Starbucks red cups and the outrage machine

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Starbucks Red Cup | Image by Becky Hood Photo via Flickr (http://bit.ly/1HqOl6g)

Starbucks Red Cup | Image by Becky Hood Photo via Flickr (http://bit.ly/1HqOl6g)

When it comes to outrage, the Internet abhors a vacuum. The latest missives have come from different sides of Christianity over, of all things, the new design of the Starbucks red cup. This year’s rollout saw a plain red cup, rather than the decorated cups of Christmas past, and one guy got mad. Joshua Feuerstein is an “American evangelist, internet and social media personality.” (He is, apparently, not a fan of the Oxford comma.) He used to be a pastor, but has had some success now as a maker of YouTube videos, which put his raspy voice and confrontational manner to good use.

Josh Feuerstein's YouTube page | via youtube.com

Josh Feuerstein’s YouTube page | via youtube.com

A few days ago, Feuerstein went to a local Starbucks wearing his Jesus shirt and carrying a gun (because Starbucks hates the second amendment, he claimed). He told some unwitting barista that his name was “Merry Christmas,” so that they would have to write that Christian message on his cup, and then uploaded a video to Facebook encouraging his followers to do the same: “I think in the age of political correctness we’ve become so open-minded our brains have literally fallen out of our head.” So THAT’S why he’s always wearing that backwards baseball cap.

Nearly two million people like Feuerstein’s Facebook page, so people started talking. The video got over 150,000 likes, but nearly half a million shares, and the top comment was from a woman who worked at Starbucks correcting Feuerstein and asking people “don’t just blindly follow things because someone uninformed says it out loud.”

Then the take machine got going. And it spawned take after take after take after take after take after take, all of which offered some version of a story that “Christians are offended by Starbucks’ generic Christmas cups.” In response, the Christian outrage machine fired up, angry that other Christians were getting so angry. “Starbucks is not a Christian company,” one commenter wrote on Facebook. “Chick-Fil-A is not a Christian company. Only PEOPLE can be Christians!! Stop expecting corporations to evangelize!! Jesus didn’t call them, He called YOU!!”

Starbucks Red Cup | Image by Becky Hood Photo via Flickr (http://bit.ly/1HqOl6g)

Starbucks Red Cup | Image by Becky Hood Photo via Flickr (http://bit.ly/1HqOl6g)

Confirmation bias is the psychological principle that people seek out information that will reaffirm what they already believe to be true. This can lead to poor decision-making, and it is at the root of the hot take economy: “See? What that person did was terrible, because their beliefs are terrible. My beliefs are better, and I would never do something like that.” None of the articles decrying some amorphous group of “Christians” for hating on Starbucks took into account that this whole thing was actually about one guy who makes his living creating outrageous content. But neither have the Christian responses, which have roundly condemned “these people” who want to put the Christ back in Starbucks, because they haven’t bothered to see if they actually exist. We believe that there are other Christians out there who will turn anything into a battle in the culture war, and we rush to denounce them. (I’m including myself here in SO MANY WAYS.)

There are a very tiny group of people out there who want to have “Merry Christmas” written on their Starbucks cups, and more power to them. It will get literally nothing done, and they are being very silly. But that’s it! We don’t need to shed more ink or anguish over why those Christians are doing a ridiculous thing, especially not if the whole point is to separate ourselves and our evolved faith from other people and their immature faith. Superiority is not a good look for Christians.

  • Tim

    “Superiority is not a good look for Christians.” Best line I’ve read all day, Laura.

  • Bill Stewart

    Important things first, as an Oxford Comma fan – He didn’t fail to include the second comma, he correctly left it out, because “internet and social media personality” is one phrase; you use the Oxford Comma when you are trying to be clear about separating the last two items instead of joining them together.

    But yeah, arrgh, I guess the guy decided he had to openly carry a gun to show his side in the War On Christmas, which is the pro-commercialization side.

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  • Maybe he should have had a cup of Starbucks “Christmas Blend,” which they are now selling in merry red packaging (green for decaf). I seem to recall it last year being called “Holiday Blend,” so despite the plain red cups (which always brighten my spirits at this time of year), they don’t seem to be shying away from Christmas.

  • George Nixon Shuler

    While these silly assertions of a “War on Christmas” are not unlike the football team’s boosters were when playing against a parochial school called “Christ the King” when they asserted “come and watch us kill Christ the King!” the danger is such “crying wolf” means when real religious oppression occurs people will dismiss it as “Oh, that’s just those silly old fundamentalists again.”

  • Bernardo

    Starbucks should be boycotted not because of the pretty red “mythmas” cups but because of the prices they charge for their coffee. (e.g. $7/cup/charged vs. $1.30/cup/cost- http://www.marketwatch.com/story/what-starbucks-7-coffee-is-really-worth-2012-11-29)

  • Rick

    Joshua Feuerstein and his ilk make Christians look like idiots on parade. If you need Starbucks to affirm your faith in Christ you need to re-evaluate your faith.

  • Larry

    Bernardo, never heard of Dunkin Donuts?

    Starbucks coffee has a nasty burnt taste to it. Not one of my faves.

