Tuesday, November 10, 2015

How Should Christians Handle the Starbucks Cup Situation?

Social media is abuzz about Starbucks management's decision to not put any sort of Christmas decoration on their cups other than them being red. Another rumor is that the employees are not allowed to wish customers "Merry Christmas". One post I saw said "Starbucks hates Christians" and someone else has urged that when the Starbucks employee asks your name, tell them "Merry Christmas". That way, when your drink is ready, they are forced to say "Merry Christmas". Hah! Gotcha!

When I was a younger man I might have agreed with such methods, proud member of the ranks of Combative Christianity that I was. But age has sanded down my reactionary edges. Now I'm more apt to make a few observations first, maybe even see if Scripture gives us some insight. Wish I'd learned that sooner.

First, both the decision for the cup design and forbidding employees to say Merry Christmas (if true) was made way up the command structure of Starbucks. To confront the employee at the counter over decisions made by their upper management is harassment of someone who has no say so in those matters. Why should we make their job a hassle over something for which they have no control?

Second, do you really believe "Starbucks hates Christians", even if someone in upper management did or did not make a disparaging comment toward Christians in the past? Or do you think that every employee of Starbucks hates Christians? Does that mean that the person serving you behind the counter does? I know a woman who goes to Starbucks everyday because one of the employees is a dear Christian friend. We cannot paint every Starbucks employee with a broad brush.

Third, aren't there much greater concerns in the world for we as Christians to be passionate about than this little tempest in a teapot? There are situations where we are truly called to stand for what is right and for justice. Store employees not saying "Merry Christmas" is not a hill on which to die in the cause of justice. We must learn to choose our battles.

What insight can Scripture give us in such a situation, where we perceive someone is slighting us, "dissing" us as believers, or to whom we perceive we should offer correction? Let the apostle Paul guide us from 2 Timothy 2:24-26:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth..."

We are to be gentle and kind even with those who oppose us. And really, as I indicated above, the person behind the counter is not likely to be "opposed" to you. Tying up the line of people waiting for their morning caffeine fix is not the place to conduct cultural warfare. If you feel the need to express yourself on matters like this, write an email to the person responsible for the decision, but even then, seek to persuade, not vent.

Our mission in this world is to win people to Christ, not win arguments. Snarky, cheap shot tactics will not win hearts to the Savior. Those methods only satisfy some fleshly impulse to get even with someone for a perceived disrespect of our beliefs.

A better approach? Thank the person behind the counter for their service in a gracious way. Ask them how their day is going and maybe about some aspect of their life. Take interest in them as a person, not as a target to be taught a lesson through some manipulative stunt. Stuff a couple of dollars into the tip jar and wish them a Merry Christmas. Then come back in the future and continue the relationship. Rather than alienating them from Christ through immature behavior, we might through our kindness as Paul exhorts, "lead them to a knowledge of the truth." That is what we are called to do in this life.

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