BY KAYDEE JONES
Retail coffee company Starbucks has brewed a controversy prior to the official start of the holiday season with its reveal of simple, two-toned red cups.
Every year around this time the company switches from plain white cups to red cups with holiday designs on them. In the past, the festive cups have featured seasonal symbols such as snowflakes, snowmen, ornaments and reindeer.
The absence of holiday symbols has sparked a debate on social media with some conservative Christians saying Starbucks is starting a “war on Christmas.”
Leading the debate is Joshua Feuerstein, an evangelist with almost 2 million likes on Facebook. Feuerstein shared a video to his followers on Nov. 5 encouraging them to go to Starbucks and have baristas write “Merry Christmas” on the cups and then share photos online.
But Salisbury University students, faculty and staff seem to think these plain red cups are no big deal.
SU philosophy professor Joerg Tuske, who occasionally teaches religion courses, said he finds the situation puzzling. Tuske also said he wonders why some fundamentalist Christians would be interested in snowflakes and reindeer when they are not Christian symbols or even mentioned in the Bible.
“I mean we’re not talking about taking away anyone’s right to celebrate Christmas, we’re talking about a company that wants to sell coffee,” he said. “I don’t see how you can bring religion into it.”
When it comes to some Christians telling baristas their name is Merry Christmas, Tuske said he did not understand why some people would not just ban Starbucks instead of going there.
“It becomes this argument where you’re saying ‘I want to make the other person say ‘Merry Christmas’ and that’s a little bit weird,” Tuske said. “And it’s about not your right to celebrate Christmas or your right to exercise your religion it becomes about ‘I’m going to make you to say this to me,’ which is a bit sinister I think.”
Starbucks is just a company that wants to sell coffee, in Tuske’s opinion, and it probably did not set out to infringe on anyone’s religion. And, he adds, if some Christians are going to be concerned about Christmas, they should look at issues bigger than just plain red coffee cups.
“It seems to me that if you are concerned about the meaning of Christmas or the demeaning of Christmas, you should be worried about the commercialization of Christmas and that Starbucks is selling coffee by putting Christmas symbols on these cups on the first place,” Tuske said.
Jacob Rayner, an employee at Sea Gull Square’s Starbucks, said customers have made jokes about the controversy at their store, but he has not heard of anyone being offended by the cups. Rayner, who was raised Jewish, also said he would have no problem writing Merry Christmas on a cup if someone asked him to.
“Honestly, if you think Starbucks is against Christmas, all you really have to do is walk into our Starbucks and look around and can definitely tell we’re not,” he said. “They probably just didn’t want to spend the money to put designs on the cup this year.”
The Sea Gull Square Starbucks is decorated throughout with holiday themes, and even sells gift cards that say “Merry Christmas.”
Salisbury University Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU) leader Zach Davis called the cups a non-issue. Davis, a senior and exercise science major, said he believes a truly Christian person would not try to trick someone into saying “Merry Christmas,” because the point of Christianity is to show love to all people.
“To show anger, frustration and hate over something so stupid is exactly the antithesis of what Christianity should be,” Davis said.
A truly Christian person in Davis’s view would not show anger, frustration and even hate over a trivial issue like the design on disposable coffee cups.
“Starbucks never claimed to be a Christian company, and part of Christianity is that we don’t expect everyone to be a Christian,” Davis said. “So this idea that a non-Christian company should somehow be held responsible for Christian values in society makes no sense.”