By now, you have probably heard about the ginned-up internet controversy over Starbucks’ new holiday/Christmas coffee cup design. While I don’t have much to add to the bevy of really cogent and pointed posts that have been written in response, I do want to make a few brief observations about the response:
One: Have you actually looked up the origins of this debate? A quick internet search today turned up only 2 places that are really making the case that the new Starbucks cup design is part of the “War on Christmas” (TM). Meanwhile, I found dozens of news articles and blog posts recounting and criticizing this argument. You tell me: what did you hear about first–the outrage or the reaction to the outrage?
I would propose that the emotional posts of a few Christians on a few websites may have done a bit more to confirm cultural stereotypes of “American Christianity” than they ever could do to preserve “American Christianity” (such as it is). But the resulting dogpile from other believers may end up having the same effect.
Two: Consider the tone* of the posts from Christians that are critiquing this internet controversy. I can’t help but pick up a certain level of smugness from some articles. When (admittedly) ridiculous examples of misdirected religious outrage arise, this seems to give too many of us a chance to tap out a social media post or blog article on how shameful it all is that Christianity is cheapened by benighted simpletons. (“I thank you, Lord, that I am not like other men–those who are less culturally aware, those who boycott corporations, those who stand on corners with signs. I thank You that I am nuanced and thoughtful, so that I do not embarrass myself or others…”)**
Here’s my point: Christian, if you are reading these stories about people who claim to be Christians and feel outraged over coffee cups, and you feel that disdain or derision creeping up in your heart as I have, listen to me: we are in danger here–because spiritual pride is just as spiritually deadly as unrighteous anger.
When we encounter believers who may be immature or may have more sensitive consciences–even about issues we think are no big deal–the mature Christian response is not mockery and derision. It’s graceful speech and patient instruction.
I’m going to say that again for the people in the back who didn’t hear me the first time: the mature Christian response to the foolish controversies of fellow Christians is graceful speech and patient instruction.
YES, pastors and teachers are charged with confronting error and correcting it. YES, Christians are commanded to discern truth from error. YES, we are told to remove the speck from our brother’s eye after removing the log from our own.
What I’m saying is that we have some big, proud logs that need moving before we get too critical about internet outrage.
Brothers, sisters, I write this, acknowledging that I am smuggiest smug blogger I know. I have been guilty of online arrogance many times over. Even as I write this, I must watch out for the trap that my own prideful heart lays for me.
Rather than being smug, let us be gracious. Let us be winsome. Let us speak the truth in love. Let our reasonableness be known to everyone.
And the next time the alarm sounds for a fresh wave of outrage, let’s take the opportunity to demonstrate Whose disciples we are.
*”Oh no! He said ‘tone’! Here comes the Tone Police!” …No. I’m someone who acknowledges that tone and tenor is part of communication, and I recognize that how you say things matters.
**Am I in danger here of doing the very thing I’m critiquing? Yes. Yes, I am. And there’s the rub, I’m afraid. Our wicked pride lies in wait, and even as we seek to do good, our rebel flesh is there to sow tares. Who will save us from this self-righteous body of death? Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has rescued us from our prideful, blinded selves through the shed blood of the Holy One.