Stephen Colbert recently took on the Starbucks holiday cup debate. As you know, the company's new red cup is devoid of Christmas ornaments and other reminders of the season. Some Christians see this as further erosion of Christmas. A recent YouTube video complaining about the decision went viral.
So Colbert suggested a solution. He dressed up a Starbucks plain red cup with tinsel, ornaments, and a manger scene, then fixed it to the top of a Christmas tree. The audience cheered.
Here's why I think the Starbucks red cup controversy matters.
Imagine a world where Christians in business were not forced to violate their beliefs regarding marriage or contraception, where pastors were not branded homophobic for teaching the Bible, where a high school football coach wouldn't be suspended for praying with his players, where Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens couldn't sell millions of books by claiming that "religion is the root of all evil" and "religion poisons everything."
In that world, a coffee company's decision to remove Christmas ornaments from its cup wouldn't make the news. In that world, store employees who say "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" wouldn't cause a stir. But we no longer live in that world.
Yesterday I led a panel discussion on Christian faith and contemporary society. The panelists included a well-known college president, a former NFL player who now serves in the state legislature, and two attorneys specializing in religious liberty issues. As we discussed cultural animosity toward evangelicals, I asked them to forecast the future. They were unanimous and adamant in predicting that opposition will only get worse.
What does God think of our post-Christian culture? Consider Hosea 7: "Woe to them, for they have strayed from me! . . . I would redeem them but they speak lies against me. . . . I trained and strengthened their arms, yet they devise evil against me. They return, but not to the Most High" (vs. 13-16). I believe our Father is grieved by the moral condition of our society and wants us to grieve with him.
But there's good news in the bad news. Rachel Held Evans is right: "The whole story of Advent is the story of how God can't be kept out. God is present. God is with us. God shows up—not with a parade but with the whimper of a baby, not among the powerful but among the marginalized, not to the demanding but to the humble."
In a society that views religion as irrelevant if not dangerous, it's more important than ever that Christians stand boldly and courageously for Jesus. But it's also crucial that we do so with a positive, joyful spirit. We know how the story ends. We know that Jesus is Lord, the Bible is true, and heaven is real. We know that the one who came as a baby will come again as a king. And we know that "if we endure, we will also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:12).
Frederick Buechner: "What keeps the wild hope of Christmas alive year after year in a world notorious for dashing all hopes is the haunting dream that the child who was born that day may yet be born again even in us." If he has been born again in you, your heart is now his home. And one day, your heart will be home.
Publication date: November 13, 2015
For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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