As the Indiana RFRA episode last spring demonstrated all-too-well, corporate America is no longer non-partisan. When it comes to social issues, it has responded to pressure from social progressives and abandoned social and religious conservative positions.
As Patrick Deneen argued in First Things recently, this was squarely a business decision by Walmart and others: “The establishment could express support for a fashionable social norm while exerting very little effort, incurring no actual cost, and making no sacrifice to secure the goal.”
There was no cost because social and religious conservatives are not organized into focused advocacy and activist groups. Nor are they inclined to take punitive action against businesses.
That’s why Faith Driven Consumer was started. It’s a website that rates companies on their receptiveness to Biblical outlooks. The resulting Faith Equality Index helps people of faith align their spending with their principles.
The latest case concerns Starbucks and its neutral red Christmas cup. Here is the press release from Faith Driven Consumer. Founder Chris Stone explains:
Brands are in a race to attract consumers and earn their business this Christmas. Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts are both free to design their cups and express their values as they see fit. By creating cups that specifically message the Joy of the Christmas Season—in sharp contrast to Starbucks’ ‘blank canvas’—Dunkin’ Donuts has specifically welcomed Faith Driven Consumers, and all Americans who love Christmas. The BUYcott is working—do business with brands that embrace and celebrate you, and those businesses will respond. We congratulate Dunkin’ Donuts for their decision and will loudly encourage our community to reward them.
The media are already ridiculing the whole thing as absurd oversensitivity. A silly critique by a journalist at Atlantic Monthly concludes, “Starbucks’s decision to make plain red cups is less an erasure of Christian values than a neutral design choice that also happens to reflect a solid understanding of the company’s diverse audience.”
Yes, of course, the absence of all Christian elements from a holiday cup isn’t an “erasure of Christian values.”
When people make arguments that come down to “A is not A,” you know where the truth lies. Starbucks wants to celebrate the holiday without acknowledging its historical reality as a holy day. It wants to keep Christmas, but make it for everybody whether they believe in Christ or not. You don't have to be a Christian to recognize the duplicity.
Mark Bauerlein is Senior Editor at First Things.