What You Need to Know about the Starbucks Thing

12191473_10153269148716243_8618275217776874800_nEarlier today I decided to take a drive and I ended up having lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Ravenna. As I was munching on my chips and quac while waiting on my actual lunch to arrive, I found yet another post about the Starbucks red cup thing. Now, like many of you, I’ve seen lots and lots of posts about people complaining about people being offended by this whole mess. But then the thought occurred to me: I’ve yet to see anyone actually complaining about the cups, nor do I even know how this whole thing got started.

Off to the Google I went. And what did I find?

If you’re reading this and you’re one of the people upset because Starbucks decided to remove snowflakes from their cups, you need to know that you have fallen for a scam.

The whole brouhaha was begun by a Facebook and YouTube famous guy named Joshua Feuerstein (I would link his website here normally but I refuse to contribute to his clicks and page views). If his name sounds familiar, that’s because this is the same guy who tried to get a bakery to make a cake with hate speech inscribed on it. When the bakery refused, he took to social media to bash them and this ended in the owners receiving constant abuse, including death threats. He is also a conspiracy theorist who claimed that Walmart and President Obama were in cahoots to round up Christians and kill them. The evidence of this is a video which, for the reasons stated above, I refuse to link to but I watched part of it (as much as I could stand anyway) and he is pretty clear that he really does feel this way.

There are also other allegations against him but I could not find anything other than hearsay about that so I will not link to my sources for that. Feel free to search it out for yourself, however.

Folks, this guy has absolutely no credibility. Based on the number of videos and the fact that he seems to feed off of publicity the guy simply wants attention and we need to stop giving it to him. He certainly is not a voice for the vast majority of Christians, as I stated above that I have seen nothing from anyone who claims to actually be offended by Starbucks’ 2015 holiday cup design. Yet, the media has pounced on this and made it a story. Even Starbucks has taken advantage of this for their own purposes (draw your own conspiracies on that). In short, this is all ridiculous and not worthy of our time.

Stop it, American media. Go cover some real news (but why would you do that? Y’all never do that as it is).

However, I do feel that this speaks to a larger problem that tends to make its presence known more during this time of the year than any other. The problem is the persecution complex that American Christians tend to have. I will see post after post on social media about how Christians are being “oppressed” and “persecuted” simply because a store clerk doesn’t wish them a “merry Christmas” or because a secular company doesn’t have “Christmas” decorations up in their stores.

Quite frankly, I’ve had it with this mentality so I’m just coming out and saying it: STOP IT!

Someone wishing us “happy holidays” is not persecution. We have many examples of real persecution going on throughout the world. We have real suffering going on all over the world. Christians all over the world are losing their lives for their faith and are otherwise discriminated against in a systematic fashion. When you claim that someone not saying the right thing to you after you swipe your credit card for a widget is persecution, you’re marginalizing what real persecution is.

It’s not Christ-like and it needs to stop.

Jesus didn’t come to the world as a baby and eventually die for you to have a latte in a cup that ascribes to your beliefs. Jesus died so that you may live an eternal life in His presence, healed and restored to God, cleansed from your sins. His teachings dictate to us that we are to be transformed and to go out and tell others so that they may love Him as much as he loves them and us. He teaches us to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.

He does not teach us to protest over a coffee cup or a glacier display or the phrase “happy holidays.”

If we really want to be upset about some things, I have some suggestions. For example, I live in Powell County, Kentucky which has a poverty rate of almost 30%. Let that sink in. That’s much higher than the national or the state average. Why not be mad about that and take action to help? We have children who would love to be adopted, yet likely will not be and will be turned out on their own with no help once they “age out” of the system. Why don’t we get angry about this? Or, how about we get angry about the fact that domestic violence is often a tolerated sin within Christianity and hardly anyone bats an eye?

Folks, we have got to do better. I can’t help but think Jesus would want us to be more upset about those kinds that actually matter instead of the design of a cup or “happy holidays.”

I know this might be coming across as a little strong but this really fires me up and I just can’t stay quiet about this anymore. The American Christian Persecution Complex has to stop. If it’s going to be changed, we – as in you reading this and I – have to be the ones to start that process. Please, let’s do better. Let us live as redeemed, restored, and Christ-like Christians. To do anything less is a disservice to Jesus.

