by Tess Adair
Oh my, look at that title. My my. That’s not inflammatory at all, no no.
Well, since I’m starting off in a rather extreme place, let me take a second to establish my biases:
1 - I am not a Christian. I’m an atheist whose spiritual activities include meditation, walks to commune with nature, walks to commune with urbanity, enjoying powerfully emotional music, and listening to Neil DeGrasse Tyson tell me about the wonders of the universe.
2 - I have studied the Bible in-depth and have yet to meet a Christian (who wasn’t in class with me) who knows it better. (Here’s looking at you, every single Fox News pundit.)
3 - I personally know a good number of Christians to whom this article does not apply. I know Christians who are motivated by a desire to help other people, who think critically about all things, who are capable of hearing from and contributing to criticism of their church or various beliefs without claiming to be under attack, without shutting down the conversation, without losing their faith. They understand that religious traditions are best when they include room for debate. They see their faith as a source of hope, a way to motivate themselves to be better, a way of looking at the world with kindness. They are not threatened by the absence of snowflakes on a red cup because their faith is not as trivial as that.
I just wanted to make that clear. My problem right now is not with Christianity itself and it’s not with faith. It’s with people who use those two terms to advance their own pointless, spiteful, hate-filled agendas. They are the bigots in the corner of the room who insist on screaming about their minor concerns and making them everyone else’s problem--the people who confuse a lack of catering specifically to them with a violation of their rights.
They call themselves Christians. I tend to disagree.
So what’s the issue of the moment? Why, possibly the most absurd one yet - the Starbucks red cup.
To be honest, despite being a total Starbucks whore and loving the hell out of their sugar-fueled wintery drinks, I was only barely aware of the “red cup” as an official thing. To me, the essence of a Caramel Brulee Latte lies not in its decorative packaging, but rather in the gluttonous caramel syrups, the heavy whipped cream, and the crack-like caramel sprinkle stuff that all band together to motivate me for an extra 20 minutes on the elliptical, like that will do anything to stop my impending diabetes.
So when the “Christian” reaction to the (incredibly minor) change in the Starbucks red cup started cropping up in my newsfeed, my first thought was: what the hell is the red cup again? Followed closely by: who actually gives a shit about this and since when are snowflakes Christian anyway.
In fact, this particular bout of outrage from select members of the Christian Right is almost hilarious. It’s such a ridiculous thing to care about, and their interpretation of what’s happening requires such an absurd twisting of facts that it helps serve as an outline for the absurdities inherent to their many other outrages.
Word to the wise: if a company is indifferent to your religious beliefs, it is not trampling on your right to have them. Snowflakes, snowmen, and ice skates are not religious symbols. Jesus was never on the red cup. Yes, ornaments are (sort of) religious symbols, but they are not sacred or even specific to Christianity. (They relate to the pagan traditions of Christmas, not to Jesus.) And deciding not to put them on a disposable paper cup for a few months is not an attack.
In short, to “Christians”: Starbucks doesn’t hate you. They nothing you. And they always have.
If it stopped there--if these self-proclaimed “Christian” blowhards left it at howling into the abyss of the TwitterSphere and at high-up executives who couldn’t care less--then I would ignore this completely.
But this is America. And in America, if you have a problem with a decision an executive made, your best course of action is to bring your gun into a local Starbucks and harass a barista WHO ABSOLUTELY HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THAT DECISION AT ALL. Naturally.
I wish I could go on ignoring these ridiculous people. But I can’t. Because they are bringing this to the baristas. And to me, that officially elevates them from “stupid and annoying” to “stupid and malicious and intent on preying on the innocent.”
One particular “Christian” pastor, who shall remain un-linked-to, has decided to call upon his Twitter flock to enter their local Starbucks for the express purpose of “pranking” the barista by claiming their name is Merry Christmas and flashing a gun (in order to exercise their second amendment right, which I guess is also under attack by the snowflake-free red cup.)
