Five thoughts about the faux outrage over bland coffee cups (you can get the gist and more about the non-event here).
- The Internet escalates the fervor and reach of a mob. In the old days we had to go door to door, make calls on our rotary phones, or send carrier pigeons, but now we can round up outrage with a couple clicks.
- Mobs do bad things. Second century Christians were often persecuted by mobs who blamed them for natural disasters. Tertullian complained, “If the Tiber reaches the walls, if the Nile does not rise to the fields, if the sky doesn’t move or the earth does, if there is famine, if there is plague, the cry is at once, ‘Christians to the lion.’ What, all of them to one lion?”
- Mobs are frenzied gatherings that reveal what people really think. Roman mobs easily gathered because the Romans were suspicious of Christians. Christians wouldn’t pledge ultimate allegiance to the empire. They had a higher loyalty, which made them scapegoats when times were tough.
We may have witnessed something similar yesterday. Why did the media jump on the Starbucks non-story? Maybe because they believe the worst about Christians, and so they report anything that feeds this narrative. They believe that Christians are on the wrong side of history. We are homophobic, misogynist bigots who whine about any and every slight, no matter how small.
Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason, and some Christians have made it easier for the mob to think we’re chronic complainers. We don’t help our cause when we lament the loss of nativity scenes, prayer in public schools, or “Merry Christmas” in the mall. Rather than worry about a “War on Christmas,” we should thank God for clearing the ground of such toxic civil religion. It’s a net gain when the church is the church and the world is the world. We can better reach people for Jesus when we can more easily tell who is in and who is out.
- Don’t join the mob. It was disappointing to see some Christians express outrage at their brothers and sisters’ alleged outrage. This is outrageous, and a violation of our Father’s command to love and assume the best about each other (1 Cor. 13:4-7). We must not go for the easy joke, especially at our siblings’ expense. We’re better than that.
- Mobs overreach and embarrass themselves. You may have seen this meme on social media: “If one family in one out of every three churches adopted a child from foster care, there would be no more orphans in the United States. But please, tell me more about how offensive this red cup is.”
Such ridicule will only work on people who are not paying attention (so I’m saying it has a fighting chance). Do you know who adopts the most orphans? Evangelical Christians. And it’s not even close. Visit any evangelical church and you will likely see more than one family that has adopted more than one child. One family out of every three churches? We blew past that goal a long time ago. But please, tell me more about how offended you are that we are not doing more.
Photo by Mack Male. Via Flickr. Used by permission.