Jonathan

Persecution: What It Is and What It Isn’t

PersecutionWhile I am making an effort to “stay out” of the affairs of Mississippi, I am going to write about a situation happening in my home state. However, I’m not going to comment on the situation itself. Rather, I am going to use it as an example of a bigger issue. The term “Christian persecution” gets thrown around a good bit, especially these days. In some instances it is warranted but I have found that often it isn’t. The TL;DR version of my thoughts will be this: We need to stop claiming “persecution” every time something happens that we don’t agree with. When we claim persecution where there isn’t any, we weaken the meaning of real persecution.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) is the largest governing body for high school athletics and other activities in the state. They have had a bylaw on their books for quite some time which states that an athlete or participant in a sanctioned activity must be a resident of the state. They have not been enforcing this bylaw until recently. The main body of the MHSAA voted to begin enforcement much to the chagrin of the private schools who are/were part of the MHSAA. Several of the private schools situated along the Mississippi River have students who commute from Louisiana. By stating that they would begin enforcing the residency requirement, the MHSAA declared these out of state athletes ineligible. In other words, the private schools could only allow students who actually reside in Mississippi to participate in sports and other activities such as band, chorus and debate.

The result of this was that three of those schools – Greenville St. Joseph, St. Aloysius and Cathedral – have left the MHSAA and joined the smaller Mississippi Independent Schools Association (MISA) which does not have such residency requirements in place.  As far as that situation goes, I wish them well. I remember being a student at Philadelphia and hearing about how great these schools were in sports, especially soccer and baseball. I remember a particular time when I was serving as the manager of the Philly High soccer team and we played a game at Greenville St. Joe. Without going into details, I let the referee know that I did not agree with the call he made and I became the first soccer equipment manager in Mississippi to receive a yellow card.

But I digress…

When the Clarion-Ledger posted a story about this event, the comments were quick to be posted. And then it happened: Posts making allegations that the MHSAA was out to persecute the private schools because the vast majority are Catholic or otherwise Christian schools (note: I wanted to embed some of these posts, however they seem to have been removed. I can not say if it was the posters who removed them or the newspaper but I did see some comments alleging persecution in the comments section of the C-L’s web posting).

I don’t deny that Christians are persecuted and discriminated against everyday. I have no doubt that such discriminate exists in the United States. However, persecution this is not.

Webster’s defines persecution as, “The act or practice of persecuting especially those who differ in origin, religion, or social outlook.” Another definition they list is, “the act of continually treating in a cruel and harmful way.” When I think of persecution, I imagine acts that involve some serious harm such as not being able to buy goods, being relegated to a certain place to live, being imprisoned or even being killed. Persecution happens for many reasons: One’s faith, and race are probably the two biggest reasons that I have actually witnessed persecution first hand. When I thin of persecution I think of people who American citizen and pastor Saeed Abedini who is imprisoned in one of Iran’s most notorious prisons. His crime? Being a Christian.

An organization enforcing a rule that pertains to high school athletics is not persecution. Some may view such decision as not being fair, but such is not persecution. When we refer to such decisions and other events as persecution, we diminish the meaning of what persecution really is. We owe it to those who really do suffer for their faith, their race or because of something else similar  to respect what they have gone through by not claiming “persecution” every time something happens that we don’t agree with or whens someone otherwise disagrees with our views.

Recently I came across a list of the ways some of the apostles were killed. From what I can tell, the accounts were mostly true according to scripture references, historical accounts and church tradition. For example: Peter was killed because of his faith. Tradition has it that when it was decided by the authorities that he would be crucified, he requested to be nailed upside down so that his death would not be in the same exact manner as Christ’s (he is said to have felt unworthy).  Andrew, Peter’s brother, is said to have been severely beaten and then tied – not nailed – to a cross so that he would suffer longer. As he hung there for for two days, he was still preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen.

Persecution.

We need to do better. We certainly need to call out and take action on persecution whenever we find it. We must do everything that we possibly can to ensure that people don’t suffer because of their faith. However, we also need to be careful in what we call persecution. Someone disagreeing with our views or making a decision that causes us no real harm is not persecution. When we claim persecution where there is none we weaken the meaning of the word and marginalize those who really endure harm or even give their lives for their faith.

We don’t do Christ any favors by claiming persecution where there is none.

Let’s be salt and light, not squeaky wheels. Let us show grace and mercy, not disdain. And let’s advocate for those who really are enduring persecution.

Jonathan