Photo of Starbucks red holiday cupPhoto: © bgwalker/iStock.com

Seeing Red

Why the Starbucks cup controversy is a waste of time.

November 12, 2015 by Captain Scott Strissel


I am sick of the Starbucks red cup controversy, and you probably are too. So why bring it up again? Haven’t there been enough blog posts about Starbucks’ decision to remove “Christmas” symbols from their coffee cups this season? Bear with me for a few minutes as we ponder this topic together. This isn’t the first time that Christians have spoken out on silly issues. I think it goes much deeper than a simple red cup devoid of snowflakes. Today, I want to share three reasons why the controversy over red cups has me seeing red.

 1. It’s a poor witness

Should we be investing time and effort into this issue? Is it a matter of social justice? Is it helping us focus on the birth of Christ? I think this outcry only serves to detract from our witness. People read about outraged Christians and wonder, Is this what Christians want to be known for? Some of these protests, by supposed “Christians,” have been downright mean and unloving.

If I were a person on the outside, looking in on this whole “controversy,” I would probably be scratching my head and wondering why these cups have stirred such outrage in the church. I believe the outcry represents a poor witness to a world with much bigger problems than what types of cups we put our coffee in, or what a non-Christian company does, or does not, put on their coffee cups (we’re arguing about snowflakes … really?!).

2. There are bigger moral issues to tackle

Our world still struggles with extreme poverty, hunger and disease. For Christians, this cup issue should be a moot point. Why are we spending so much time on the topic when human trafficking still exists and when children in the United States and Canada still go to school hungry? I’m only writing about it because I’m embarrassed that some Christians are clamouring about it.

Where are these voices when we read of Christians being martyred around the world? Where are these voices when we hear of people in our own neighbourhoods struggling to put food on the table for their families? Why isn’t there an outcry from these voices when children in our communities face gang violence and bullies in our schools? How can we fight a war on red cups when there are people struggling with addiction in our own backyards?

 3. Something about glass houses and throwing stones 

I don’t want to sound condescending, but criticizing Starbucks seems hypocritical and pointless. It seems as if we’re judging this coffee company by our standards, when in all likelihood, our worldview doesn’t match our actions. It’s one thing to hold other believers to a high standard—this is accountability. It’s a completely different thing to expect people (and companies) who don’t share our beliefs to live up to the same standard. At the root of this whole debate is the notion that everyone must think and act like we do. But that’s not the reality of our world.

Second, don’t we have more pressing spiritual worries to consider in our own lives? Romans 14:4 says, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” Here are some other verses to consider: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:29-32).

We have our own salvation to work out. We have our own personal battles to fight. Let’s tackle those issues before we criticize others about the colour and design of a cup. Let’s unite to fight poverty, reach the lost with the love of Christ and bring hope to our neighborhoods through genuine care and compassion.

Captain Scott Strissel is the corps officer at Evansville Corps and Community Center in Indiana. He is an active blogger and contributor for the purpose of encouraging and challenging the Salvation Army world. Read his blog at pastorsponderings.org.

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