Offensive Coffee Cups (aka: #BoycottStupidity)

 

Red Starbucks Coffee CupsA sad fact: it does not snow in California. Okay fine – I guess it snows up in the High Sierra, where people still pan for gold and grow beards that would make Dumbledore envious. But throughout most of Cali, it doesn’t snow. No snow days. No adorable little snowmen in our front yards. No white Christmases.

I know what you’re thinking.

No snow at Christmas? I should boycott Starbucks. After all, for years, they have insisted on printing tiny snowflakes and snowmen on their red holiday coffee cups. So offensive! They totally left out the snow-less citizens of California, Nevada, Hawaii, and Florida. How dare a coffee company not represent our group. From now on, if Starbucks does not start printing little golden sun symbols on their red cups, then we should no longer buy their delicious, overpriced coffee drinks.

Oh wait – looks like I can’t jump on the #BoycottStarbucks bandwagon. It’s already full. A bunch of Christians have recently joined forces with the Anti-Political Correctness Club to raise their voices in outcry against Starbucks. Because of unfair labor practices? Because some company executive verbally insulted the Christian faith? Because of some blatant unethical behavior?

No. The #BoycottStarbucks / #WarOnChristmas Christians are outraged, because Starbucks chose not to print any little white snowflakes on their signature red coffee cups this year.

Snowflakes.

Snowflakes.

I wish I were joking. I wish I could find some redeeming value in this religion-fueled coffee-cup protest, which apparently now has Donald Trump as an unofficial spokesperson. But I can’t. In fact, the whole controversy is so ridiculous, that I feel like starting a #BoycottStupidity hashtag on Twitter. I also have a sudden urge to go to Starbucks and buy a half-dozen Grande Double-shot Peppermint Mochas to hand out to my coworkers. But I won’t. Not because I am offended by the company’s decision not to put snowflakes or snowmen or even sun symbols on their red holiday cups. But because just outside my neighborhood Starbucks, there are people shivering in the cold, who have had nothing to eat today. And the money that I could spend to treat myself to a sweet, syrupy drink could instead help a struggling fellow human being.

Some things are more important than coffee cups.

Businesses never exist purely to promote and defend specific religious ideologies. They exist, first and foremost, to make money, and though some owners may have and express certain values, looking to businesses to enforce the cultural symbolism of your faith is a bad bet. (Emma Green, The Atlantic, 11/10/2015)

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Faith (and Other “F” Words)

faith-vs-reasonWhile riding the train home from downtown this afternoon, staring out the window as I often do, I noticed something that struck me as odd. A young man on a bicycle pulled to a stop in front of a large, ornate cathedral. He dismounted, then hurried up the steps and disappeared inside the church to confess his sins or pray or whatever it is good Catholics do on a Monday afternoon.

I wanted to bang on the window and call out, “Hey, you forgot to lock your bike!” After all, it could have been an oversight. Perhaps he didn’t mean to leave a perfectly lovely bicycle resting, unchained, against the base of the cathedral stairs, where any number of dishonest people may come along and steal it. Maybe he was simply in a hurry to attend mass, or so distracted by the burden of his transgressions that he forgot to lock the bike.

Or maybe it was a matter of faith. What if that man just happens to place so much faith in the magical supernatural powers of that cathedral, that he doesn’t think anyone would dare steal his bicycle? Not in front of God’s house! It must take a great deal of faith to believe such a thing — that despite crime statistics in the neighborhood of the cathedral, and despite the fact that he made not one effort to secure his property, that somehow, God would watch over his bike.

brainI personally find such a faith both admirable and foolish.

It is difficult not to feel a sense of admiration when a person, against all odds, against the pressures of society, and even against scientific evidence, continue to have faith that something they choose to believe is true. What security such a faith must bring! What a sense of peace such a faith must offer – no need to wonder, to doubt; none of the skeptic’s dilemma of constant questioning. Only certainty.

And, perhaps, foolishness, at times.

After all, faith in the unknown must have its limits. No matter how much one prays for God’s protection or provision, or believes that God will supernaturally intervene, one must accept that if they were to jump from a rooftop, no miracle will take place to keep them from falling. And as for that young man at the cathedral, well, I can only hope that the downtown thieves were too busy this afternoon to notice his unlocked bicycle. Faith, no matter how admirable, makes a lousy security system.

Back when I used to pray, I truly believed, thanks to the widespread teachings within the conservative evangelical Christian church, and perhaps my own naïvete, that my prayers, and the prayers of other believers, could influence God’s choices. Pray incessantly. Pray with insistence — keep knocking on God’s door until he grants you what you seek: wisdom, peace, healing from disease, money. (Wait…what? Well, some people believe that, too.) Later, I came to prefer the explanations of believers who took the bible less literally. Their faith was not in their ability to change the mind of God, but in God’s ability to change them. Ahh…now that is a faith that I can truly admire.

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                                                                                        I doubt this.

“How does God help you to make life choices?” I asked this question once during a gathering on young Christian college students, because I earnestly wanted to know. So many people in my peer group held a strong faith that if they were to seek God’s guidance, then He would offer it to them. “But how do you know that the conclusion you reach comes from God, and not from yourself, or other influences?” I asked.

“You just know,” was the general consensous. You just know. Like a gut feeling or a lucky hunch. Or intuition, or psychic revelation. I was never satisfied with such a fallible theory. What if the warm, fuzzy feeling about taking Plan A instead of Plan B was just my intelligent brain making a logical decision, and had nothing to do with the guidance of a deity? How can anyone possibly know?

Maybe one cannot know. Instead, one must have faith.

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