Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Killing Jesus, one red cup at a time. #StarbucksRedCup #MerryChristmasStarbucks

Growing up in a small Hoosier Pentecostal church, it seemed there was always at least one “enemy” out there, in the world -- the world meaning the sinful ether around us -- that we had to be on guard against.

Of course, there was always the BIG enemy, Satan. The devil. Lucifer. That hoof-footed, pointy-tailed, red-skinned, double-horned malicious doer of wickedness. We were always on guard against him.

But to make evil real and relevant (this is not a strategy I endorse, by the way), there was always that one, more earthly enemy to be targeted.

Some of these targets were long hair, short dresses, tight pants, fast cars, smoking, drinking, movies, dice, cards, and Communism. The fall of the Iron Curtain left a huge void for some. Bernie Sanders has helped fill it again.

Of course, for us Holy Rollers, Baptists and Catholics were also troublesome. I was never sure why.

We didn’t have social media to spread the word about these enemies. Heck, we didn’t even have computers!

Oops, sorry about the h-word. Anyway...

What we did have were red-faced traveling revivalists, yellow-journalism-like tracts, and a smattering of television evangelists.

Apparently today the enemy at our gates is a red cup.

A bright, cheerful, holiday-evoking red cup. Or, to be technically accurate, “a two-toned ombré design, with a bright poppy color on top that shades into a darker cranberry below.”

Frankly, from a purely design perspective, I think it’s quite lovely and a brilliant choice.

But one guy disagrees. Emphases on the one.

Thanks to social media, the whole world is now on alert!

This one guy posted a loud, nearly frothing-at-the-mouth video claiming Starbucks is at war with Christmas because they are serving coffee this holiday season in these godless simple red cups bearing only their green logo. No pine boughs or snowflakes or even a “Happy Holiday.”

Bah! Humbug! Anti-Christ! Right?

If you haven’t seen this one guy’s video yet, you can view it by clicking right here.

What most see as festive this one guy sees as demonic.

Holy vanquisher of the malevolent red cup!

This one guy is Joshua Feuerstein.

On his website he says, among other things, that he is an “evangelist, internet and social media personality...a former pastor.” He goes a little further on his Twitter page describing himself as a “Disciple of Jesus. Husband to Jessica. Hope Peddler. A nobody telling everybody about somebody named Jesus!”

His Facebook “About” page further states that he “is 33...a former television and radio evangelist, he has turned to social media with his personal story of redemption and the hope of how Jesus Christ can heal a hurting heart!”

He’s also recently married and a step-dad.

So far, so good.

Oddly, that is the extent of the background information readily available about this one guy.

Another blogger and author, Garrett Glass, who has done research on and written about this one guy, in an email to me agrees, saying “Joshua Feuerstein keeps his past well hidden, though I'm not sure why.”

Maybe not so good, after all, huh.

From bad to worse, it’s all downhill

I could find nothing about the churches he was formerly a pastor of (or why he’s not really a pastor anymore), nothing about his television experience, nothing related to his education, nothing about any current or former jobs (it seems he may be living entirely from donations he solicits on his website), or any other information regarding his qualifications to be, well, anything in particular.

In fact, there seems to be nothing on the Internet about his past except what he has said about himself, which is little and well-spun. One can’t help but wonder what he’s hiding. In fact, prior to about early-2014 or so, hardly anyone had heard of him.

What I did find were a lot of articles, blog posts, and comments expressing a range of negative, from dismay to disgust, over the videos and rants that Feuerstein has been sharing.

I also found a few hints of a shady now defunct Go Fund Me effort he started, apparently to buy some expensive camera equipment allegedly to be used to reach “millions” of the lost somehow. What appears to be lost is any accurate accounting of how much money he raised and exactly what was done with it.

Amidst the negatives, there were a few positive things as well.

One blogger, Gabe Hughes, who is an actual real pastor, and who is asking Christians to “please stop sharing Joshua Feuerstein videos,” referenced one good thing. It seems Feuerstein, for a time, operated a ministry addressing those considering suicide. Hughes states, “[Feuerstein] shared a testimony in the video ‘Cancel Your Suicide’ calling on those who might be contemplating suicide to think before they pull the trigger. Hundreds have responded saying the video indeed caused them to re-think their death.”

However, later in this same post, Hughes concludes that Feuerstein is “a heretic, he is a liar.”


I genuinely feel sorry for others who happen share this one guy’s name. Really.

This one guy represents pretty much only this one guy

Just a cursory look at Feuerstein reveals one glaring truth: He’s all about numbers. Especially numbers that appear to validate his efforts and build this one guy up.

On his website he mentions that one of his videos in “3 short weeks... became viral with over 1 million shares and 40 million views.” Responding to critics about his recent anti-Starbucks rant he points to the millions of views it’s received as proof of success.

Okay then. Here are a few other numbers to consider:
  • The population of the U.S. is around 318 million.
  • 83% of all Americans identify themselves as Christians (about 264 million).
  • 37% of these identify as Evangelical (about 98 million).
  • 1,880,279* people “Like” Joshua Feuerstein’s Facebook page. By the way, of these it would be fair to say that many “Like” it merely out of curiosity and NOT because they agree with or support him.
  • But, based on the 1,880,279* “Likes” this means that Joshua Feuerstein does NOT speak for more than 99% of all U.S. Christians, or more than 98% of all American Evangelical Christians.
These numbers are important. Keep them in mind.

