November 30, 2015

a thrill of hope

I have felt burdened as of late, an overwhelming burden that I feel entirely powerless against. Every time I log onto the internet or catch the news, it seems as though another tragedy has occurred. School shootings, bombings, persecution, and murders seem so common now that it’s almost as though I’m not fazed anymore. I wrote a post a while back on being mad about school shootings and how it seemed that it was more of a “when” and less of an “if.” 

After the attack in Paris, I talked to a friend who loves the city and has spent so much of her life studying the language and traveling through the very city that was all over the news. She talked about balancing between the Christian ideal of forgiveness and grace, but while being entirely angered at the evil that had occurred. I said back to her, “I feel so overwhelmed with the darkness and devastation that I don’t even know where to start. I don’t know how to think about it and not allow myself to become broken and angry and bitter.”

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I’ve come to a place where it’s easier to not think about it because thinking about it and really leaning into the pain and brokenness means confronting hard truths. It means asking tough questions- questions that may never be answered and the reality of wrestling with those questions for the rest of my life is terrifying. It’s easier to bury my head in the sand and pretend like nothing is wrong. If it hasn’t happened in my little world, then it’s almost like it didn’t happen. I realize that isn’t healthy and that it’s actually just denial. 

To be honest, I’m scared to ask tough questions. I’m scared at what that journey of questioning looks like. I know that God is good- it’s a truth that I cling to, but it’s also hard to look at what is happening all over the world and still proclaim that God is good and is for us. It’s not impossible, but it can just feel really difficult sometimes. 

I was driving earlier today and “O Holy Night” came on the radio. I was covered in chills and brought to tears as the song proclaimed, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” We are a weary world. We are perpetually saddened and broken over the state of our world. That’s something that we can all, regardless of our skin color, culture, or country of origin, can identify with. 

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This season, the season of advent, is one of hope and anticipation as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. In the midst of tragedy and devastation, we can grasp to the promise of restoration. Even though the brokenness feels insurmountable, we are promised that restoration is to come. This season reminds us of that. 
Brothers. Sisters. Do not abandon yourselves to despair. Cling to the hope of goodness and truth. Rejoice in that truth. Just as the song says, “for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” 

November 7, 2015

you are not being persecuted

A friend showed me a video last night of a loud, aggressive, "Christian" man claiming that the new holiday Starbucks cups were an intentional movement on behalf of Starbucks to take the "Christ" out of Christmas. Now, Christians all over are equating this act with persecution because there aren't any overt references to Christmas on the cups.

Yeah, I'm being entirely serious. I could not wrap my mind around the argument he was trying to make. Red cups are persecution? He also commented that Starbucks employees are banned from saying "Merry Christmas" and that Starbucks "hates Jesus." Those are some pretty lofty, completely unfounded claims. I'm not writing this because I love Starbucks or I want those sweet, sweet Creme Brûlée lattes protected: I'm writing this because American Christians need to stop claiming that they are being persecuted.

Starbucks is a company. It is run by a CEO. It is composed of almost two hundred thousand employees who work in stores all over the world. Corporations aren't religious. When we all die and get to those pearly gates, I don't think Starbucks will be standing alongside Chick Fil A waiting to hear if they get to spend eternity worshipping the good Lord. The people who compose the corporation can be religious, but in and of itself, the corporation is not. Why should Starbucks honor one faith above another, when it is not a religious entity? Why should the cups be adorned with messages of Christmas? What about Kwanzaa, Hannukah, or Mawlid? These are all holidays that are incredibly important to individuals from other cultural or religious backgrounds. Why should a secular corporation celebrate one holiday above another? Would people be crying persecution if the cups were blue with little menorahs on them? I would imagine that a significant population, the same individuals who are claiming persecution in this case, would regardless of what the cups looked like. That is, unless the cups were overtly and undeniably "Christian."

Also, do none of these individuals remember that Starbucks, in addition to their annual "Holiday Blend" sell a "Christmas Blend" and an Advent Calendar? They hate Christmas? They hate Jesus? Oh, it really does make my blood boil. It is so ignorant. No, it is more than ignorant... it is asinine. The way this man is encouraging people to make their point to Starbucks is through ordering drinks and saying that their names are "Merry Christmas" so that the cups will have their specific holiday message on it and baristas will be forced to say it. First of all, let's go over "Boycotting 101"- maybe don't send people to spend their money to support the place that you're so angry at. I mean, this just seems so basic, but maybe I'm the one that is backwards. Second of all, it is just so stupid that I'm not actually going to dignify their argument by making another point.

Don't get me wrong- I don't like the cups this year. My dislike for them has absolutely nothing to do with anything other than the fact that minimalism isn't my favorite style of art/design. That is it. It has nothing to do with my own religious beliefs. It simply involves my personal tastes and preferences.

Persecution is such a buzzword right now. So many people, as of late, have claimed persecution and I want to look at them and recite these famous words from "The Princess Bride:"

I am especially bothered by these claims of persecution in light of what is happening to our Christian brothers and sisters all over the globe. Every month, three hundred and twenty-two Christians are killed for their faith and seven hundred and seventy-two acts of violence are committed against Christians because of their faith. These acts of violence can include physical abuse, rape, beatings, false imprisonment, etc. This is persecution. Starbucks having plain red (okay, ombre...) cups is not the same as being imprisoned for over three years in an Iranian prison for your religion like Saeed Abedini.

Persecution is real. It's happening all over the world. It's happening right now. It is brutal, terrible, horrific, and devastating. But, it is not happening at the hand of Starbucks or their red cups.

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