Well, we’re only a few weeks away from Christmas—the time of year where we come together to eat delicious food, celebrate the birth of Christ and get our fauxtrage on about something stupid. This time: coffee cups from Starbucks. Why? Because one former pastor turned apparent social media personality decided that by going with a simple red gradient, as opposed to something a little more involved that includes the words “Merry Christmas”, the company hates Jesus.
This, ignoring the fact that “Merry Christmas” has never been on their cups, they have gift cards that say it, their employees aren’t banned from saying it, the dark roast is called “Christmas Blend,” and they even sell Advent calendars.
What’s worse is how I’m seeing Christians picking up on it. Some are going along with this nonsense, joining in with “protests” to the company’s non-existent anti-Christmas policies by asking that baristas put their name on the cup as “Merry Christmas”. Others are calling for total boycotts (y’know, like the last time Starbucks did something that Christians don’t like—which clearly didn’t stick). And then there’s the others who’ve looked at the option of laughing or crying about this, and chosen laughter (and more specifically, mockery, which in this case might actually be the most appropriate and biblical response).
For those curious, here’s where I live on Starbucks: From everything I’ve heard, it’s one of the better companies to work for, depending on who your store manager is. I know the baristas at my local store; they seem to like their jobs. A couple are even Christians. They know me and my family. I go there on a regular basis and make an effort to know them. Why? Because I want to get to know them because they’re people who are made in the image of God, and aside from a couple, most of them don’t know Jesus (because most Canadians don’t).
But you know what? Why I frequent Starbucks is actually irrelevant. Whether you go there or don’t, I frankly don’t care, provided the problem is related to liking or disliking their product. The real problem behind this “controversy” isn’t even the cup and whether or not people are using the word Christmas.
The problem is religious hypocrisy.
Think about Romans 2 for a second. In chapter 1, after laying out all the problems of the pagan world—this long laundry list of sin which points to the basic reality that we’re all pretty much up a creek without a paddle—Paul anticipates a problem with the rest of his readers: the “religious” types—in the context’s case, Jewish Christians. They were likely right there with Paul as he laid out all the sins of the pagan world, cheering him on in their minds. But then he turns to them and says, in effect, “Don’t get too comfy because I’m coming after you, next” in verse one of chapter 2, and later, “Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:3)
See, all these evils that humanity is guilty of, they’re guilty of, too. This is why Paul could write that there is none who is righteous, not even one (Romans 3:11)—because no one is righteous. Whether religious or not, none of us are any better than someone else. When Paul wrote that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, guess what? He really meant it.
So when we get all uppity about something as stupid as a coffee cup, you know what it says? It says to me that we don’t get it. We don’t get the gospel if we think it matters whether or not the art on the piece of paper holding our overpriced beverage includes the words “Merry Christmas.” (Just as we might also be at risk of showing we don’t get it either if all we do is get our rage on about people getting their rage on.)
But for the moment, can we drop “the war on Christmas” schtick, please? Companies aren’t declaring war. We are. The barista at Starbucks isn’t putting seeds of doubt into your drink, along with your extra shot. We might be, though, if we actually think Jesus is going to answer us on this with a hearty “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Concern yourself with more important matters—love, justice, mercy. Try sharing the gospel with someone you know who doesn’t know Jesus. But don’t run around thinking a major corporation is persecuting you because of what’s not on their cups. They’re not—and if you really think they are, the person waging a “war on Christmas” might be you.
(And for those who aren’t, let’s not forget that Paul’s talking to us, too.)