* Just during the few hours I was working on this post, hundreds have apparently “Unliked” his page. His numbers seem to be going down.

Why this bothers me so much

There are three reasons this pointless brouhaha troubles me.
  1. Distorted blogging and media reporting. Headlines, Tweets, articles, and posts have, in one way or another proclaimed, “Evangelical Christians are saying Starbucks hates Jesus.” Most of these tend to insist that ALL Christians, especially Evangelical Christians are up-in-arms about red cups. The simple fact is, this is not even remotely true. Most, as a few media stories have finally begun to report, are not alarmed by red cups and do not agree with this one guy.
  2. It’s a non-story. This one misguided, narcissistic, self-serving guy is garnering hours of air time, millions of pixels of Internet space, and gallons of print ink over a non-issue, and touted as representing all Evangelical Christians (with the meta-message that all Evangelical Christians are dumb, backwater, unthinking morons). That the national media picked this up at all speaks to a bias toward exhibiting Evangelical Christians as generally wacky. The tide is slowly turning as more Evangelicals are speaking out intelligently, rationally, and in opposition to this one guy. Still, less frenzy and a little more careful reporting up front would have gotten the story balanced from the beginning.
  3. Mindless acceptance. While only a small percentage, that so many who claim the title of Christian so easily buy into this one guy’s factless, tactless, pointless, hate-mongering messages is tragic. With only a very little bit of effort his anti-Starbucks rant has been shown to contain outright lies. If he so easily and readily deceives in one video, it’s a good bet that his other videos also contain errors. And yet so many (albeit a small percentage of believers) lazily believe everything he says, share his messages, defend his lies, and even send him money! God will hold him and them (and you?) accountable for this.
We can all do better. We all must do better.

Fighting the real enemy

Like Feuerstein, I get coffee at Starbucks. And occasionally a yummy sausage and egg sandwich. Love those things!

Also, like Feuerstein, I believe that Satan is real and that there is evil in the world we, as Christians, need to address and speak out against.

But unlike Feuerstein, I don’t believe even a little bit that Starbuck’s red cups are an issue.

Satan is a destroyer (John 10:10) and aims to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He can also appear as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) and is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).

Our fight, when it comes to evil and spiritual darkness, is not to be wasted beating up red cups.

The Apostle Paul clarifies this for us declaring, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood [or red cups], but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12, ESV).

When it comes to those who are claiming to speak on behalf of God against evil, we are to test the spirits (1 John 4:1) and look at the results being delivered (fruit) (Matthew 7:15-20). Those producing bad fruit are false prophets, charismatic wolves in sheep’s clothing.

And, as I stated in a previous post, “When we post defamatory, untrue, misleading, erroneous, insulting memes and articles on social media, we are expressing the character of Satan, and in no way being Christ-like. It’s the same as being Satan’s mouthpiece!”

Looking for good fruit

What does good fruit look like? Let’s let God’s Word, the Bible, inform us. Here are three key passages:
  • Galatians 5:22-26, ESV: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
  • James 3:13-18, ESV: “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
  • 2 Peter 1:5-8, ESV: “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
How does Feuerstein stack up?

He’s been shown to be a liar. Some who have looked more deeply into his theology have concluded he teaches heresy. His behavior has generated dismay, discord, and disgust among believers and non-believers. There is nothing humble about his persona and there is a lot that is hidden.

There are also clear hints of deception. When it comes to his red cup rant, there’s nothing loving, peaceful, or kind about it. And in everything he does, he appears conceited and completely self-serving. He is boastful and is “false with the truth.”

The bottom-line lesson in all this

Exposed to the light of Scripture, the fruit of Feuerstein is seen to be rotten. Through his efforts, the Kingdom of God is being misrepresented, the reputations of sincere believers are being smeared, and the Gospel of Christ is being harmed.

Before taking someone’s bait, do your homework.

To the media, I beg, please be real journalists and do some digging. Just because Feuerstein isn’t running for President doesn’t mean you can take him at face value. Don’t just skim for clicks, dig for the truth.

To believers, please pay attention to the full content of the messages you take in, the people delivering them, and hold both up against Scripture -- which means you need to be reading and studying the Bible. Just because someone appeals to your own biases doesn’t make you both right. Don’t fall into the 2 Timothy 4:3 ear-tickle trap.

To non-believers, just because one or a few people who claim to be Christians spout off mindless annoying rants, please don’t assume ALL Christians, and especially not all Evangelical Christians, hold the same wrong-headed views. To do so exposes your own thoughtless bigotry.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to Starbucks for a Venti dark roast with room.

Articles & other relevant resources:
This one guy's websites:
Note: According to WHOIS, he is associated with more than 100 domains.

Do you agree with or support Feuerstein? Why? Do you believe there is a war on Christmas or Christians in the U.S.? If not, why not? If so, can you cite specific examples. Are red cups anti-Christmas? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

NOTE: I predict that if this one guy reacts/responds to the criticisms/commentary of his Starbucks rant, it will be to claim being “tried or “tested” rather than viewing anything as positive correction he needs to take to heart. There will be no acknowledgement/repentance of any misspeaking, and all the criticism will be viewed/framed as an attack. There will be no change in his message or methods.

Update 11/12/15 - A gift from Stephen Colbert:

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