Media, Perceptions, and Coffee

I’m almost reluctant to weigh in on this topic, because I think it has already been blown way out of all proportion and received way more publicity than necessary. However, seeing as how it’s something on people’s minds, and this is a personal blog to note some of my thoughts, I’ll indulge a bit.

First, the facts. Starbucks Coffee customarily produces a ‘holiday cup’ each year. Usually the design includes something like snowflakes, sleds, snowmen, etc. This year, the cup is simply a red cup. A young man from Arizona, Joshua Feuerstein, (who already seems to have a bitter dislike for Starbucks for such outrageous positions as not wanting people to wear guns inside their stores) decided to complain about the cup. So, he took to Youtube and posted a video blasting the red cup as being anti-Christian. Whenever we hear that ‘some Christians’ are upset by the cup, it’s very much worth noting that specifically, ONE person was upset by the Starbucks cup-he just happens to be a person with an audience. (http://www.snopes.com/starbucks-red-christmas-cups/)

That brings me to perceptions. I’m not generally of the conspiracy-theory sort, and I get easily tired of the ‘media hates Christians’ narrative that we’re so often exposed to. There are times though, that I believe media is simply clueless. Not necessarily hateful, but at least either unwilling or unable to distinguish between what a couple of loud guys SAY Christians believe, and what Christians ACTUALLY believe. There are at best a tiny handful of people ‘offended’ by red holiday cups, and most seem mostly concerned with drumming up controversy and publicity for themselves (such as Donald Trump, who weighed in against Starbucks-looking yet again extremely awkward when trying to discuss anything remotely related to the Christian faith.) So, to clarify, the vast majority of Christians do not care one bit about the color of their holiday cups. To clear up other recent misconceptions: The vast majority of Christians do not picket funerals in some misplaced obsession over homosexuality (ie. Westboro ‘Baptist Church’- which is actually the single, well travelled extended family of Fred Phelps) and the vast majority of Christians do not set a date for Christ’s return (remember the 2011 ‘Rapture’ predictions? From the guy, Harold Camping, who also told us that we should not go to church at all?) Christianity is the professed faith of over 70% of Americans, and yet American media seems virtually clueless as to what the majority of these people actually believe, and instead seems determined to give voice to the occasional fanatical character who, often, only has the most tenuous connection to the broader Church. If you want to do good reporting about what Christians believe-learn what we actually believe-and please don’t take it from Fred Phelps or Harold Camping or Joshua Feuerstein’s axe to grind against Starbucks. Instead, perhaps try St. Augustine, or Martin Luther. Or if you prefer on-camera interviews- someone like Russell Moore, or Justin Welby. There are plenty of Christians more than willing to give thoughtful, grounded insights on culture and ethics, and those are the ones who deserve a hearing.

Now, to our perceptions as Christians. Open Doors ministry publishes a list every year about countries where Christians face persecution. The United States is not on that list. Not only that, but a number of countries that have laws much more restrictive on religious people than the United States are also not on that list. My friends, we need to face up to the fact that in the United States, we as Christians are not persecuted. When a company uses a red cup instead of a snowflake cup to allude to the winter holiday season, that does not equate to persecution of Christians. In this country, we have more freedom than  almost any other in the world to practice and voice our faith as we see fit. This is not something we should take for granted, but it is certainly something that we should realize and express our gratitude for, instead of complaining every time someone else does not share our view. We are not called by God to demand that people send good wishes on our holiday using the magic words we want. We are not called to force our own brand of political correctness by requiring people observe our holidays (though historically, a number of Protestant Christians in our part of the world doubted that Christmas could even be considered a Christian holiday). We are called to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. We are called to love and support our brothers & sisters in other nations who face real persecution. Controversies over things like coffee cup colors and public holiday displays don’t pursue those goals-they cheapen them and make a caricature of the Christian faith. We need to call out those who claim the mantle of Christianity to further their own petty purposes. We need to be bigger than that, because God is bigger than us, bigger than our country, and bigger than a cup of Coffee.