Every morning, I stop by the Starbucks on Center Ave to pick up a cup of coffee and finish (read: do) the homework left over (read: never started) from the night before. The other day, I caught my first glimpse of the new Starbucks Red Cup for the holiday season, and had exactly two thoughts: A) I am so not ready for Christmas to be poking its way into things and B) in an age when everyone everywhere is striving for a more minimalist design, these cups hit the mark. They're stripped down versions of the same old same old, while still getting the point across. I was actually planning a post about how much I appreciated the work Starbucks had done with these.
Apparently I should have been more offended...
Evangelical Christians have started to make waves claiming that the cups, stripped of their religious symbolism like snowflakes, snowmen, and reindeer (all part of the traditional biblical story I can assure you) were part of the continuing war on Christmas.
Let's clear a few things up, shall we?
1) Christmas is far from under attack. The average American will spend $700 this year on Christmas, combined for a total of around $465 Billion (note the B). If Christmas were legitimately under attack, the first thing to go would be the money. Someone refusing to take part in something, say, oh, greeting someone with "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is not an attack. It is someone exercising their free choice, which is one of the tremendous things about this great nation. They get to choose whether to participate or not, in much the same way I get to choose that Christmas will be about way more than $700 for our family. It will be about Jesus. Being under attack would be if YOU were not allowed to say Merry Christmas to someone, which with even limited research and study, simply doesn't seem to be happening.
2) REAL persecution is rampant. I believe the following is true: before any Christian is allowed to claim that we are being persecuted, they must do as I have done and fly to a place like South East Asia, to see real and honest persecution up close and personal. Sit down with the young lady who's house was torn down because it served as a church. Have coffee with another couple who have lost all contact with their families since coming to Christ. Listen to the story of young men and women who have been beaten for their faith. When they finish their stories, go ahead and tell them about Starbucks. I dare you.
The truth is, real persecution is rampant around the world, but we Americans don't seem to notice it. For as snarky as I'm being, the reality is that each and every time I read a story that claims Christian persecution around the holidays, I am compelled to pray for the real persecution that is happening all over the world. You should too..
3) We should desire legitimate persecution for the right reasons.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
What can we glean from the verses above? Persecution is always for righteousness sake, and while we can find a host of meanings for righteousness, I'm pretty sure the removal of snowflakes isn't going to be one of them. Jesus Christ is the central reason for persecution, when people cannot grasp hope and instead give in to fear and hatred and take it out on the righteous (or better said, those made righteous through the grace of Christ).
But Jesus is clear to mention that we should be happy with this kind of persecution. When we stand up to oppression and face some pushback, it should put a smile on our face. When we insist that the approaching holiday is more about God's love than it is consumerism, and we are drown out by a self centered culture, our joy should be radiant. We are people of the cross. We are people who know suffering for the sake of honest to goodness righteousness. And if we're not, we should question our tactics and faithfulness. I know I do every day.
Which brings me around to the greater point: every Christmas it seems there are those among us who are looking for persecution, and finding it in such bizarre and crazy places. Could it be the reason we're searching for that is that we've become so comfortable, so lazy, and so reserved with our faith that we aren't facing the persecution we should be? Are we so comfortable because Christ called us to be righteous, and we settled for a sub-culture? Are we so looking for persecution because the faith that usually spurs that on is in fact, lacking? These are difficult questions, I know. But I for one would much rather spend time talking about this than the color of the cup my coffee comes in.
Also, for every cup of coffee you don't drink this holiday season, I'm going to drink 8.
Grace and peace,