Starbucks. Despite controversy over how they treat employees, the company seems to have made big strides in many areas. No one who has ever worked as a barista for them or anyone else would say it’s an easy job. Hell, even hearing customer names and translating them into correct spelling, while a source of humor for the rest of us, does hold a certain amount of frustration for the person on the other side of the counter.
So when I saw the new red holiday cups, and the controversy it created within the “Christian” community, my hackles rose. What’s going on here?
Let me clarify. I grew up in a Christian household. My mom was a Christian school teacher, my grandfather a Baptist minister. I grew up hearing over and over “Keep Christ in Christmas” and was told to never abbreviate “x-mas” and certainly not to buy into the evil lie of “holiday cards.” We were taught never to lose sight of the “real meaning of Christmas.”
All of that fundamental bull s*@t fell apart when I turned eighteen, left home, and started to ask myself what Jesus would really do. The only time the Bible talks about him getting really pissed off was at people in a church, who had commercialized his message. That sounded oddly familiar to me.
So did the controversy over a red cup with no clear religious message. What evil did Starbucks really commit here? They broadened their message to wish everyone good this Holiday season? Clearly, Jesus would take issue with this.
Not that I need to defend Starbucks at all, other than that several of my friends either make their living from the company or have in the past, and their caffeinated nectar of the gods often fuels my morning, I think the Christian community has lost sight of some really important things.
Starbucks does good in the community. It’s not just about the jobs they provide, the educational benefits they offer their employees, including paid college tuition, the charitable donations they make, or the causes they are involved in. Free wifi and a comfortable atmosphere provide a great meeting spot and workspace for students and others. Stores are often a community gathering place, and if nothing else provide a friendly face in the morning for regular customers.
Remember Hobby Lobby? What happens when the tables are reversed, and customers boycott a business because they stick to religious beliefs despite the potential negative impact it could have on employees? Christian groups rally to support them, and decry the actions of the boycotters as persecution, even calling them “haters.” The message sent is clear: we want religious tolerance for our beliefs, but we don’t have to tolerate those of others. It’s hypocritical at best, a different form of persecution at worst.
Customers are free to choose. The beauty of a free market is customers are free to choose where they buy goods regardless of their reasons. Companies are not people, but they are made up of people who live and spend in the communities where they work. Don’t like the new Starbucks holiday cups? Go somewhere else for your coffee. Protest with your actions, but in the meantime shut up about it and let others make choices for themselves.
Love thy neighbor. Since I’ve reached adulthood I have said it over and over: loving your neighbor isn’t offered with conditions. You don’t get to pick your neighborhood. Diversity is simply a reality, and loving someone does not mean I agree with them. This means people of all religious, ethnic, and sexual groups deserve respect. So an inclusive simple wish of joy, or leaving out a message specifically directed to one group hardly can be classified as persecution. In fact, the opposite is true.
At a time when we should be preparing to give thanks for all we have rather than buying into the commercialism of the Christmas season, complaining about a red cup devoid of religious sentiment seems to be a waste of energy that could be channeled toward doing good. So no, I won’t be boycotting Starbucks.
I might skip a week of lattes and grande dark roast, and take that money and donate it to a shelter or to help feed a family in need this holiday season.
When I do order coffee though, I’ll do it at Starbucks, to applaud their Grande Tolerance. But hold the whip, boycotters. You’re free to make your own choices, but don’t punish the rest of us for ours.