By Russ Dean
It starts this time every year, but thanks to South Park Mall in Charlotte, N.C., and Starbucks, the Christmas War is off with a bang. You know, Starbucks hates Jesus. So says Mr. “Merry Christmas,” who’s taking his red cup, and his concealed gun, to every Starbucks around. (Google him if you’re confused.) And South Park Mall, just around the corner from my house, is trying to take Christ out of Christmas, by choosing that “politically correct” glacier instead of the Christmas tree.
I don’t understand the flap over Starbucks. They took the snowflakes and ornaments off the print on their holiday cups, favoring a solid red cup instead? It’s not like the cups ever had an angel and little Baby Jesus. So, they hate Jesus? Please.
The rant against South Park makes sense on a certain level. There are Jews and Muslims and atheists who put up Christmas trees; the celebration and its tree have become part of our national, cultural celebration. So removing the icon that is central to the largest American festival does seem a little anxious or a lot shortsighted.
But listening to so many Christians whine about business decisions made by secular moguls around the holiday season is sickening. Their self-righteous tirades make you think evangelism should be written into the business plans for Starbucks and Simon Properties. I mean, don’t these businesses know what kind of commercial boom they’re missing by not “putting Christ back into Christmas”? And don’t you know that is exactly how Jesus (who turned over the tables of the money changers in the temple) wants to be used in 2015, i.e., as a marketing gimmick for all the gadgets and glitter hawked at an overpriced fortress of material non-necessity?
Since when are secular companies, practicing competitive business in a free market society, supposed to speak for the Church? Is that what Christians really want? (And would that actually “put Christ into Christmas” — or just make him another commodity, traded on the market?)
Is it any surprise so many people are opting for the New York Times or yoga on Sundays, instead of worship?
It’s hard to imagine a better way to diminish the relevance and voice of the Church — but it’s not hard to understand why Jesus, who was killed because of his radical counter-cultural vision, and who has been accommodated to one of the most opulent nations in history, offers so little challenge, has so little appeal to the masses today.
Let Starbucks print their cups as they see fit. If you don’t want to spend $5 for a holiday latte, you can give that money to feed a hungry child — that would put Christ into Christmas. If South Park Mall wants a glacier instead of an evergreen, that’s their decision. What does that have to do with your practicing the discipline of Advent or setting aside moments of worship in hopes of finding the holy among the garish?
As Jesus entered Jerusalem, his disciples tried to silence the crowd, but Jesus scolded them, “If they keep silent, even the rocks would cry out” (Luke 19). At this point in the life of the church, most Christians would do well to enjoy the holidays at the mall and let the rocks speak for Jesus.