Union University
Union University Dept of Language


Consumerism and Atonement for Sin

Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship

December 9, 2008 - As the Christmas season approaches, one runs a heightened risk of being identified with that archetypal curmudgeon, Scrooge, if one dares speak so much as a word of criticism against what will almost universally be perceived as a laudatory expression of “peace on earth and good will toward men.” As an example of the latter, consider Starbucks’ recent RED campaign. (To experience a more complete immersion in the propaganda, see the promotional video.)

No Christian should openly deride acts of genuine charity. Starbucks is to be commended for its corporate generosity. But the timing and the nature of the campaign should not escape the notice of discerning evangelicals.

Besides its utility as an eye-catcher and its association with all-things-St. Nick, the color RED, has obvious historic, religious overtones. In the Christian faith, red is deeply connected with the image of Christ’s blood – shed in his atoning sacrifice on the cross, and visibly symbolized in the wine of the Lord’s Supper.

Of course, the sober-minded would never openly suggest that this connection is intentional – as opposed to merely circumstantial. But the possibility of conspiracy (or dare one say, the influence of the “angel of light”) is worth pondering. After all, by its own profession, the RED campaign is “bigger than coffee” – it’s about a certain kind of salvation. And the Gospel according to Starbucks is being announced during a season of the year when we ought principally to be contemplating the announcement of the Angel Gabriel: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus,” for, as Matthew writes, “He shall save his people from their sins.”

The prophetic words of poets contain more wisdom than the hypnotic hype of holiday consumerism. We would do well to heed the recent cautionary note of one such poet. Atonement is not for sale; we cannot spend our way to salvation.

Related Web Resource: http://www.uu.edu/institutes/henry/evangelogia/blog.cfm?ID=21