Tag Archives: Obama

Starbucks, The President & The Stories We Tell Ourselves

nonresponsibilityI think we (the Church) wish it were true – that Starbucks was taking aim at all Christians everywhere and at the Church in North America in particular.  But, I don’t think it is.  Somewhere along the line, we took a non-issue and made it an issue. And gave Starbucks all kinds of free advertising along the way!

I think Starbucks is focused – on making money.  A lot of money.  They do this by selling coffee.  Lots of coffee.  Served in cups.  This year they are red cups, with their green logo on them.  Red and Green.  Ever since I was little, when the dinosaurs roamed the earth, red and green have been the colors of Christmas.  But, I don’t think Starbucks cares so much about that as they do about making money.  

They are a business.  And as long as they are in business someone’s prayer, “Give us today, our daily bread” is being answered – all over the world, literally.

But as a Church, I think we wish it was true. The story that they are out to destroy Christmas.  I think we want it to be true because it feeds two postures we’ve grown fond of lately.

First, it allows us to tell ourselves that we are victims.  Victims of persecution.  Victims because Christmas is being taken away from us. If the US Post Office and Starbucks don’t say “Merry Christmas” when we are shipping gifts or buying coffee, then it isn’t really Christmas is it? Being victims allows us to piss and moan about how bad the world is – and how good we are in comparison, of course.

Ultimately, though, I think we like to take the posture of being victims because then we don’t have to confront the consumerism in our Christmas.  If we complain about how bad Starbucks is, the government is, somebody else is, we don’t have to face the reality that we are spending $4.00 or more on a cup of coffee when the rest of the world makes less than that a day.  We don’t have to confront the huge amounts of money we spend buying, wrapping, shipping and throwing away presents all in the name of Jesus.

But that moves me to reason number two.  I think we want to believe it is true, and take on the posture of victim, so we can also take on a posture of non-responsibility.

Yes, you read that right.  We, as The Church, actually prefer non-responsibility (not irresponsibility) over responsibility. If we are the victims, then someone, in this case Starbucks, HAS to be responsible for this mess.  Someone, or something, we can blame for the whole mess.  If it is up to someone else to make sure Christmas is celebrated, then I don’t have to take responsibility for living out the Gospel in my own life.  Our thinking is something like this: Well, if President Obama hadn’t declared December to be National Muslim Awareness Month, then I would share the Gospel with my friends, family and co-workers. But, now I can’t. Why bother… 

Our posture of non-responsibility allows us to blame and shift responsibility. In this posture we don’t have to confront our selfishness, the ways we’ve tied consumerism to the Gospel, our lack of love for others, our in ability to get along, how we haven’t raised our kids to love Jesus, etc.

I think we, the church, have grown to love controversy and our pseudo-persecution in the U.S. because it allows us to divert our attention away from the transformation needed within ourselves and the Church.  I think we have grown to love controversy because it allows us to be victims without responsibility and that lets us be lazy.

But I also think that we, the church, don’t have to be this way.  That in reality, deep down inside, we don’t want to be this way.  We want to live into the kind of life Paul ascribes to Timothy.  We want to have an enormous impact on our cities, culture and world.  We want to see Jesus do some really cool things in and through us.

But we can’t, not when we take on the postures of victim and non-responsibility.

Blame: from Government Shut Down to Life…


It’s automatic isn’t it?  There is this feeling we have.  Deep.  Inside us.  Powerful emotions get triggered and we feel threatened, angry, afraid.  

Somewhere along the way in life, we don’t get what we want.  Our children don’t behave the way we want. We don’t get the promotion we want. The driver in front goes slower than we want. The train comes at a time we don’t want. We are later to a meeting than we want. The girl we want to date says “no” (not in my case, of course, she said “yes” even after praying I wouldn’t ask her out…). Somewhere along the way in life we don’t get what we want and deep emotions are stirred.  The Senate and the President won’t budge on healthcare and the House won’t budge on not funding it.  The government shuts down.  We don’t get what we want.

So – what do we do with those deep feelings?

Let’s be honest, we don’t like feeling those deep negative emotions.  I know people deeply passionate on both sides of the whole budget/obamacare issue.  They are feeling deep negative emotions.  And I know if I ask them, they will tell me they don’t like feeling the way they do.  

When we feel deep negative emotions about people or circumstances we want to do something with those feelings.  We feel like a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke that has been shaken for hours and has also had a roll of Mentos dropped in (try it, it’s fun!).  We feel so deeply and powerfully that we find we need to off load those feelings.

Blaming is how we often deal with our negative emotions

Our children don’t do what we want, others see it, we are embarrassed (because they behaved like children?) and so we blame. The traffic runs slow or the train stops us in our tracks and we are late for work – in order not to look bad, we blame the drivers and train.  We are late for the meeting because the elevator stopped on every floor.  

We blame.  We blame our children, the people around us and the circumstances around us. We off load our negative feelings by pushing the responsibility away from ourselves.

Politicians blame too!

The House is blaming the Senate. The Senate is blaming the House. The President is blaming the House.  The Republicans blame the Democrats and the Democrats blame the Republicans.  

There is an interesting phenomenon taking place in our brains when we feel strong negative feelings.  Chemicals are released that help us become more reactive and less responsive.  In other words, we don’t think very well when we are engulfed in negative feelings.  I have a friend who says we become stupid.  I think I agree.

Blaming keeps us stuck in a pattern of compromised thinking.  Blaming keeps us in a cycle of feeling negative emotions toward others or the circumstances we are faced with because we continue to highlight the negative role they are playing, which keeps us trapped in thinking about how miserable they are making us feel, etc…

We blame too!  We are doing it today.  Depending on what you want, you are blaming somebody for the government shut-down.  You either blame the House for trying to defund Obamacare, or you blame the Senate & the President for not being willing to budge. 

When I am blaming others for the circumstances I don’t like, I am not thinking….very well. When I am stuck not thinking very well, I am not taking responsibility.  

Our elected officials carry a lot of responsibility but are not living into that responsibility when they are playing the Blame Game.

We carry a lot of responsibility too.  And we are not living into that responsibility when we play the Blame Game.  

Interestingly, I think we carry as much, or maybe even more, responsibility for where we are as a country than those in Washington.  We not only live within a system, but are deeply part of that system.  And as part of that system, we have elected Senators, Representatives and Presidents.  We have placed them in office and then blamed them when “Washington doesn’t work the way we want.”  

We put the Representatives into the House, we put the Senators into the Senate and we put the President into the White House; and yet we expect a different result than the one we are currently getting? I am part of that “we.” 

The kind of people we elect to office matters!

I am a part of this world and I deeply believe that how I live either helps bring the Kingdom of God, or the Shalom of God, to bear in a way that restores and reconciles places of brokenness; or I am contributing to that brokenness.

I can contribute to the brokenness of a dysfunctional government by letting my anger or fear drive me to blame; or I can take responsibility.

I wonder what it looks like to take responsibility for big things when I don’t feel I have the capacity?