A controversy bubbled up this week that, even by internet standards, was stupid. Somebody was upset because the new Starbucks cups don’t have “Merry Christmas” written on them. Or something. I don’t really know.
But here’s what I do know: I’ve yet to see anybody who was actually angry at the Starbucks cups. And I’ve seen tons of people who are angry at the people who are angry at the cups.
Why did this happen? As usual, I have three half-baked theories.
- Honest frustration at the crazies.
Here’s an undisputed fact about the evangelical world: there are some crazies out there. As a lifelong evangelical, I know exactly the type that’s mad at Starbucks. It’s the old lady who sat in the front pew and shushed the kids during church. It’s the crank who feels it’s his Christian duty to teach the waiter a lesson by not leaving a tip. It’s everyone who feels it’s their goal in life to disapprove.
A buddy who worked at a Christian radio station told me they used to get angry calls whenever they played a song that wasn’t “Christian enough.” They created a metric to address the problem called “JPM”–Jesus’s per-minute.
There are some genuinely frustrating people out there. And I’m as mortified as anyone else when one of their ravings goes viral, and the world at large thinks that’s what all Christians are like. It would be like my whole family getting judged by that song my Uncle made up after Thanksgiving.1
- Confirming our suspicions
This one’s for the cynical among us–and yes, I’m often included. We love to justify our cynicism by pointing out all the crazy things about evangelicalism.
For those far down the cynical path, every evangelical starts looking like that busybody complaining that Starbucks cups are the latest sign of Christian Persecution and the War on Christmas. And probably a sign of the End Times.
Cynics leaped at the cup story because it was the perfect chance to yell “I KNEW it!”
- We’re not like THOSE Christians
I’m guessing this reason drove the most responses. It’s such a human reaction–the same reason teenagers refuse to be seen in public with their parents. They don’t want to get embarrassed in front of the cool people.
And all over my Twitter and Facebook feeds, the message was the same: Don’t worry, I’m not like THOSE Christians who complain about Starbucks cups. I’m a cool Christian.
The impulse is understandable, but I doubt the Buzzfeeds and Salons of the world care how nuanced your view is. Heck, I doubt most of their writers even know an evangelical. They just assume that all Christians complain about things like the Starbucks cups. And all the furor we cool Christians are creating over the cups is just keeping that stereotype in the limelight.
And there’s the final irony. When the cool evangelicals try this hard to distance themselves from the crazy ones, we all look worse. At this point, the main thing driving the story isn’t the handful of crazies complaining about a paper cup: it’s the swarms of evangelicals eager to show everyone that they’re “not that type of Christian.”
The cure is worse than the disease.
But more fundamentally, there’s something strange about caring so much about showing that you disapprove of the crazies. Public posturing has invented a “controversy” out of thin air.
Now that I think about it, writing this blog post is probably contributing to the problem too. Maybe things would be better if I’d just kept my mouth shut.
*Sighs, walks away from computer*
If anybody else has a hot take on Starbuck-gate, you may as well make it now before it cools down.
1 Yes, Uncle Dave, I’m talking about you.