This week we experienced a social media frenzy over Starbucks’ red cups. If you haven’t noticed then you probably were under a rock somewhere.
The gist of the controversy was Starbucks unveiled their seasonal red cup and in a hugely shocking (not really) move they had nothing about Christmas on it. Then some Christians (not really sure who exactly) blew this up on Twitter and Facebook. This became a story followed up by secular voices laughing at Christians and various Christian personalities telling everyone to settle down and get their priorities right.
Christian, choose wisely what you are outraged about!
Full disclosure, I am at Starbucks right now. Even though the store I am in is not as cool as some of the local chains I frequent, I really appreciate the rewards system and enjoy the coffee. Coffee is one of my favorite things in the world. Free refills on my gold card are pretty sweet too.
I thought I would share some quick thoughts on why some Christians are reacting like in such a volatile way, as well as some advice to believers on how to deal with similar issues in the future.
In my opinion the reason some Christians are so quick to get out of sorts when things that are culturally Christian are transitioned to a secular experience is a worldview issue. Some American Christians consciously or subconsciously see Americans as God’s chosen people. Instead of seeing our great nation as a country with many Christians, we see it instead as a country that must be Christian. In some ways they see America as a new Israel, God’s chosen people on earth.
In some ways it’s hard to fault them for feeling this way. America has a long history of being influenced by Christianity and Christians, particularly Protestant Christians. Even those who were deists — like Jefferson and Franklin — who helped form our constitution functioned and operated within a larger Christian worldview.
Most Americans in our short history, and specifically since the 1950’s, have identified themselves as Protestant Christians. Post World War II America experienced a resurgence in Christian identity.
Many prominent cultural symbols — particularly our currency — got Christianized. In 1956 President Eisenhower signed a law that mandated the phrase “In God we Trust” onto all currency. Many Christians expect social phenomena like this as a matter of course, but this is a relatively recent development in our history.
The underlying issue is that Christianity has been a great unifier in our culture and many Christians don’t know any other spiritual environment. As a result, many Christians don’t know how to manage the growing reality that America is quickly becoming more secular.
Our country has reached a tipping point in which Christianity is no longer an overwhelmingly dominant worldview and instead secular postmodernism has become fully realized as a cultural reality. This is why many Christians struggle with small things like red cups at Christmas. They feel that they are losing their grip on the country. But instead of raging and saying to culture, “Get off my lawn!” there is a better way to interact.
Here are three thoughts on how to react in a way that honors Jesus.
1. Don’t give critics of Christianity ammunition to dismiss the claims of Christ.
There are many people who are looking for a way to dismiss Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The easiest way to do so is to look at the failings of Christians and then say if that is what a Christian is, then I don’t want that. Some of the responses to the Starbucks cup issue were so over the top that secular people were right to laugh. It really is just a cup. Instead … what if we are known by our love instead of by our thin skin.
The power of the gospel really does change people. Why not allow that to propel us to being the most dynamic force for good that the world knows. A heart transformed by Jesus does not rail against culture; it loves people and shows them a better way to live.
2. Be outraged by issues that are worth being upset about.
There are a lot of huge issues in the world that are truly worth getting upset about. Let’s get upset about why we can’t figure out how to love people of other races. Let’s get upset about a lack of resources for the poor. Let’s mourn for the millions of children who have their lives ripped from them before they are born. Let’s be heartbroken that there are billions of people who have never heard the gospel going to an eternity without Christ. These are weighty issues that must concern believers. We should get emotionally fired up about them. Sadly, I see many Christians turning a blind eye to these things and focusing on football and selfies and rousing themselves only when something far less significant is impugned. A red cup without the word Christmas on it does not diminish what happened in Bethlehem. Instead it shouts that a culture-shifting moment happened when Jesus was born.
3. Be happy Starbucks is giving you a platform to tell others about the real meaning of Christmas.
Honestly, I am really happy about the red cups. Starbucks is giving Christians an unheard of opportunity to talk about Christmas in a non-threatening way with unbelievers we meet at coffee shops. In fact, even this silly controversy is fertile ground to have conversations with people you would never ever talk about religion. It’s a great opportunity to share about the real Jesus. Starbucks has graciously given us a free on-ramp to sharing the gospel. I hope we seize this opportunity this season.