You may have seen this video by perpetually bearded, squinting, close-yelling, backward hat-wearing, Christian video guy Joshua Feuersetin or others from him. He's now ubiquitous social media Christian culture.
In this latest parking lot short film, Feuerstein once again rattles off some loud, raw-throated, WWE-style, machine gun pontificating; this time sermonizing about Starbucks' clear and sinister conspiracy against Christmas and his "brilliant" outsmarting of the system (while by the way, boldly revealing that he's a concealed handgun carrier -- a fact that should send shivers down the spine of any reasonable coffee drinking American).
I don't know Joshua Feuersetin. I can't see his heart, only what I see him doing.
I can't speak to his motives, only to his methods:
He's not helping.
These continual strident, shouting, red-faced rebuttals to Atheists and non-Christians and corporations are doing exponentially more harm than good in the world beyond the already-convinced, representing Christians as aggressive, bitter brats forever challenging everyone to fisticuffs.
I suppose some hearty cheers from the choir might fool him into believing otherwise, but outside of the protected, amen-ing bubble of like-minded church folk, good, kind rational people are flatly rejecting these messages because they realize that they are saturated in venom, oozing with ridicule, and that they don't bear even a passing resemblance to Jesus of Nazareth.
And the sad thing is, Joshua isn't an anomaly at all.
So much of our modern Christian culture (from talk radio show hosts to bullhorn screaming preachers to brazen church signs) has devolved into faith-justified antagonism and sanctified fight-picking in the name of Jesus -- and I just don't get it.
I don't even recognize so much of this stuff as being of Christ anymore.
When did the Good News of Jesus become a massive middle finger to anyone who doesn't believe what we believe or express faith the way we personally express it?
When did it become more important to confront others from a distance than to seek to understand them up close?
When did our desire for conflict begin to trump our pull toward compassion?
When did it become mandatory for the surrounding culture to conform to our inner religious preferences?
When did the role of Christians in the world, change from life-giving, peace-making, love-lavishing beacons of goodness and mercy -- to terminally persecuted malcontents always looking for a fist fight?
When did shopping mall and coffee shop holiday semantics give us license to be jerks?
When did the words "Merry Christmas" become a gotcha moment?
In so many ways Christianity has lost the plot and bastardized the message, and people are right to reject it.
Until we can provide an expression of faith that better mirrors the life and ministry of Jesus, I don't blame anyone for opting out. In fact, I count those who view a clip like this and are moved to disgust, as wise and quite reasonable.
Christians, never ever let the numbers fool you. I don't care how many people read what you write or attend your church or click on your video or like your meme, if love and unity are not at the core of it all, it's wasted attention and it serves only to divide and separate humanity.
I don't believe that is Joshua Feuerstein's intention here. He may well be a loving, faithful, devoted Christian, seeking to do good and to share a message of hope with the world; but as with much of our modern religion (churches, ministries, high-profile believers), I think it's getting lost in translation. It's coming across, not as good news, but as taunts and threats, and that is something we should be burdened by and repent of here and wherever we see it happening.
I really don't want you to take Joshua Feuerstein's word for it that this is how Jesus calls his people to live, but don't take mine either.
To those reading this who may not know what Jesus did or said, or just what his life and ministry were built on (or those who used to know but have forgotten) this is a really good place to start. It gives a beautiful model of how faith should, can, and must be reflected in the world -- even where it is not welcome.
Joshua Feurestein is not the enemy here, but anything that distorts the vision and damages people is. Good Jesus-loving folks often do dumb things, make poor decisions, and send lousy messages. (I know this firsthand.) Wherever we see it happening, Christians need to provide an alternative voice for the watching world and I hope this is one.
Today violence, hunger, poverty, racism, sexism, bigotry and homophobia still have far too much power in the world and far too much real estate in our hearts.
This holiday season, we who claim faith should fix our gaze on far deeper things than coffee cups, and spend these days leaving a trail of goodness and light; one that alters the balance and tips the scales toward justice.
As for me, I'm going to keep trying to clearly and respectfully live my personal faith convictions. While doing so I'll seek to treat people with dignity and decency and gentleness; not needing them to believe what I believe in order to live well alongside them, and not needing to live each day like I'm at war with the world to feel like I'm honoring God.
And even though I'm not even a coffee drinker, I think I'll head to Starbucks today, purchase a red cup, smile warmly to the person who serves me, give them an extravagant tip, and order a drink.
When they ask what my name is, I'll simply say:
(Well, that or John.)
Then I'll ask theirs.
This post originally appeared on JohnPavlovitz.com.