As I sit in a Starbucks/Barns & Noble cafe a block from the Dominican House of Studies and across the street from the National Shine of the Immaculate Conception in the DC neighborhood of Brookland, I still cannot believe that people are still raving about the Starbucks “controversy” on the internet let alone the Huffington Post. So, yes, this post is in response to a Huffington Post opinion piece on the Starbucks “controversy”.
After everything that has happened in the world in the past few weeks I thought people had forgotten or had moved past the Starbucks “controversy” but I was wrong. This morning while reading the Huffington Post before going to noon Mass at the National Shrine I came across an opinion piece written by Eli Verschleiser, a business man and President of OurPlace. While I agree with Eli on two points, namely that religion has a negative connotation in society due the negative image that the media gives religion and that if companies are going to commercialize one religion, then companies should be inclusive and celebratory of other religions as well. But that was all.
What I found hilarious about Eli’s arguments about Starbucks proving that religion is under attack is that his arguments were weak and fell into the trap that the religious right is setting. In that creating a “Christian” society according to their rules is the only thing that matters. The hilarity doesn’t stop there. Eli tried to make the argument that Starbucks is part of the “war on Christmas” while trying to make the argument from the standpoint of the religious right while knowing very little about Christianity. You cannot blame Eli for not knowing the basics of Christianity, he’s Jewish. But making the same bad arguments that the religious right is making (even though they should know their own faith better) concerning the “controversy” loses favor with me. I would expect him to do some research on Christianity, Advent, the values of Christianity, and what religious symbols are used by Christians during Advent and Christmas.
At the beginning of the article Eli agrees that Christmas is becoming over secularized and that many Christians find this offensive. And rightfully so, Christmas as become so secularized and commercialized that many Christians forget the Christmas starts on December 25, not right after Halloween or Thanksgiving, and that the Sunday after Thanksgiving is the start of Advent (the two weeks leading up to Christmas where Christians prepare themselves for the birth of Christ). This is what I consider the War on Christmas, a time when all spirituality is taken out of the Advent and Christmas season due to the over commercialization of Christmas. And the unfortunate creation of a season that has become so over commercialized that so many Christians care more about sales and shopping than medicating and preparing for the birth of Christ. Faithful Christians should be spending more time in prayer and meditation than caring about shopping and sales.
Second Eli is suggesting that when Starbucks didn’t feature any “Christmas imagery” on their holiday cups this season like snowmen, snowflakes, sleds, reindeer, elves and holly that some how this is contributing to the watering down of religious imagery in American society. This is ridiculous. Starbucks hardly ever used traditional Christmas imagery on their cups except for the Nativity (Santa Clause is the reinterpretation of St. Nicholas who’s feast day is Dec. 6). Also Eli states that the lack of “religious imagery” during this season scares the religious right because they feel that their religion and other religions are being under represented during this time. I really do have to question this. Does the religious right really care about other religions considering that they are increasingly Islamophobic and are not afraid to condemn other religions or other Christian denominations that don’t adhere to their theology (the religious right spands across Christianity). Another aspect of the religious right to consider is that they are pushing for a country that is ruled by Christian belief, teaching, and in some cases Christian law (laws based solely off of the Bible). The religious right is also pushing for a society that is completely Christian.
Third Eli claims that the watering down of religion in our society will lead to Christmas being an optional work holiday but if you know anything about the two main Jewish holidays Yom Kipur and Rosh Hashanah, those are not public holidays. If fact for Yom Kipur and Rosh Hashanah Jews have to ask for those days off both from work and school. The same happens for Muslims and Eastern Orthodox Christians who celebrate Christmas and Easter (Pascha) a few weeks after the Western Church does. So, if Christmas is a public holiday and the holy days of other religions are not, then maybe Christmas should not be a public holiday or Christmas stays as a public holiday while declaring the holy days of other religions public holidays. To further this argument, Christmas is the only holiday that Christians in the Western Church are given off. I don’t have Good Friday off, nor am I given time during the day to attend Holy Week services or time to attend Mass for the required days of obligation in the Catholic Church. Of course many who are part of the religious right don’t realize this because many are not Catholic nor are they part of the Episcopal/Anglican or Orthodox Churches (these Churches traditionally have more holy days than the lower ritualistic Churches). Eli also fails to realize that Christmas is the only holiday when all companies choose to create a holiday atmosphere by displaying “religious” images on their products. Starbucks doesn’t have an Easter cup. The religious right seems to forget about Eastern.
So I will conclude this post with this. I don’t think Starbucks is contributing to the War on Christmas by watering down religion (but let’s be real, red and green while not liturgical colors for the season are still colors that represent Christmas). Instead the War on Christmas should be concerned with the over commercialization of Christmas and lack of spiritual mean that is a result of this. I would prefer not to be bombarded by “Christmas” imagery during this time of year. Also, if we cannot give time off for the holy days that other religions celebrate then Christmas should not be a public holiday. Or Christmas stays a public holiday while declaring other religious holy days public holidays as well. The same should apply apply giving honor to other holidays during the Christmas season. This should be done by offering a variety of products that celebrate Christmas, Advent, Chanukah, and Kwanza, as well as offering secular themed products.
Link to Eli’s article is below.