I have been finishing up a book (I’ll have an announcement in a day or two) that has been taking just about every spare minute of my time, so I was a little late to the “saga of the red cup.” Evidently, the people of Starbucks have sold their souls to Satan and are joining the front lines of the “War on Christmas.” Their offense? Their cups this year, in which they serve their overpriced mediocre coffee and coffee-type drinks to hipsters everywhere will be plain red cups. That’s right, folks. PLAIN RED CUPS. The horror. No Christmas trees or snowflakes, just plain red cups.
Is their CEO the Grinch? Has Herod been reincarnated? How can anyone celebrate Christmas when Starbucks is serving their swill in a PLAIN Red Cup?
So, the culture warriors went to work to fire up the troops. Some guy named Joshua Feuerstein posted a video fanning the flames on this issue. He’s well-known for his attention-getting videos that tend to offer more heat than light. He is a Trinity-denying, Oneness Pentecostal – which generally puts him outside what we would call orthodox Christianity. No, he’s not “one of us” – not that the secular press and others who love to ridicule us make that distinction.
I considered embedding the video here, but then I thought…NO. Just no.
Such “balanced” sites as Breitbart.com joined in the lament, identifying Starbucks and their red cups as “emblematic of the Christian cultural cleansing of the west.” Really, Breitbart? The cups in the past did not have “Christian” symbols – no mangers or stars or Wise Men. Peppermint sticks, snowmen, reindeer, and holly. Rudolph is now Christian culture?
The “outrage industry” went into full swing. This is one more exhibit in the secular left’s war on Christmas, in their desire to (as Breitbart put it) to cleanse the culture from all vestiges of Christianity (such as the veneration of Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty the Snowman, evidently). These plain red cups represent everything that is wrong in America.
There were some excellent responses to this kerfuffle. Ed Stetzer’s CT article was (predictably) among the best responses. “When We Love Outrage More than People.” Dean Stewart, a frequent commenter here, had a good response. There was no shortage of blogposts and articles responding to Feuerstein. There were many tweets and Facebook messages calling on people to reject the…well…um…uh….stupidity of Joshua Feuerstein’s response. There’s really nothing else to call it.
- His facts are wrong – Starbucks does NOT restrict their employees from saying Merry Christmas. They even sell goods with “Merry Christmas” on them if you want.
- His approach is wrong – It is not Starbucks job to promote Christmas. The birth of Christ is OUR hope. Starbucks is organized to sell mediocre coffee at exorbitant prices (I think that is their company mission statement, right?). If they actually “outlawed” Christmas, then maybe that would be a reason to respond (maybe), but they simply are selling their coffee in RED CUPS.
- His goal is wrong – Even if they were all he claimed they were, we are called to love our enemies and reach the world. How is the kind of nonsense Feuerstein engaged in going to win people to Christ? Telling people your name is “Merry Christmas” to annoy a corporation? How does that affect anything?
My suspicion is that this video is more about “going viral” and getting Feuerstein his 15 minutes than it is about kingdom building – since he holds to heretical beliefs its hard to believe he is sincerely desiring to proclaim the gospel of Christ (which Oneness Pentecostals corrupt and deny).
Let me sum it up – there wasn’t much right about that video, or the “War on Christmas” defensiveness that was behind it. People, we really do need some balance. I believe there is anti-Christian sentiment out there and there are times when we are discriminated against in the public square. But when we get caught up in this kind of nonsense it just makes us look silly, gullible and ridiculous. It costs us credibility when we are the Christians who cry wolf.
Frankly, as many have pointed out, when Christians are being marched out and beheaded by ISIS because they will not deny Christ and American Christians get fired up because our coffee cups don’t have snowflakes and holly, we just end up looking small.
Stop, just stop.
The Disdain Brigade.
Have you noted a tone of sarcasm and disdain in my words for Joshua Feuerstein, Breitbart, and those who have stoked the fire on this phony controversy? That was no accident. I disdain that. It is ridiculous, hurtful to the cause of Christ. It was deceptive – a controversy built on lies. It could almost make me go buy a cup of Starbucks.
But we may have engaged in a little bit unnecessary roughness in our disdainful response. There are a lot of good, solid Christian people who are concerned when they see the secularization of their culture and the moral disintegration surrounding them. Something like this happens and it fits a narrative that seems logical to them, especially in the light of the things that they have seen, heard, and read. “There they go again…another company giving in to political correctness and secularization.”
And then…BOOM! We fill their social media feeds with posts and tweets ridiculing the video they just posted and they end up feeling foolish and embarrassed, or maybe defensive and angry. In our desire to express our disdain for Joshua Feuerstein and his faux-rage we may have bruised a few feelings along the way as well.
It is a tough balance. People like Feuerstein need to be rebuked – clearly and comprehensively. We need to let both our people and the world know that we in no way condone the kind of nonsense that he is speaking. There are always going to be Westboro Baptists and Joshua Feuersteins who take the attention off the gospel and onto themselves, off the truth and onto their own nonsense. But we need to do that gently, sheathing our swords so that we do not harm those we need to protect.
Neither the faux outrage of the conflict-manipulators nor reactive outrage is generally helpful. As we confront the silliness that is all too present in American Christianity we need to be sensitive to those who may not have our discernment and instruct them gently.
They key is probably tone – which is the hardest thing for me! Sarcasm is my native tongue and I’m fluent. Have you read the stories of people whose lives were ruined because of the reaction on the internet when they did something stupid? The woman who sent a dumb tweet before she boarded a flight to South Africa and landed to find herself an internet pariah. The woman who posed disrespectfully in front of a military shrine. The woman who wore a Boston bombing halloween costume. The guy who said something insensitive and was outed by a woman a row ahead of him. Each lost their jobs and had to go into hiding because of the internet bullies who ganged up on them. We’ve seen the same thing in Christian blogging – internet gangs that bully and terrorize in the name of Christ.
We need to be sure that when a Joshua Feuerstein does what he does, we act for the good of the Body of Christ – to protect those who might be deceived and make clear that the church does not support such garbage. But we must not join, even in small measure, the internet bully brigades that so often form to beat down someone like this man. Let us not become what we despise.
Every person who exercises discernment and “calls out” another claims he is doing it “in love” for the good of others in the Body of Christ. Whether that is the true motive is often suspect. Let us make sure that those are never empty words, but the true motive in all we do, even when we call out those who embarrass the Body of Christ.