I don’t really like Starbucks – other than the occasional cinnamon dolce latte or the chestnut praline latte during the Christmas season. If you said, “Let’s go grab a cup of coffee,” I would rather head to Dunkin’. I’m sure Dunkin’ Donuts has their own share of corporate sins, but let me just remain in the dark for now.
I’m not a huge fan of Starbucks’ coffee. I’m really not a fan of their CEO, Howard Schultz, either. His support for “marriage equality” and other liberal social policies flies in the face of my conservative, evangelical values. Then again, no one asked my opinion about Mr. Schultz when he was made CEO. It just so happens that I am writing this on a Mac, while sending out the occasional iMessage from my iPhone. Both of which are produced by a tech company that shares many of the same corporate values as Starbucks. Just a hunch, but I don’t expect that too many evangelicals left their iPhones at the front door of Apple’s Cupertino HQ after the SCOTUS ruling this summer.
Well, here we are. November. The pumpkins have given way to twinkling lights. The malls have erected the thrones on which Santa’s stand-in helpers will sit for the next 6 weeks. Companies, just like Apple and Starbucks, are looking to make a fortune. Marketing specialists have been gearing up store displays to lure in shoppers. Sales are planned. Inventories are stocked. It is Capitalism on steroids. And the likelihood is high that evangelicals will join in all the fun. Starbucks, a company ran by a liberal, Jewish, Democrat, has decided to tap into the holiday hysteria by replacing their normal white paper cup with…a RED CUP. It is a subtle change. The color of the cups will blend in so well with the traditional Christmas hues of red and green. There’s only one catch. They don’t say Merry Christmas. There’s not even a reindeer or an elf or a bough of holly. We can’t even get a snowflake. Just red. This has left a lot of evangelicals seeing red.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a conservative. I am fairly confident that I am on some government watchlist because of my conservative values. But are we really bent out of shape over this? Really? Let’s put this in context.
Starbucks is ran by a liberal Jewish man. He is in no way obligated to celebrate Christmas as a person or to lead his company to recognize the celebration of Jesus’ birth. In fact, he could put a menorah on the cups and it would be a more accurate reflection of his religious persuasion. But as a CEO, he wants to make money and make his shareholders happy, happy, happy. Why not tap into the cash-cow called Christmas with a festive-colored coffee cup and make more money? But knowing what we know about Schultz, why would we expect him to celebrate the birth of Jesus? After all, he’s not looking for evangelicals to celebrate Hanukkah. Unfortunately, this feigned outrage over coffee cups has left us looking rather ridiculous. Think about it for just a moment.
What about Hobby Lobby? The Green Family are outspoken evangelicals. They have rightly defended their faith all the way to the Supreme Court. They can make whatever decision they want to about what to sell in their stores. I’ve been in Hobby Lobby many times and I have never once seen a Ramadan display. Muslims aren’t protesting Hobby Lobby because they don’t recognize one of the pillars of their religion. If they don’t like it, they don’t shop there.
Chick-fil-a? They close every Sunday – even in the mall restaurants – even during the Christmas season. That’s money left on the table. But the Cathy Family isn’t worried about it. They’re content with 6 days of revenue (and pent up demand from everyone having a CFA craving on Sunday afternoon). No one is demanding that they open on Sunday. And if a mall demands that they open, they’re more than happy to close the store and take their business elsewhere.
If the government came along and told Hobby Lobby that they had to sell Islamic-themed merchandise or told Chick-fil-a that they were being forced to open on Sundays, evangelicals could be rightly upset. Is our outrage over a company putting their coffee in red cups really appropriate?
If we would put our outrage in a global perspective, we might find ourselves a little less offended. For example, in Syria, Christians are being beheaded, burned at the stake, and crucified by ISIS. I suspect when one is nailed to a cross, a venti chestnut praline latte in a red cup is not in the forefront of one’s mind. Besides, they would have to travel all the way to Kuwait, Turkey, or Israel to find one.
We have got to learn a very critical lesson as evangelicals – we cannot be bullies and expect people to respect the message of the Gospel. That’s not to say we don’t stand up for what we believe. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t do everything we can to defend religious liberty in our country. But religious liberty requires that Hobby Lobby, Chick-fil-a, and Starbucks can run their companies on whatever religious basis they choose. If Starbucks decided to put Satanist symbols on their cups, that’s their prerogative. Probably not the best business decision, but it is their business, they can run it how they want. Then we are left with the “first-world-problem” of where to purchase our expresso.
It is certainly disappointing to see our world attempting to remove any Christian nuance from the celebration of Christmas. No matter how you change it, for Christians, Christmas will always be about Christ, even if it is celebrated in secrecy in some future that has been sanitized of all public displays of religion. Evangelicals must remember, the Kingdom of God is not defined by snowflakes or gingerbread men on a coffee cup. If you’re bothered by Starbucks actions, you are certainly entitled to that opinion. In the same way, you are entitled to buy your coffee elsewhere (or brew your own and give the money you save to a missions agency). But we had better beware of our Capitalist hypocrisy. If you’re sending ugly Tweets about Starbucks from an iPhone, consider yourself busted!
Lastly, before you make a video of yourself trolling Starbucks, think about how the world will watch your video. Will your actions draw people to faith in Christ, or push them away? From what I’m seeing on Twitter, no one is really impressed with our outrage.
Oh, by the way. If you’re buying your cup of coffee from Starbucks, and you tell them your name is Merry Christmas, just remember this. You may be offended by the lack of snowflakes and Santa’s, but you’re ensuring that Howard Schultz will have a very merry Christmas…all the way to the bank.