Red cups, manufactured outrage, and twisted meanings
Anyway, I saw some blog posts a couple of weeks ago claiming that this year’s Starbucks holiday cup was, once again, an assault on traditional american values because it didn’t say Christmas on it. The blog posts were in reference to a green cup that Starbucks unveiled a week or so before election day. They called it a Unity cup, and the featured artwork was many different people drawn with one continuous line, to symbolize how everyone is connected, humanity is one big family, et cetera. And the usual War on Christmas nuts started making angry posts about it.There are a couple of problems with this outrage. First, the cups weren’t the Starbucks holiday cups: No, Those Green Cups Aren’t The Starbucks Holiday Cup. Second, in what way can any Christian be legitimately offended by a message of community and connectedness of all mankind? Especially at Christmas?
I mean, in Luke 2:14 after the angel tells the shepherds that the savior has been born, a multitude of the heavenly host appears in the sky beside the first angel and sings, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Right?
Well, that’s one of the problems. The King James Version, which was the English language translation of the Bible preferred by most protestants for a couple hundred years (and was the one I first read cover-to-cover, the one read and quoted from the pulpit at all the churches I attended, and the one from which I memorized the Christmas story as told in Luke chapter 2 and Matthew chapter 1 as a child), states the angels’ song the way I quote it. God’s message is good will toward all mankind in that translation.
But evangelical and fundamentalist Christians have spurned the King James Version and a couple of similar translations, in part because they weren’t homophobic enough. Seriously, in 1946 the Revised Standard Version added the words homosexual or homosexuality to several passages. The fact that it was unclear in the original languages what some of those were passages talking about, and in other cases were references to particular types of prostitution (and a weird legalistic argument some people were apparently making that if they hired a male prostitute pretending to be a woman they weren’t really cheating on their wife) was completely glossed over with these changes. (You can read a lot more about it here: Homophobia and the Politics of Biblical Translation.)
The god of the King James Version was pretty judgmental, but not judgmental and condemning enough, apparently. And the new translations many of the evangelicals and fundamentalists favor render that verse a bit differently: “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Clearly implying that God does not offer universal love and forgiveness to everyone.
Make no mistake, the King James Version’s translation has all sorts problems. And the original texts from which the modern Bible is derived have other problematic issues. There are so many passages that praise slavery, for instance. There’s the bit in the old testament where men are instructed, if they suspect their wife might have been unfaithful, to take said wife to the temple for an involuntary abortion. There are also twenty-five separate and unequivocal passages stating that left-handed people are abominations and will not get into heaven. These are just some of the reasons that I no longer consider myself a member of the religion in which I was raised.
But I still keep, rather foolishly, expecting that more people who call themselves Christian will actually conduct themselves according to the actual teachings of the man who said: “I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Do good to those that hate you. He didn’t say to make laws that punish those who disagree with you. He didn’t say to deny marriage licenses to those who believe differently than you. He didn’t say deport those who worship differently than you. He didn’t say to build walls to keep out people who look and speak differently than you. He didn’t say to tell all those people you are persecuting that you love them even while you’re doing all these hurtful and hateful things to them.
He said to do good to everyone, including those who hurt you. That’s how you love your neighbor. But it’s apparently a lot easier to change the words of their sacred book than it is to change their own hearts.
A red coffee cup with snowflakes on it, or Christmas ornaments, or snow covered evergreen trees, or a fanciful reindeer do not constitute a “War on Christmas.” It’s manufactured outrage, not an actual war. But people who call themselves Christian and support the persecution and demonization of people based on race, sexual orientation, immigration status, or religion? That is an actual war on the teachings of Christ.