Red Cups, Xmas, Happy Holidays and the Culture of Outrage
I would never say that I have been persecuted for my faith. I have been harassed, shamed, embarrassed, intimidated. Maybe that rises to the level of persecution for you but I would not use that word. I have been inconvenienced and had my feelings hurt. As long as people are being tortured, imprisoned and killed around the world, I will not say that I have been persecuted. This is the same reasoning that I used in not complaining about the major stomach issues I had when my wife was in labor. I never brought it up to her, the doctor, anybody. It didn’t seem appropriate. I also didn’t want to get mocked or punched.
For the same reasons, I would not say that there is a war on Christmas. War is a strong word. There is a war on Christians in the Middle East being waged by ISIS. Hyperbolic language trivializes real war. There are real Christians facing real war and real attacks. Let’s not minimize what is happening to them by describing what is happening here as war.
What is happening here? American society is becoming more secular. Fewer people identify themselves as Christian and people feel more emotional permission to not have to say that they are Christian or behave like Christians. People who are not followers of Christ are being more honest about their faith or lack thereof. This is actually an incredible opportunity for Christians. People are more open and transparent about what they believe and it is a great opportunity for genuine dialog.
When I was growing up, everyone was a Christian. Allow me to rephrase, everyone felt they had to say they were and that they went to church, even if they didn’t. This makes sharing your faith and engaging with someone who is far from God incredibly difficult. Because they feel pressure to look and talk like a Christian, they will fail to be honest about their lack of faith or their struggles.
Now people will openly tell you what they believe and their reservations about faith in Christ or their lack of faith in God at all. It’s an incredible opportunity for dialog and engaging people and telling them about life with God through Christ. But this is not what we choose to do. We choose outrage. “How dare you attack Christmas! This is a Christian nation! As such, we require everyone, whether they are Christian or not to talk and act like one!”
So, let’s look at a few of the battles in the war on Christmas:
Xmas–You understand that is simply shorthand for Christmas, where X represents the first letter in the Greek word for Christ, right?
Happy Holidays–You understand that expression has been around for over 150 years and represents an entire holiday season starting with Thanksgiving and going through New Years, right?
Starbucks doesn’t put Merry Christmas or Christmas decorations on their holiday cups–Well, this one is serious. Let’s tackle this.
Alternate headline: Secular Company Chooses to not Overtly Celebrate Christian, Religious Holiday, Christians Outraged!
What difference does this make? Starbucks doesn’t want to celebrate a religious holiday. They shouldn’t have to and you shouldn’t care. To the degree that you do care, you should care and pray for the people whose hearts are far from God. Instead, we harass hourly employees who had nothing to do with the decision. “I told them my name was Merry Christmas, so they had to say it!” That is not a victory. It is either nothing, or a loss.
It’s a loss because we show ourselves to be thin-skinned and unwillingly to lovingly engage people who desperately need the hope and life that comes from Jesus. Instead, we act entitled and whine about how non-Christians behave and talk like non-Christians instead of accommodating me and my spiritual (?) preference for religious greetings on my beverage containers.
Let’s say the protest over cups worked. Now when you go to pay $5-$10 for a cup of coffee, you will be able to read “Merry Christmas.” Is your faith strengthened now? Are you closer to God now?
“Hey, it’s for the people who aren’t Christians!” Ok, a non-Christian reads “Merry Christmas” and is reminded that it’s Christmas season, and then this person thinks to themselves, “I need to get right with God.” Seems unlikely, especially since we have just shown ourselves to be entitled and whiny. My guess is that the way we are conducting ourselves about these cups is making us less attractive, and no amount of caffeinated Christmas greetings will overcome that.
What if we made a different decision? Every time a nativity scene is taken down or someone says “Happy Holidays” or you receive a Christmas-wish-free coffee cup, every Christian did three things. First, we prayed for the people. “Dear God. I pray for the executives at Starbucks/greeter at Wal-Mart/ACLU lawyers. I pray that they would come to know you and follow you. Amen.” What would the cumulative effect be of those prayers in the lives of people who are far from God?
Second, we pray for an opportunity to show the love of Christ to someone who isn’t experiencing that love. We ask God to make us more aware of the hurting and needy around us and give us chances to engage with people.
Third, we actually took those opportunities. What if we channeled all the outrage about our society becoming more secular into a concerted effort to engage the hopeless, the poor and the lost? What if instead of being outraged by a cup we chose to invite out for coffee (non-Starbucks of course) a friend or co-worker who is going through a divorce or loss? What if we took what we spent on coffee and dropped it in the Salvation Army bucket?
What if the world this Christmas began to believe that Christians were an overwhelming force for good, love and hope to people who desperately need those things? Rather than fighting against the “War on Christmas,” we fight for the hearts and minds and lives of people who need the message of the Prince of Peace.