The latest incarnation involves the paper cups of a popular coffee house chain. Starbucks has elected to remove their classic holiday imagery on their red Starbucks cups, which has apparently led to massive freaking out by at least this guy who is crying foul and declaring that Starbucks is anti-Christian and trying to whitewash (redwash?) Christmas of any spiritual meaning.
May I offer two reasons why, in my humble opinion, this argument simply doesn't hold water/coffee; and then offer what I think is an appropriate and faith-filled response to the red cup silliness? Thanks.
First, the images were never religious to begin with. Snowmen. Snowflakes. Some girl ice skating. Some guy sledding with a dog on his back. A fox with a scarf on (yep, it's true, check it out here, far right). They're great holiday imagery for sure, but last time I checked, there were no snowmen in the manger scene and a newborn Jesus didn't go sledding in a foot of snow. You'd be more accurate accusing Starbucks of declaring a war on iconic winter wonderland scenes, but really, is that necessary? And even if it were iconic religious Christmas scenes they'd removed, it'd still be silly to cry "war on Christmas" because.....
Starbucks is not a church. This can be confusing, I know, because when I visit Starbucks to grab my cup of jo before heading to church on Sunday mornings, I'm simultaneously impressed and depressed by the number of people I find there. Place is packed. To many of them, I imagine, the community and fellowship created there is, in fact, a kind of church; which makes me wish that actual church were doing a better job of creating community and fellowship itself (we're getting there).
Even so, Starbucks is not a church. Their mission is to sell coffee, and lots of it. Their mission is NOT to do the church's job for the church, which is to proclaim God's love to a broken and hurting world. To be clear, that's the job of the actual church. Which we admittedly could be doing a better job of these days. Instead, we're often our own worst enemy - such as when we gripe about what a coffee house chain elects to put or not put on their paperware.
So - you're perfectly within your right to be offended by plain red Starbucks cups as a person of faith, but perhaps a better response would be this:
Write your own faith story on them.
You can do it literally, if you want. Grab a Sharpie and get busy. Draw a cool picture of something that is meaningful to you in your spiritual journey. Baby Jesus in a manger. Mountaintops and sunsets. The parting of the Red Sea or King David dancing around the Ark of the Covenant or Ezekiel's valley of dry bones if you want. The possibilities are endless!
(Just try to stay away from images of Jesus hanging on a cross, okay? Let's let Jesus be born before we kill him off. Easter will come soon enough. Let's carve out some time to celebrate the Incarnation first. Thanks.)
Better yet, whether you have a Sharpie or not - write your faith story with your actual life. When you're holding that blank red Starbucks cup as you sip on the java goodness within, don't get mad, get busy. Surprise the person behind you in line by paying for their coffee. Hold the door for the person coming in on your way out. Head over to the food pantry and stock shelves for an hour. Forego a personal gift request and ask family and friends to donate to a charity that inspires you. Make a promise to yourself to tell at least one person every day what they mean to you. Serve food for your church's homeless ministry dinner and then sit down with those folks and get to know them.
View the plain red Starbucks cups not as an absence of something to get angry about, but as a blank slate just waiting for your story to be written on it. The possibilities are endless!
Trust me, you'll feel better. And I bet the coffee will taste better too.