Saturday, November 27, 2010

Whose Salvation is it?

photo courtesy of

It’s that time of year again. From now until Christmas, every time you go to get groceries or that extra stick of butter for your Christmas cookies you’ll be assaulted by a bell ringer from the Salvation Army. And, unless you’re a heartless jerk, you’ll probably drop your spare change in their bucket. Why wouldn’t you? Your spare change will go on to help assist thousands of homeless, hungry people down on their luck during the holidays.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve always just dropped in your quarters without another thought. But I read a few things recently that made me start to wonder… and resulted in me thinking twice about where my quarters go. And while I’ll never dictate to others where they should and shouldn’t give, I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t at least get the word out about what I found.

There are so many wonderful charitable organizations in this country. And, admittedly, the Salvation Army is one of them. It was an actual moral debate for me, personally. I know it’s just spare change, but spare change adds up. Are a ridiculous view on humanity, factually inaccurate beliefs and discriminatory practices reason enough for me not to donate to all the wonderful things they do? And do I really want to deprive some homeless kid out of a potential warm bed to stand up for my beliefs? I mean, if I withhold my money because of my OWN narrow viewpoint, depriving them of funds they need to help millions, am I any better than they are for excluding certain groups? You can see my point.

 In the end I decided that, personally, I just can’t drop a single cent into that bucket knowing I’m supporting such an organization. And I wish I had known what I know now years ago. That’s the purpose behind this blog post. It’s not to change anyone’s mind, because I don’t appreciate people telling me “you should give here but not here” and it’s certainly not my place to do that. There are plenty of people who will think this church does much more good than harm. I just want to provide information and let others make their own decisions.

I have to add that I have no problem whatsoever with religious charitable organizations. I think they’re amazing and more in line with what Christianity is supposed to be about, not what these insane right wing hypocritical bigots have made it into. But I do have a problem with discriminating against whom you help. And any organization that’s going to turn anyone away for such a ridiculous reason isn’t getting any of my change until they see the light and change.

Now, that being said… what’s my problem, anyway? Well, it started a few days ago when I read this blog post.

Now I’m not an “all or nothing” person, nor was I about to buy into the “IF YOU SUPPORT THE SALVATION ARMY THAN YOU ARE EVIL AND SUPPORT BIGOTRY” statements. I mean, each and every one of us buys things every day that were made in China, probably by a toddler who gets paid with a grain of rice. Finding out where our dollars go opens up one hell of a rabbit hole I don’t intend to fall down at this point. If you read the comments on that post you’ll see that some people, gay or straight, have been helped by the Salvation Army and were quick to defend them. But it did implore me to check out their website. Here’s some actual text from the “What we believe” section of the site and, because I can, my thoughts:

The Salvation Army holds a positive view of human sexuality.

Um, really? I don’t agree! Read on:

 Where a man and a woman love each other, sexual intimacy is understood as a gift of God to be enjoyed within the context of heterosexual marriage.

Hey, totally. That’s the life I’m living. It’s awesome and yes, enjoyed, though not always frequently enough. Good for you, Salvation Army. But what of those who didn’t follow my path or haven’t found that special someone yet?

However, in the Christian view, sexual intimacy is not essential to a healthy, full, and rich life. Apart from marriage, the scriptural standard is celibacy.

My single friends are going to be pissed at you, Salvation Army.

Sexual attraction to the same sex is a matter of profound complexity.

I agree. And what a beautiful complexity it is. And why we have to govern it with laws and moral high ground is beyond me.

Whatever the causes may be, attempts to deny its reality or to marginalize those of a same-sex orientation have not been helpful.

That’s because doing either of those things is complete and utter bullshit. Bullshit tends not to be helpful.

The Salvation Army does not consider same-sex orientation blameworthy in itself.

Oh, gee, what a relief!

Homosexual conduct, like heterosexual conduct, requires individual responsibility and must be guided by the light of scriptural teaching. Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life. There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage.

Oh, I get it. So you admit that being gay isn’t a choice. So rather than risk offending the Creator who made someone a certain way, you’re asking them to just ignore their (God-given?) sexual urges and ignore their hearts when they fall in love and live like a nun or monk. Right…because that makes so much sense.

Likewise, there is no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone for reason of his or her sexual orientation. The Salvation Army opposes any such abuse.

But you’ll let them go hungry until they repent?

In keeping with these convictions, the services of The Salvation Army are available to all who qualify, without regard to sexual orientation.

Yes, you’re free to shop at Salvation Army stores and donate to them, gay people. But if you want to work for them, be a church member or receive help… you may be out of luck.

Here's another article of interest.

Again, this organization has the right to uphold beliefs. I may not agree, but I respect their right to think we should all be a bunch of heterosexual celibate monks and nuns until the joyous day when we marry. But I sure don’t have to support them. With all the charitable organizations out there that kick it into high gear during the holidays, my quarters will find their way to a less “evangelical” one. I’m going to feel like an asshole every single time I bypass that bucket and ringing bell, but not as much as I would if I dropped money into this mindset.


Anonymous said...

Wow - I had no idea either!! Thanks for this will make me a bit more proactive about finding out the core values I am "supporting" with my spare change, donated goods or volunteer time.

sherryrose said...

ugh- try explaining to a seven year old why you would prefer he not participate in boy scouts because of the same stupid closed minded thinking.
i've honestly never been a bucket dropper- their % of donation to administrative costs have been way out of whack for too long for my taste. this just adds to it. now i feel the need to check in on the places i DO donate to...does union gospel mission have the same dogma? or the hope house? or the anna ogden hall? i know they're all religiously backed too...hmmmm

if you are looking for a replacement charity, research the Alexandria house in Cheney (EWU) they provide assistance to young single moms AS LONG AS they are in school. THAT i defiantly support (and no religious affiliations either!)

JessicaLee said...

Sherry, you are one of the most generous souls I know, so if YOU aren't a bucket dropper, I feel slightly better. And yeah, the Boy Scouts deal is a real bummer, because for all the amazing things they teach young boys... well, there's that whole "no gays" policy that effs it all up.

The Union Gospel Mission states on its websites it helps ANYONE in need, regardless of their religious or personal beliefs (so does the Salvation Army but we know that's not true). I plan to donate to the Mission this year. I'm not sure about the others. The Alexandria House sounds awesome!

gatordad said...

Just catching up on some old blog posts and had to weigh in.

I gained the rank of Eagle Scout when I was a teen. In the 80's the BSA kicked a great leader out for being gay, went to the Supreme Court and won the right to keep him and others out.
That is when I stopped participating and supporting BSA. I get asked to serve on Courts of Honor for Eagle Scout regularly. Though I would love to do it, I do not, don't give them any money, and didn't let my son join.
It's very sad for me as my experience in the BSA was wonderful before the discrimination began.

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