Like everything connected to Christmas, this year's "War on Christmas" freakout has arrived early. And it has taken the form of a red Starbucks cup.
Never mind that stores across America are already playing Christmas carols.
Forget that Wal-Mart started its holiday layaway plan in August, and Target rolled out the Christmas trees alongside Halloween decorations in September.
Nope. The Christmas crusaders are certain that the War on Christmas is on yet again.
It's totally obvious because Starbucks is serving pumpkin spice lattes and caramel macchiatos in plain red cups this holiday season. (Oops. Did I say "holiday"?)
Starbucks won't feature tree ornaments or snowflakes or reindeer like it did on its old winter cups. Because those totally said birth of Jesus, right?
This year's design is a simple red ombre that goes from poppy on top to cranberry on the bottom.
So without pictures of snowmen or a nutcracker or wreaths, Starbucks must hate Jesus, and some evangelical Christians joined in an online assault on the coffee goliath this week.
The devout went wild. Folks declared on social media that they've had their last nonfat vanilla latte.
One pastor urged caffeinators who didn't want to boycott Starbucks to tell baristas that their names are "Merry Christmas" when they order their drinks, forcing them to write it on their cups.
And when the caramel macchiato is ready? They HAVE to say "Merry Christmas!" Double gotcha. Take that, "Happy Holidays" subversives across the land.
I'm willing to concede that there is a war on Christmas. The real Christmas.
If Christmas is about honoring the birth of an impoverished child to a homeless couple who must eventually flee a tyrant to keep their baby safe, then, yes, there is a war on Christmas.
If Christmas is about peace, joy, generosity, thankfulness and goodwill among people, then yes, there is a war on Christmas.
But this Starbucks frenzy is a faux war on a faux Christmas.
In a nation where 22 percent of our children live in poverty, why would any churchgoer care about a local shopping mall's decision to go with "glacier" themed decorations this winter instead of red/green/Santa/trees? Only in honor of the faux Christmas.
Across the globe, children are walking hundreds of miles to escape unspeakable violence, and red cups are supposed to command our attention and advocacy? Only in honor of the faux Christmas.
The trappings of this country's corporate Christmas are being shoved down our throats earlier every year. Faux Christmas creep is real. How about if we declare a war on that Christmas?
Instead, American consumers are gobbling it up. The National Retail Federation says that more than 40 percent of Americans begin their holiday shopping before Halloween.
Thanksgiving? What Thanksgiving?
The retailers have figured out how to deal with all the anti-Black Friday campaigns. Don't want to storm the stores the day after Thanksgiving? Fine, do it the day after Halloween!
Until Americans spend about $630 billion on cranberry sauce (that's what consumers dropped on holiday shopping last year), the earnest #respectthebird campaigns have no shot at success.
The real question isn't whether there's a war on Christmas. It's which war we ought to be waging in the name of Christmas.
I'll have a Venti red-eye, please. The name is Petula. And hold the carols, please.
Petula Dvorak writes for the Washington Post.