    Tom Hanks explained its appeal best in “You Got Mail”.
    “The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino. “

  • Dante Dettamanti

    This is quite hilarious, an obese god loving man ‘tricking’ a business by buying their product. No one at Starbucks cares what you have written on your cup, they care that you pay top dollar for that cup. Their entire existence revolves around making money, in order to make the most money they need to appeal to the most people. So having some barista write “Merry Christmas” on a cup isn’t changing anything. Convince all of the Jesus lovers in America not to buy their coffee and they might change their cup design. But like this god fearing gun toting idiot, they are consumers who choose convenience over staying true to their beliefs.

    This is practically a Starbucks advertisement.

    Next up: Joshua Feuerstein tricks Krispy Kreme into giving him diabetes.

  • Wil

    He didnt “trick” anyone, the barista was nice to him… I often tell my local barista my name is “danger” just for the fun of hearing it yelled out. If I tell them my name is “Merry Solstice” or “Happy Yule” they will be just as accommodating and just as un-tricked… but I may have to worry about angry customers who think they understand the spirit of Christianity. In the end Joshua is doing more damage to his faith than all of the Starbucks cups combined and doubled…

  • Brian Hardy

    The worst thing about the Starbucks Christmas cup? The fact that we are six weeks away from Christmas and haven’t even gotten through Remembrance Day yet. There should be nothing even remotely Christmassy until December 1st, IMHO. Aside from that, once again Christians who are outraged show how far removed they are from Jesus’ teachings. Do Christians really think Jesus would care about a Starbucks cup? If he does, well, it just goes to show, Christianity is a terrible religion.

  • None

    Christians need to be less concerned about starbucks cups and be more
    concerned about preaching Truth. Christians are always talking about
    everyone else being lost when 1 Corinthians 5 says that judgment comes
    to the house of the Lord first cause people in the world are already judged
    and are going to hell but so are many so called “Christians” that are in the
    church who still get drunk,be mean,gossip,gamble,sleep around,covet and
    don’t bridle their tongue which is why Matthew 7:13-23/ Luke 13 are great!

  • Mike

    Jesus was not born in December, Christmas is not a Christian holiday but is actually pagan. We are fighting over something that we dont even understand, Jesus does not care about Starbucks cups. Jesus would not want you to fight for a holiday that is not Christian but is just a man made tradition.

  • Warren

    I want to thank Feuerstein for not laboring me with unnecessary commas and also for raising the profile of Starbucks, again. It’s been a while since I had heard about them and was wondering what they were going to do for the Christian religious season festivities. Very glad to see they got their cups printed in time. I am also glad that in Australia I don’t stand in queues with religious nutcases carrying guns.

  • M Elsie Smith

    I enjoyed reading this. Thank you for writing it. Thank you, God, for creating Feuerstein.

  • Tara

    The problem with these comments is that you are referring to Christians as a whole versus a few wackadoos who just happen to be Christian. That needs to stop. Don’t hop on board the take machine! Or is it too late for that?

  • Lereina

    I think the reason why this got so overblown this year is because every year this same issue pops up in some form or another. Usually it’s Christians complaining that the cashiers at (insert name of your favorite retailer) don’t say “Merry Christmas” and someone urges a boycott to protest their “anti-Christian political correctness”. Maybe this year the silliness broke the proverbial camel’s back, which is why so many people, especially other Christians, are now getting on social media soapboxes and telling their over-zealous bretheren like Joshua Feuerstein to simmer down.

  • Alan

    I’m an atheist… on my more romantic days a deist. So when I googled “people get upset about Starbucks cups”, which I just could not get my head around, I was directed to your blog post on the subject which I found refreshing, erudite and wry.

    It is unfortunate that idiot with the backwards baseball cap is representative of the people who have hijacked your religion. I will simply say that it was pleasant to read a nice Christian minded person’s take on some of the ridiculousness that pervades the Internet, especially as it pertains to moral and practical priorities.

    Although I abhor pre-Remembrance (veterans) Day Christmas anything, in this case I’m compelled to make an exception and wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas 🙂

  • Joe

    I’m a Christian and I don’t care what starbucks or anyone else puts on their coffee cups. Ironically, this guy’s message is ‘go buy coffee from starbucks’.

    Personally, I think he’s a starbuck’s investor. What better way to drum up fading sales than to spin up the gullible to unite in the latest anti-xian crusade and christians to buy Starbuck’s Coffee(tm) so they can make employees write “merry christmas” on their cup.

    sheesh.. spark a neuron people. There’s more important stuff to get your crow up about.

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  • Mark Hinkleman

    “Superiority is not a good look for Christians” is a wonderful corrective. I have spent the last week wondering why in the world we would be offended by Starbucks’ red cups. Even if we were offended, there has to be a better way to engage with our culture.

  • Rhonda

    The bottom line is if a little red cup from Starbucks offends you then don’t go to Starbucks! As a very devout Christian, I get disturbed by other Christians who feel like they can be so pushy and judge people without knowing their story. Even if the other people, in any situation, are wrong then we are to show them the love of God and speak to them in love. Now I know what my mother meant when she said you can catch more Flys with honey than with vinegar. In the spirit of Christmas let us reach out to each other in love, joy and peace. Merry Christmas to all.

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