It is easy to make me feel guilty.
I was leaving a retail store before Christmas when I encountered two Salvation Army volunteers. They were pleasant, suburban-looking matrons, which made sense since I was in North Scottsdale. Both were smiling broadly. One was ringing her bell with proper holiday enthusiasm while the other was greeting people and offering reindeer stickers.
As I exited the store, the volunteer with the reindeer stickers approached me and offered me one. I smiled, said; “No, thank you… but Merry Christmas” and kept walking. Rather than moving on to the next potential donor, she continued toward me with her hand outstretched; sticker at the ready. “Oh, you can have one” she chuckled. “No thanks”; I replied and continued toward the parking lot.
Noting my University of Michigan sweatshirt, she continued toward me. “Everyone from Michigan loves reindeer” she said, apparently determined that I not reach the parking lot without a sticker. In response to my third “No thanks” she looked at me and said; “That’s not the holiday spirit! Don’t you like reindeer?” I took a beat while deciding how best to respond and came upon the novel idea of going with the truth. “Not from the Salvation Army”; I said. A serious glare replaced her previously omnipresent, and quite sincere, smile. “Well, that is just rude!”; she told me and turned away.
The Salvation Army ran afoul of the gay community in 2012 when, during a radio interview, one of their media directors responded to a question about the organization’s position that LGBT people “deserve death” by saying;
“Well, that’s a part of our belief system.”
The organization has since clarified their position by the statement:
“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.
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.”
They have continued to support so-called “Ex-gay ministries” that tout their ability to “cure” homosexuals and they have defended their policy of terminating employees whose life styles are deemed contrary to the organization’s beliefs.
O.K. They can believe whatever they want but I prefer to direct the limited resources I have available for charitable giving to organizations that are more affirming. The Salvation Army and other faith-based organizations do a lot of good work. Sadly, many of them also support a conservative social agenda I find disturbing. That said, I would never seek to confront a volunteer about the issue.
Most people who volunteer sincerely want to make a positive contribution. I don’t think that Scottsdale matron woke up that morning and thought; ‘I’m going to go out and oppress LGBT people this Christmas’. I applaud her volunteerism and acknowledge that, to her, the good work the organization does may be more important than the harm that they do.
I am sincerely sorry if I caused her to have a bad day volunteering. I just wish she had recognized “No thank you, but Merry Christmas” was my indication that the conversation was over. That should have been sufficient. Then we would both have had a nicer day.