Editorial: Brewing up controversy


You order a venti chestnut praline latte, a Starbucks holiday classic drink. It’s the winter months and holiday-themed decorations are popping up everywhere – snowmen, reindeer, ornaments and snowflakes. The barista calls your name to signal that your drink is ready, but the usual holiday cheer seems to be missing from the iconic holiday cup. The winter season decorations are gone, and all you are left with is a red ombré design.

Starbucks’ decision to remove all winter season symbols from this year’s holiday cup has sparked controversy. Starbucks said since 1997, its holiday cup “has told a story of the holidays by featuring symbols of the season from vintage ornaments and hand-drawn reindeer to modern vector-illustrated characters.” The change to a minimalistic red cup has left many Christians outraged and claiming there is a war on Christmas.

Joshua Feuerstein, a social-media personality and former pastor, took to Facebook to post a video expressing his outrage. “Do you realize that Starbucks wanted to take Christ, and Christmas, off of their brand new cups?” he asked. “That’s why they’re just plain red.”

He even went as far to tell the barista that his name is Merry Christmas. Since Starbucks employees typically write a customer’s name on their beverages, the trick was an effort to force some kind of Christmas acknowledgement on the cup. He urged other Christians to do the same as a sign of protest.

But Starbucks said the design choice wasn’t intended against any religion, but rather endeavored to “create a culture of belonging, inclusion and diversity,” according to the company’s statement regarding the ordeal.

“We will continue to embrace and welcome customers from all backgrounds and religions in our stores around the world,” Starbucks told CBS News.

Feuerstein told Huffington Post he believes “the cup is symbolic of a larger war against Christianity in this country.” Others have been making similar arguments prior to the Starbucks cup controversy, such as conservative Christian zealot Todd Starnes who spent weeks attempting to convince people that public schools are attempting to push away Christianity. This claim was brought after a Washington state football coach was told he wasn’t allowed to pray at the 50-yard line after games.

It’s clear people feel as though their religion is being prosecuted, but why is a coffee cup the appropriate avenue to talk about it?

The controversy over the Starbucks cup is seems like a issue made for the sake of conflict rather than tangible evidence about a war on Christianity. There were never any specific Christmas symbols on the Starbucks holiday cups, such as a cross or the face of Jesus. The holiday season is also not merely reserved for the Christian religion.

These symbols that Starbucks cups typically bear may sometimes be associated with Christmas because some yuletide symbols lend themselves to be more festive than other holiday symbols. However, there isn’t necessarily anything Christmas about them – they are simply holiday symbols. A pine tree isn’t explicitly or exclusively a Christmas symbol.

Starbucks changing its cups to reflect a more inclusive and minimalist design is not a war on Christianity – the cup still possesses red color with a green logo. The argument over the cups is a poor way to hold a conversation over a bigger issue people feel is necessary to be talked about.

If people want to discuss their belief in a war on Christianity in the United States, something more substantial than a coffee cup should be the basis to do so. Because so many people were outraged by the cup’s design, it shows a lot about what our country needs to address and the conversations that should be had on a national level.

We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about issues bothering us within our country, but the conversations we have over them should be more constructive. By choosing the Starbucks coffee cup as the means to talk about the war on Christianity, people will not take the conversations as seriously because it revolves around a few inches-wide piece of cardboard. If we want to garner attention for an important discussion, it should be based upon something more substantial.

The problems worth talking about in our country are bigger than a coffee cup.

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