outraged, but let’s do it for the right reasons. If we want to “keep Christ in Christmas” let’s do so by promoting the things he promoted, working for the causes he worked for, and remembering why God decided to enter the world as a little baby in the first place. If we want to get upset, let’s get angry at things that matter.

Oh, and if you happen to be part of the “Starbucks is making baby Jesus cry” crowd and are considering adding your voice to the protests against this “godless” company (pro tip: ALL companies are godless) please don’t. It’s not to your benefit, to the benefit of your fellow Christians, and it is certainly not to the benefit of the Kingdom to do so. Thanks.

headshot-4Rev. Aaron Todd serves as the Minister for Education at First Christian Church-Midwest City, OK . Among other things, he focuses on youth, children, young adult, and family ministry. He is married to Debra, who is also a Disciples pastor, and together they have a 3 year old son named Zach and a precious baby boy named Josh. In addition to their human children, they have a 5 year old dog named Amos (named after the prophet). Check out his blog, revaarontodd.com