responding to red cups

(first, if you haven’t, read this summary article)

When I read this, I finished and looked up from the screen and was just… annoyed. Peeved. Incredulous. I couldn’t help but think, “really? this is an issue people are spending time and emotion on?” (Ironically, I then realized that I too was spending time and emotion on the very same thing.)

What disturbs me about Starbucks’ new cup design isn’t the cup design, but the responses of people to the design. There are claims that Starbucks “hates Christmas” and “hates Christians” – and why? Because the cups are blank. They’re plain red, and lack the decorative symbols that have been known to grace the Starbucks holiday cups for years.

Here are some thoughts I have about the way people have responded to this:

  1. It’s minimalism, guys. It is not as if Starbucks went from their generic snowflakes or sledding penguins to a cartoon baby Jesus with a large X over his face. They didn’t have a nativity scene in 2014 and choose to replace it with a blank red cup. They have had vague holiday designs for years. Snowflakes, snowmen, dogs pulling a sleigh… Nothing that makes a statement in favor or against a certain religion any more or less than a plain red cup does – but now people are mad? Really, I see nothing “anti-Christian” in their decision to be minimalistic in their design. Minimalism is currently hailed as a desired design method in a wide array of places; it’s not as if Starbucks’ chose this simple design in a vacuum.
  2. As a Christian, I prefer it. It gets away (even slightly) from the sickening flood of silliness that comes in November and December. While I spend a minimal amount of time and money at Starbucks, I would rather have a plain cup rather than trite snowflakes. I appreciate any space given to be contemplative and serious about this time of year; I am glad for the plain-ness of a cup that steps away from the chaos of what Christmas has been turned into. I think the simplicity of the cup does two things: stops alienating minorities, and stops alienating me. As a Christian who is disillusioned with the “Americanization” of what it means to follow Jesus, I so much more prefer a cup that doesn’t have gaudy snowmen staring at me. I’m a Christian, and I feel more respected, not less, by these cups.
  3. They’re still celebrating, anyways. They didn’t “scrooge-out” on the entire season and keep using the white cups –  they still implemented their seasonal cup, which, by the way, you can fill with a coffee they continue to label as their “Christmas” blend. Need I say more?
  4. Nobody owns this time of year. Yes, American Christianity has traditionally been a large presence at this time of year, with trees lit up everywhere and Christmas songs played left and right. But Christian’s aren’t owed a celebration from the world they live in. We aren’t entitled to getting a “Merry Christmas” over a “Happy Holidays”. We aren’t being denied human rights when strangers, customer service workers or advertisments do not participate in the season the way we do. If you really see someone else’s decision to celebrate something differently than the way you do as an injustice, then let me take you overseas, where Christians are losing their lives for saying “I follow Jesus”. That, friends, is an attack on their faith. Not getting a “Merry Christmas” everywhere you go… is not.
    Christmas is not a right, it is not a mandatory celebration that every single human must partake in. Christmas, if anything, marks the grandest and greatest invitation ever set forth in human history: the invitation to be rescued, to have all debts of sin paid for by the perfect Lamb of God, the Prince of Peace. It marks Isaiah 9’s fulfillment, that “to us a Son is born, a child is given”. It marks the birth of the one who would bear our griefs, sorrows and pains – who would be wounded for our transgressions (Isaiah 53). And invitations, as a rule, are optional. You can accept or deny an invitation.
  5. I really, truly believe, with all respect, that Jesus would not give a damn about these cups. This is really what we are going to whine about? That a major corporation that sells optional ingestible goods across America isn’t making statements that align with a particular faith? Christ didn’t arrive in a manger so that He could force everyone to drink out of Jesus-themed Christmas coffee cups. I’m sorry, He didn’t. He came for slightly bigger reasons than that.
    Besides, He was “despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53 again) and promised that we should expect the same (John 15:18). I think it is disturbing that for many people who claim Jesus in America, the closest they get to John 15:18 is a plain red cup. Jesus was a more divisive character than we often experience – he was also a more loving and gracious character than we often portray.

Maybe, this December, instead of whining about “Happy Holidays”, we should take note that we can attend a Christmas service without threats of death, or tell our families “Merry Christmas” without prison sentences.

Maybe we should fight for something other than a cup design to hold a latte that costs more money than some families see in a week.

Maybe we should be focusing on how we ourselves can love better, serve better. Maybe we should be taking moments to realize how undeserved Christmas was the first time around, and how we still don’t deserve it. Maybe we should start caring more about people’s lives who are actually being taken, rights that are actually being abused. Maybe we should be caring about the orphans and the widows (for while God never spoke about red cups, he did make it abundantly clear that orphans and widows are one of His priorities).  Maybe the enslaved and trafficked peoples of the world should have our attention, instead of our incredibly silly first-world problems that painfully showcase our entitlement.

Thanks, guys. If I do end up going to Starbucks this season, I’m looking forward to my plain red cup. large_Starbucks-Red-Cups-2015


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