There are few things that get my blood boiling like the fake “Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas” controversy.
You know what I’m talking about. Every year around this time, we start hearing about that class of Christians who really can’t get past the indignity – nay, the utter persecution – of being wished a secular “Happy Holidays” by some godless drone selling them the newest iPhone at their friendly local Best Buy, instead of the divinely ordained “Merry Christmas.” The horror!
I have little patience for this particular brand of arrogance and lack of awareness.
This year, the persecuted few have found a new target for their ire: that previous bastion of Christian goodwill, Starbucks.
Every year, Starbucks begins serving hot drinks in holiday-themed paper cups, instead of the usual white. In past years, this has taken the form of snowmen and snowflakes and Santa Claus. This year, in a nod to the popular minimalist design style, the cups are simply red, with the green Starbucks logo.
Green and red. Get it? Like Christmas.
But apparently, according to some small-minded folks, this removal of the Holy Snowflake is tantamount to being thrown to the lions in the Coliseum. If you weren’t aware of the secular left’s push to execute all Christians before, you sure are now. All you have to do is look at your steaming hot toasted graham latte to see the sign of the end times.
This was spearheaded by one particular youth minster and internet pot-stirrer named Joshua Feurstein. I’m not gonna link to him here, but he has made a reputation out of making loud, outrage-laced, extreme-close-up selfie videos warning Christian Americans that this or that news item is a sure sign of the contemporary push by “the left” to marginalize and destroy all Christendom.
This brand of arrogant, loud, in-your-face, un-self consciously consumerist and right-wing “Christianity” is a perversion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The man we follow, who showed himself to be the most pure representation of God ever seen on this Earth, was the epitome of humility and love, and predicated his whole public ministry on repudiating the need for official empire sanction to commune with God. Jesus didn’t need Rome to validate his faith; he didn’t need every person he met to acknowledge just how holy and awesome he was.
Jesus humbly traveled about living in a way we are a called to emulate. With grace and humility, he met with and cared for the least and lost. He eschewed the company of the powerful and rich and acceptable for the company of prostitutes and peasants and the unclean. He condemned those who feel the need to trumpet their faith from the mountain tops, who need public commendation of their piety. He instructed to be so humble and meek that we should go into our rooms, shut the doors and close the windows when we pray.
The notion that we need our faith in Jesus validated in every social interaction and every transaction is anathema to the Way of Jesus.
And the persecution complex and lack of perspective on the part of Feurstein and his type would, I believe, bring Jesus to either tears or the compulsion to break out the whip he used to drive the money changers from the Temple.
Real human beings experience real persecution in this world every day. Christians in the Middle East are put to death by ISIS for their faith. Muslims in Burma are being systematically wiped out in a genocidal campaign by radical Buddhists. Hundreds of millions of men, women and children go hungry every day, and millions more die from completely preventable causes, all because we can’t find the will to take care of one another from the great abundance God gifted us with on planet Earth. Millions of Americans are uncertain of their future, due to either homelessness or hunger or lack of health care or racism or unchecked violence, while our leaders argue about email servers and the pyramids and whether we are too generous to the poor in this country.
Of course, this red cup situation is merely a microcosm of modern American Christianity. The entire establishment has a misplaced persecution complex. Whether it’s holiday greetings, or the horror of health care for all, or the growth of other faith traditions, white American Christians have somehow wrapped themselves into a pretzel of thought wherein every move by anyone they don’t agree with is a move towards the systematic destruction of all Christianity. Despite living as the largest religion in the world, in the richest, most free country on the planet, part of the dominant racial group, they folks somehow still believe they are Stephen, about to be stoned by the Pharisees of the secular left for their faith. They have lost all perspective, on their lives and where they are and the space they occupy in human history, thanks to the efforts by TV preachers and right-wing Christian politicians to whip up the fear and anger towards others in the pursuit of dollars and votes. This group has become so inwardly focused, they have forgotten how to care for others, and consequently, just how good they have it.
To cry out in terror because you received a red Starbucks cup in December is beyond despicable. It’s to side with the persecutors listed above, by pulling away needed oxygen and attention from those who need our help. We are Christians are called to help the weak and the needy, to humble ourselves and our needs and wants for the service of others. The actions of Feurstein stand in direct contradiction to the Jesus I know, and the life he called us to.
I hope in this season of joy and hope and thankfulness and giving, that Joshua Feurstein, and those who listen to him, can find the gift of perspective and gratefulness, and maybe begin living up to the example of the man whose name they invoke.