One of the newest entries in the “Reclaim Christmas” battle surfaced a couple of weeks ago. A former pastor posted a video showing the Starbuck’s Christmas cup. Apparently, the cup is a plain red cup with the Starbuck’s logo as the only other design element. Now, I have to issue a disclaimer here–I have not seen the cup myself because I live about 2 hours from the nearest Starbucks. And even if I did see the cup, it probably wouldn’t stand out in my mind–I have red-green colour blindness and so tend not to pay much attention to colours.

From the various reports I read, this cup is a bit of a departure from the norm for the company–they have often used things like snowflakes and other seasonal things for their Christmas cup. This new cup with its minimalist design really upset the former pastor I mentioned above–he sees it as one more anti-Christian act designed to take Christ out of Christmas. Through the use of some pretty tortured and twisted reasoning, he manages to make the lack of snowflakes on the cup a sign that once again, Christians have been put down and persecuted by “them”–“them” being the faceless and unspecified people in our culture who orchestra the attacks on our faith.

My response to the reports and controversy this pastor was trying to stir up was to get a bit angry and a whole lot frustrated, with an element of discouragement on the side. The anger comes from the stupidity of the whole thing–I find it hard to believe that someone can actually see a huge anti-Christian conspiracy in the design of a disposable coffee cup.

My frustration comes from the fact that once again, Christianity has suffered–not because of the design of the coffee cup but because someone who at least claims to be a follower of the faith has not only done something stupid and pointless but also has made a lot of noise about it. While there may have been a few people who agreed with the guy, most of the comments I saw focused on two themes.

Some of the comments focused on the fact that Starbucks coffee tends to be expensive and the former pastor should maybe have been spending his money on more important things, like helping starving people. A sub-theme with these comments was that if he didn’t like the cup, don’t buy the coffee.

But a lot of other comments essentially made some comment to the effect that this was another incident of Christians doing dumb things in the name of faith, which makes all Christians dumb and our faith pointless. Those comments hurt–and part of the hurt is that we as believers are doing a lot of dumb things these days that cause the non-Christian world to focus on the wrong thing. This is where my discouragement comes in.

You see, if this pastor or anyone else protesting some imagined or real slight against our faith somehow managed to get the things they were protesting reversed, it would not have done one bit of good in terms of our real mission, which is showing the world that God loves them. Anything we do that doesn’t help people see something of the love of God takes away from our ability to carry out the Great Commission.

It is hard enough to witness to the love of God anyway–but when we do dumb things like manufacture controversy out of a coffee cup or loudly and publically point fingers at some sin or another, we are not showing a loving God. We are showing a faith that delights in nitpicking while people are starving; we are showing a faith that prefers to point fingers to making God’s love concrete to hurting people; we are showing a faith that really has no meaning to struggling, suffering people sipping their over-priced coffee from a red cup. These people don’t really need snowflakes on their cup–they need the love of Christ in their lives.

When we fight about the coffee cup, even if we somehow win the battle, we have already lost the war. We don’t need to fight for snowflakes on coffee cups, manger scenes in public places, using “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”–these are minor details that aren’t worth the time or energy some give them.

We need to find better and better ways to show people that God loves them so they can open themselves to his grace and forgiveness. Making ourselves look stupid and nitpicky is not a good way to do that.

May the peace of God be with you.


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