Samantha Jones

Sam's Notebook

Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is CCNNews@cox-internet.com

Christmas controversy

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

We're not even halfway into November, and the war on Christmas has begun. What started the war this year? According to many people on social media, Starbucks is to blame.

The overpriced coffee chain recently released a red cup to celebrate the holiday season, an annual event for the company. In the past, these cups have featured snowflakes or Santa Claus or gingerbread men.

But this year, the cups are simply red with a Starbucks logo plastered across the middle. Social media users responded to these satanic plain cups by creating the hashtag "#MerryChristmasStarbucks." Because the coffee chain chose to omit Santa from its seasonal cups this year, these users insisted, Christmas is under attack yet again.

I understand that Christians -- like most groups -- sometimes face discrimination for their beliefs, but I think it's crazy to freak out over the design of a big-chain coffee cup. Please note that I don't believe all Christians are perpetuating this idea; I purposely used the term "social media users," because this has more to do with the groupthink engendered by social media than anything else.

One person, whom I will call Idiot 1, saw the design and probably said, "Hey, where's Santa? How dare Starbucks take the 'Christ' out of 'Christmas?' " After posting this thought online, Idiot 1 found many other idiots who agreed with the sentiment. Then the idiots united to create a larger group of idiots, capping off their alliance with that ignorant hashtag.

That hashtag, by the way, makes no sense at all. Santa Claus and snowflakes are not and never have been indicative of the reason Christians celebrate Christmas. If Starbucks had used an image of baby Jesus in the manger on those seasonal cups, I'd understand the outrage a little better. As it stands, though, the company has featured vague holiday themes. Nothing about the designs of previous years ties directly into Christianity.

Then again, this red cup controversy doesn't tie into Christianity either. I'm not very religious myself, but I know and love many Christians who are confused by the outrage. My very best friend, Dora, is one of these people. I contacted her this weekend after catching wind of the hashtag, and she told me she didn't understand why people were making a big deal about it.

"It's just a cup. I don't even know if it used to say 'Merry Christmas.' It was just decorated, I think," she told me.

If anything is upsetting about this controversy, it's that a group of angry people can complain loudly enough to potentially change the way others view a deservedly unrelated group. The Christians I know love others. They are kind and reasonable. They don't moan and groan every time they feel slighted, whether it's warranted or not.

Unfortunately, the people who do need to complain about everything do so as loudly and ignorantly as possible. As an outspoken liberal, I've seen many of my liberal friends do the exact same thing. I have acquaintances who honestly believe all Christians are transphobic and cruel, just as I have acquaintances who believe our society is out to get all Christians.

Neither is true. Humans are too complex to be completely against something; some people are totally hateful, but most of us operate on shades of gray. Because social media has given these hateful people a place to speak and coalesce, they appear more prevalent than they really are.

It's dumb to believe the design of a coffee cup denotes a war on Christmas. It's even dumber to believe people perpetuating this idea mark the character of all Christians.

Both of these things should go without saying.

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Samantha Jones is a reporter for the Carroll County News. Her email address is CCNNews@cox-internet.com.