A morning meditation: Yesterday I stopped at Starbucks for a coffee, and a little Snow Man
sugar cookie for my son. The clerk in the store leaned over to him and said, "Save the head for last, it's the best part!" He did, and it was.
Starbucks sells big red bags of coffee beans that read "Merry Christmas." They also sell super attractive Advent calendars with little numbered ornaments. I want one.
In fact, although my social conscience has concerns about the commercial nature of the holidays, and my social hackles are raised by the capitalist co-optation of the season, all of that is actually trumped by the fact that a) I really love joining everyone in a collective seasonal shift in sounds, smells, and sights, and b) I like peppermint. Nor do I mind how early it arrives.
I chatted with the store clerks about their experience of the Red Cup Controversy. First, they rolled their eyes and spun around. Next, they said, "Officially, we are not allowed to have a position." I will not tell you what they said after that just in case big brother is watching. Let's just say they were very good at expressing the ways they do not have a position on the issue.
The bigger issue is simple--I could do better at tipping servers. I could do better at advocating for adequate pay for all workers. It drives me crazy how much wealth leverages things, so the football players at Missou have collective bargaining power because of the economic impact of their sport, and the universities bank on the possibility they'll just play the game and never leverage that power.... and then when they do leverage the power, they are mocked and told they should have their scholarships revoked, and few notice how brave they are, and strong. It is no easy thing to put your future, and something you love, on the line, for what you believe to be right.
I hope none of us lose that youthful ideology that says, "If we do this, we can change the world. Let's do this." I hope that we don't conform to confirmation bias, living in echo-chambers that never challenge us, and simply start parroting what everyone else says because it basically tells us we were right all along. I'm amazed at the president at Missou, who said, in an unqualified manner, "I was wrong." That takes another kind of strength, and bravery. He didn't listen, at first. But he did listen. We can honor that.
On all sides of this, people want to be heard. Those who fear the loss of cultural Christianity really are afraid. They're expressing their loss of prestige. That's a real feeling (and also a strange fragility). Those who are afraid of the powerful culture-Christians who want to enforce one religion, in a country whose veterans have regularly defended it so that it might be a place for the free expression of religion, are also correct to fear. They have had to experience the bitter isolation of not being honored by the very faith that is supposed to recognize humanity in everyone. They meet Christians who are confused, who think Christianity is about forced conformity rather than real freedom.
Christians who are attempting to disambiguate their kind of Christianity from that kind of Christianity are right to do so. It is a slow and tiresome thing to communicate, "Yes, I'm a Christian, but not that kind of Christian." The problem is when this kind of communication starts to take the form of privileged condescension. It's an easy pit to fall into.
So the point would be to listen to each other, to take joy in smaller things, even complex things, like sugar cookies. The point would be to try to listen to those even who anger you, perhaps especially who anger you. And then use your position and voice and power not for shrill whistling argumentation, but real leveraged change. And to make sure and join and get on the side of the weak more frequently than the privileged. Join the voice of wise students like those football players. Actually listen and learn. There is a difference in action that proceeds from hearing. You will know it when you see it. The first sounds like a wind tunnel. The second like a song.