I’m really glad that this dude thinks it’s a great joke to “force” baristas to say Merry Christmas, mainly because this part is actually completely harmless. Your average barista is not likely to give a shit about calling out Merry Christmas, except perhaps for the mild awkwardness of pretending that’s a name.
I am considerably less glad about the gun part, and I’m deeply upset about the decidedly un-Christian attitude behind this.
This pastor is calling on people to “prank” baristas because he wants someone to pay, and he thinks baristas are the appropriate someone.
Dude, have you even read the Bible? Or seen anyone on TV quote it? Because here’s a famous Bible nugget for you: ‘“Vengeance is mine,” sayeth the Lord.”’
Actually, let me give you that quote in full. Romans 12:19.
‘If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink.”
You know what the Bible doesn’t say? “If your enemy unintentionally offends you, find his lowest-paid employee and do your best to ruin their day.” Yeah, that’s not in there.
Of course, the beauty of this pastor’s request to his internet flock is that he’s actually asking them to do the only thing Starbucks wants them to do--buy their coffee. Starbucks execs don’t care if you “prank” their employees. They care if you buy their shit. So a way more effective revenge against them would be a boycott, not barista harassment.
But a boycott lacks that spiteful punch, doesn’t it? Boycotting a giant chain, even convincing others to follow you, will only get you so much attention, and it won’t allow you to feel that bitter snap of satisfaction in knowing that you made someone else feel shitty, or “tricked” them into emitting a vaguely religious greeting.
I want to be very clear about something: if you go into a Starbucks with the express aim of flashing your gun at and “tricking” a barista, you are not motivated by a love of Jesus. You are motivated by spite and a desire to exert power over others. And the people you are choosing to lord it over had no power in their relationship with you to begin with. Service people are paid to put up with your crap. Many of them are literally in a position where standing up for themselves against a bullying customer (which is what you are) will cost them their job. Taking out your frustrations on a barista DOES NOT mean you are sticking it to the man. In fact, you are playing right into the man’s hands.
And you know what? Jesus would be disappointed in you. Santa would be, too.
I am not a Christian, but I would like to take a moment to make my own Christian request of everyone participating in capitalism this holiday season: please be nice to your service people.
Seriously. Be nice to them. If they work for a company that has a policy that angers you, please don’t take it out on them. They didn’t write the policy. If their store sells out of something you wanted before you get a chance to buy it, please don’t take that out on them, either. They didn’t buy it out from under you, and they are probably facing a day full of other customers who are also frustrated and ready to vent.
If you go to a store or a cafe or a restaurant, and your service person is very nice but says “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas,” please do not take this as a personal slight or an attack on your faith. It is nothing of the kind. If there is any intention behind the use of “happy holidays,” it is only the intention not to assume that every human being you meet belongs to the same religion.
If you go to a place that allows you to tip your server, please do so generously. It’s the holiday season for them, too, and unlike you, they probably won’t get Christmas and Thanksgiving off. Please keep that in mind if you encounter a store clerk with a less-than-chipper attitude in the next two months. Keep in mind, also, that while the stores they work for will churn out record profits this season, they will have to deal with those unending Christmas crowds for hours on end, but they will not see any share of those extra profits in their paychecks.
In short...love thy neighbor. Be kind and generous and courteous. (Maybe don’t wave your gun at a barista.) That’s how you honor your faith--not by manufacturing slights against it and hunting down the supposed perpetrators, but by adhering to its actual tenants.
It’s what Jesus would want.
(Okay, if we’re getting real here, Jesus would probably be deeply opposed to the vast majority of what Christmas is today, which is essentially an orgy of capitalist excess the likes of which far exceeds that whole money-changers in the Temple thing that Jesus got all mad about. Seriously, if “Christmas” is actually about Jesus, then the true war on Christmas started with the first megastore and every Black Friday is basically an air-raid. Just saying.)