Starbucks’ red cups, and the Internet outrage machine (COMMENTARY)

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Starbucks released new solid red holiday cups, a design choice that has upset some people. Photo courtesy of Starbucks

Starbucks released new solid red holiday cups, a design choice that has upset some people. Photo courtesy of Starbucks

(RNS) When it comes to outrage, the Internet abhors a vacuum.

The latest missives in the continuing culture wars 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 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.


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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,” he said. So THAT’S why he’s always wearing that backwards baseball cap.

Nearly 2 million people “like” Feuerstein’s Facebook page, so people started talking. The video got over 150,000 likes, and nearly half a million shares. The top comment was from a woman who worked at Starbucks correcting Feuerstein and suggesting that 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.”


READ: The ‘War on Christmas’ is actually a war on atheist voices


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!!”

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.)

Laura Turner is a writer and editor living in San Francisco. She is interested in the intersection of church and popular culture. Photo courtesy of Laura Turner

Laura Turner is a writer and editor living in San Francisco. She is interested in the intersection of church and popular culture. Photo courtesy of Laura Turner

There is 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.

(Laura Turner is a writer and editor living in San Francisco. She is interested in the intersection of church and culture.)

LM/AMB END TURNER

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  • Bernardo

    From Professor Gerd Ludemann in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 269-272, “The historical yield of the Lukan infancy narrative in respect to the birth of Jesus is virtually nil (ditto for Matt. 1: 18-25, Matt. 2. 1-23)”

    http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?title=007_Of_Davids_Lineage

    i.e. Christmas is historically a non-event.

  • Bernardo

    None, (or whatever your new handle is)

    Matt 7: 13-23 fails rigorous historic testing as does Luke 13:23-24 . e.g.
    http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb041.html, http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb138.html
    http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb163.html
    http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb165.html

    You might want to review the contemporary studies of the historic Jesus before your next, repetitive commentary.

  • Dante

    Wow, hundreds of thousands of people are distressed because coffee cups are not suitably observant? How strange. When last I looked Starbucks was in the high-priced coffee business and not a religious establishment.

  • observer

    Rather just have a red cup then some generic “Season Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” . Maybe Starbucks could have cups with all the holiday names on it or a customer could order a grande latte labeled with the holiday name most appropriate for the buyer to make ordering that much more complicated.

    Starbucks still has its “Christmas” blend so they have not sold out altogether. Everyone else will want a blend just for their holiday too. Can’t wait to try them all.

    Of course none of this has anything to do with the real Christmas.

  • Mike

    Before the week is over, we may see Westboro Baptist Church picketing a Starbucks with signs that say, “God H8S Red Cups.”

  • Garson Abuita

    It’s not supposed to be “plain red,” there’s an ombre effect in which it gets darker red as you get to the bottom. But it’s hard to see and gets blocked if there’s a cardboard sleeve. On the other hand, the sleeves have a snowflake motif, which as we all know, is a true symbol of Jesus’s birth. /s/
    Seriously, Starbucks has a Christmas theme, Christmas music, a chocolate Advent calendar, and window decals with the appropriate “Here’s to More Good Cheer” type of slogans, plus boughs of holly. But if you need your Jesus-is-the-Reason on your coffee cup, you can head to Panera. Their cups are just white, green and blue (Jesus blue, not Hannukah blue), but they have pine needles, holly, AND a message that lets you know it’s Christmas. Which Starbucks’s red cup somehow failed to do… /more /s/

  • Ben in oakland

    Starbucks has stood for equality before the law, freedom for all, and treating people decently. This is the company that offers a free four-year college education to the spouses and children of veterans and active military personnel.

    Then there are the people throwing a major hissy and calling for a boycott of that company because a disposable cup is red, not sufficiently Christian, and doesn’t greet them personally in the way they wish to be greeted by their disposable cup.

    As always, if you want to find people who don’t believe in Chrsitianity, just look for the people who claim they are far more Chrstian than thou.

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  • And what is the message of Christmas? The angel of the Lord expressed it best, “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”…Luke 2:10-11. That is, the promised Messiah has come. Which will be the Savior, not for Jews only, but for ‘all people’. Now that is good news. Receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and turn away from sin. He who died to atone for your sins so that you can have forgiveness, and be reconciled to God the Father, and be at peace with Him. God Bless

  • I have no idea why anyone would be upset that, this year, there’s no “Jesus” or “Merry Christmas” or religious symbols/words on their cups. Starbucks has never put any of those things on their holiday cups in past years. Never once.

  • Michael Glass

    This sounds like a publicity stunt on the part of some religious fanatics. Who cares?

  • Chaplain Martin

    I suggest we all make a call on Starbucks this season, and comment on the nice red and green cups. Tell the barista that you like the festive cups for this season, pay them, tip, and wish them a “blessing of the season.” As Russell Moore of the SBC Christian Life Commission states that he won’t be fighting the war against Christmas battle this year.

    I’ll have to go find a Starbucks because i don’t usually go there.