The problem with red cups & the problem with having a problem with red cups

So, people are upset about red cups at Starbucks. And other people are upset about people being upset about red cups at Starbucks. And how weird is it that my blog features a red cup as its main image?

Is there a problem with Starbucks’ red cups?

There is no specific problem with removing any reference to Christmas on the cups. But it does represent a growing attempt to marginalize Christianity. And Starbucks has admitted so in their response.

According to the company’s press release about the cups, they wanted to have a cup that connected with the season but didn’t have any ties with any particular tradition: “In the past, we have told stories with our holiday cups designs,” said [Jeffrey Fields, Starbucks vice president of Design & Content]. “This year we wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories.”

So, yes, the Christian celebration of Christmas is not acknowledged or promoted by Starbucks, which contributes to the continuing marginalization of all things Christian within American culture.

But is this surprising or bad? Is Starbucks a bastion of Christian faith? Should it promote what would be no better than Christian trappings without any Christian conviction? These questions lead me to our second main question:

Is there a problem with having a problem with Starbucks’ red cups?

Expecting a coffee company to support and extend the faith of any one religion is problematic for a number of reasons.

  1. It expects a corporation which has no faith to promote a faith it cannot have. Starbucks is not a Christian company. (I hate myself for that last sentence, since “Christian” is a perfectly good noun and a terrible adjective.) There are no “Christian” companies. There are only Christian people. The best that Starbucks could offer us are the trappings of Christianity without the soul of Christian faith. And who wants that?
  2. It assumes that corporate sponsorship of faith would extend only to Christianity. Should Starbucks promote Islam, Buddhism, animism, atheism, Mormonism, or what other prevailing -ism exists in each of its markets? And if it did, would that not end up marginalizing people of other faiths within those markets?
  3. It makes Christians look like whiny kids and poor losers. Christianity has had its day in the sun in North America. And just because there is a shift away from assuming and favoring Christian faith in the public square, not having Christmas-themed red cups is no evidence of persecution. In fact, it’s the kind of whiny reaction that leads to persecution. Just check out this Forbes.com tirade, where Christians are referred to as “hypocritical religious zealots flapping their gums about an imaginary war on their indoctrinated religious beliefs.” The writer would have had no recourse for such amped up rhetoric without some viral video by a whiny ex-pastor.

What’s the solution to the problem?

How about having an awesome Christmas celebration of our own? All the lights. All the food. All the joy. All the community. All the warmth and brightness and cheer we long for in this season. How about doing it to the best we can and inviting others to join in with us?

How about being creative and generous with our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers without going into debt as Advent Conspiracy has been telling us to do for years now?

How about quitting the whining and getting on with the worshiping? Frankly, we’re a lot better at the worshiping than at the whining.

How about advocating for those who are suffering real persecution or homelessness or human trafficking or anything other than a first world problem like the kind of cup you get your coffee in?

How about giving Starbucks a break? After all, aren’t half of the people in Starbucks doing a Bible study or talking about faith anyway? I can hardly go to a coffee shop without hearing some reference to God, so let’s continue to do so with graciousness.

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