By Tom Ehrich
If I were scheduled for my "fifteen minutes of fame," as Andy Warhol once put it, I wouldn't waste them taking a coffee vendor to task for not posting the Christian message on their cups.
You know, the message that the USA was founded to be a Christian nation, that this has meant cosseting slave owners and denying the rights of women to vote, own property and manage their own lives. As well as condemning workers seeking fair wages.
You know, the message that we need to throw brown-skinned immigrants back into the Rio Grande, we need to preserve the freedom of polluters to profit from fouling our planet, and we need to punish women for having sex and gays for having sex, and defend the right of men to have sex whenever they want it, even if the woman is saying "No."
You know, the message that poor people are poor because they are lazy, that climate change is a hoax, that funneling more wealth to the wealthy is sound economic policy, that white power is a patriotic cause, that Sunday morning belongs to churches, that building handsome edifices is exactly what Jesus wanted, and that making room for people of other faiths is simply persecution of the dominant faith.
There's hardly room on a coffee cup for such a Christian message. Too lengthy, too complicated, and, well yes, too absurd.
We could put the actual Christian message on a cup. "Peace on earth," for example. "Love God, love your neighbor." "Feed my sheep." "Care for the least of these." "Father, forgive them." "He is risen."
Short, to the point, plenty of room for one of those messages. On the cup, at least. But in the hearts of Christians? Maybe not all Christians. When you want to hate and exclude and punish and be the center of attention, something like "Lord, have mercy" doesn't cut it. "Die to self" is counter-intuitive. "Give to the poor" is offensive. "Come, follow me" is inconvenient.
If a coffee cup had actual Gospel on it, a lot of folks would swear off caffeine. If they can't make the Christian message into a projection of their anger, fear, prejudice and narcissism, then better to leave the cup blank.
Actually, Starbucks did them a favor by doing exactly that. All that red space is free for my-way Christians to write whatever they want as the Christian message.