This year Starbucks, which acknowledges Christmas with elaborate store decorations, special edition tree ornaments, holiday music in its stores, and a seasonal coffee called “Christmas Blend,” is drawing the fire of the defenders of Christmas by unveiling it’s red 2015 holiday cup which features the green Starbucks logo, but no other Christmas imagery. The culture warriors are claiming that this is yet another attempt to remove religion from the public sphere.
Josh Feuerstein, professional yeller and maker of videos in portrait mode, posted on Facebook, “Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus … SO I PRANKED THEM … and they HATE IT!” Feuerstein is encouraging his followers to go to Starbucks and claim that their names are Merry Christmas, so that the godless baristas are forced to write “Merry Christmas” on the plain red cups.
This sounds like a ridiculous joke, but its not.
Starbucks, or any other business that chooses to acknowledge Christmas does so because it helps them make money. They are not standing up for Christian values. They are not working to keep Christ in Christmas. They are exploiting a religious holiday in order to increase the bottom line. This is not a cynical perspective. It is simply the way business (especially with publicly-held companies) works in a capitalistic society.
Feuerstein’s antagonistic worldview tells him that he is standing against his oppressors, but he is actually supporting their goals. They just want his money. Starbucks doesn’t care if his name is Merry Christmas. Neither does Walmart, ToysRUs, or Macy’s. They want us to feel some holiday cheer and gift giving guilt because it will put more money in their coffers.
It is not the Christian’s job to keep Christ in Christmas. It is the Christian’s job to continue the work of Jesus: bringing good news to the poor, peace on earth and goodwill to men while exemplifying love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.
Perhaps it is also time that we take a stand against those who want to use the name of Jesus to insert antagonism and fear into society. Perhaps when the professional Christians want to yell about Starbucks (or whatever the latest outrage might be) we should say, “You need to shut up. That is not what following Jesus is about.”
If we do not shut down the voices of fear-mongers, identifying them as illegitimate, they will continue to draw the most attention and be the only face of Christianity that many people ever encounter. If we do not call them out and distance ourselves from them, they will only continue to grow louder, and many people will associate the loving and peaceful followers of Jesus with those who see their faith as a wrestling match.
This Christmas season let’s be people of peace and goodwill and block out the voices of contention and fear. Let’s share the love of Jesus even when we are not saying the words “Jesus” or “Merry Christmas.” Let’s stand for generosity and grace rather than greed and consumption.