Friday, December 16, 2011

Why You Should Donate to The Salvation Army Bell Ringers

Once again this year, a boycott of The Salvation Army (hereafter The SA), is being widely promoted by a coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and organizations. It seems that the leading voice in this effort is a gentleman named Bil Browning, via his web site, “The Bilerico Project.” His post is entitled “Why You Shouldn’t Donate to the Salvation Army Bellringers.”

I have zero issues with Mr. Browning’s efforts to grandstand this boycott. On the other hand, I have zero issues with the postures held and decisions made by The SA in this regard. Mr. Browning cites a number of specific incidents, dating back to 1986, in which The SA became actively involved in the politics of sexuality. According to Mr. Browning’s post (and I have no reason to doubt or dispute his report), The SA worked on many levels, and in many global jurisdictions, to fight against legislation that recognized and/or promoted the homosexual lifestyle. Although these activities may seem egregious to many, we would be wise to remember a few things.

The SA is a church. It may well be a church that holds beliefs and promotes ideologies with which you heartily disagree; nonetheless, it is still a church and churches generally function in our diverse cultures without compromising their doctrines. Clearly, The SA’s doctrines include a Biblical interpretation that considers homosexuality inappropriate; yes, even sinful. This posture places The SA on par with a vast number of global denominations and their members. This does not make them right; it simply means their views are not unique and their practices not solitary. And the question follows: why the singular and determined focus on The SA?

Secondly, Mr. Browning’s Boycott seems unmoved by dismissing over 150 years of good works. Directly involved in feeding, clothing and sheltering the poor and dispossessed since its inception in the 2nd half of the 19th century, The SA has evolved into a mission that also fights human trafficking, pornography and abuse and assists prisoners and their families, the elderly, intercity youth and many more. Their home page: The attitude of “they offended me so I’m going to tear them down despite any good they’ve done” is short sighted, self-centered and embarrassingly childish. If each of us dismissed every person and institution that offended us, no one would be talking to anyone. (Perhaps this is where our society is headed.)

Mr. Browning ends his article with a short list of alternative organizations to which we could donate. Included on that list are Goodwill, The Red Cross, Habitat For Humanity and Doctors Without Borders. Good for him. However, “The Huffington Post,” reporting on Browning’s Boycott, ended an article with the following paragraph:

Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, was similarly critical of the Salvation Army's stance, noting, "If a racist organization was trying to collect money with the message that some of the money was going towards doing good, would you support them? I would hope not." He went on to suggest people would be better served by donating to more pro-LGBT organizations such as the Howard Brown Health Center, the American Red Cross, or The Trevor Project.

The Howard Brown Project’s Mission Statement, as culled from their web site, states: “Howard Brown exists to eliminate the disparities in health care experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people through research, education and the provision of services that promote health and wellness…” The Trevor Project promotes itself with the following blurb from its web site: “The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.” Good causes. Please give to them if you are so moved. I would simply point out that The Howard Brown Project and The Trevor Project outwardly claim to serve their own and make no mention of helping the poor, the homeless, the disenfranchised, the abused, the elderly, prisoners and their families, prostitutes, drug addicts, alcoholics, the destitute, etc.

Our society has become more twisted than any bizarre projections I heard as a young person. We are more centered on the mysterious and damnable “self” than ever before. I suspect few citizens are aware of this mini-uprising and fewer still interested in participating. At its core we perceive it to be antithetical to the Spirit of Christmas. I fully acknowledge there are young people struggling with sexual identity. God forbid that any of their stories end up like the heartbreaking tragedy of Tyler Clementi. It is good to know there are organizations available to guide them through their conflicts and God bless those doing that good work and supporting it. But please do not discount The Salvation Army; they are serving “the least of these.”

Merry Christmas!