EVAN: Dearest audience, this week we dedicate our blog posts [more or less] to the holidays, and today’s Writers’ Roundtable is especially festive with not one, but two Christmas-related topics. Seeing as this is the season of giving the first one, website/movement No Red Kettles, is particularly appropriate.
KAT: Well, I first learned about the debate around the Salvation Army on my Facebook feed where it was causing a pretty big debate.
The first article I read about it insisted that the Salvation Army “hates gays”, which I immediately thought was pretty fishy. The Sally Ann did release an official response, but the debate has continued, because for many people it has clicked that the Salvation Army is a Christian organization, and they aren’t so sure they want to support it because of that.
This video from No Red Kettles pretty well sums up that argument:
GORDON: Having roomed with a now-officer of the Salvation Army for two years, I guess my initial reaction is to blow most of this off. He [my ex-roommate], for sure, would classify himself as an ardently pro-LBGT supporter, and having been friends with a number of other Salvationists, the impression I always got was that they were one of the few sects of Christianity with an actual grasp of basic morality.
I had heard rumblings about the Salvation Army’s issues with the gay community before, but these always struck me as isolated incidents. Having read much of what No Red Kettles has to base their argument on, it STILL seems to me that they’re bashing an entire organization for the hateful actions of a few of its members.
I mean, how big is the Salvation Army?
EVAN: Well, they are an army, Gordon.
KAT: That was my immediate reaction too, Gordon. I have a really close friend who went through “war college” and she is one of the most loving, least judgemental people I know. It is also frustrating because the first thing that occured to me was, if this hurts the amount of donations going to the Sally Ann then does No Red Kettles plan to go out and feed the hungry instead? It just seems really short sighted at this point.
GORDON: In THEIR defense, they’re stated mission is to change the Salvation Army’s reported views, not to end the organization as a whole.
EVAN: Also, for anyone who hasn’t visited the site, I want to be fair and state that they do offer alternative charities to donate to in lieu of SA.
KAT: Good point.
I think it is also worth pointing out that a lot of Christian organizations do take the Bible very literally, and while they’re focus is still primarily on loving the people they serve, if that is their stance they probably don’t condone homosexual behaviour. In which case we end up with the religious rights vs homosexual community’s rights issue.
GORDON: I guess what’s really bugging me about the video you posted, Kat, is how a lot of the information is being pretty clearly twisted. At 3:30-ish, the speaker starts bashing the Salvation Army for their anti-alcohol initiatives in England at the inception of the group.
You’re probably not going to find a more viciously pro-alcohol supporter than myself, but even I know that at the time, Britain was dealing with a gin epidemic that was probably on par, if not greater, with crack use in the US in the 80s and early 90s. Lives were being destroyed en-masse by the propagation of this stuff.
The fact that the speaker would try to, well, spin what the Salvation Army was doing as them being “killjoys” rather than proto-substance abuse counselors doesn’t really speak well to their grasp of their other facts, y’know?
KAT: Definitely. That being said I don’t think we can ignore the way the values of the two communities may continue to clash in the future.
Part of the reason why this debate really drew me in is because both the Christian community and the LGBT community hold a pretty big portion of my heart, but I’m not entirely sure that there is a way to make both groups’ values coincide on a political level. That’s why I think Salvation Army tries to stay out of politics (which I’ve experienced firsthand in the past). I’m just not sure avoiding politics is going to be sufficient to assure the LGBT community that they aren’t an enemy. Does that make sense?
EVAN: I think that were the Salvation Army more upfront with the accusations being leveled against them and dealt with them accordingly [namely, the Major who implied that homosexuals should die] then things would be more okay.
As far as I know they’re not actively campaigning against gay right a la a certain science fiction author we all know and don’t necessarily love, and by concentrating on serving people of all faiths and orientations I think they can weather this campaign and place attention where it needs to be.
KAT: Agreed. I just really hope the controversy doesn’t hurt the work they would normally be doing over this season.
GORDON: But what about us? Do we ignore the allegations and donate anyways, or do we make a conscious effort to see our donations go through other channels?
EVAN: I think that it’s our responsibility as people who want our money to go to good causes to investigate these allegations for ourselves and find out how valid they are, then decide whether or not our donations could be better spent elsewhere.
KAT: Us personally? Well I think I will continue to donate based on the people I know with the Salvation Army who I trust. I also feel like it’s okay for a religious group to have certain standards for themselves as long as they don’t hold that standard for others. I’m sure the Sally Ann would feel the same way about premarital sex as they do about homosexuality, but that doesn’t mean they believe anyone having sex outside of marriage should die.
Once we start trying to take down NGOs that have different values or faith groups we start eliminating a lot of people that are actually doing some pretty great services. Ultimately it is probably just a matter of personal choice and what makes you comfortable.
EVAN: Now, right before our conversation can veer off into a full-fledged topic which is more or less related to a chicken sandwich chain, I want to direct us to a Christmas tune I’m sure everyone is familiar with. “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”
For a number of years before the internet took off it’s been viewed as being somewhat, well, rapey, and I’m going to open up discussion on where we stand with all that. Here’s a gender-swapped version featuring Selma Blair and Rainn Wilson, in case you somehow haven’t heard it:
GORDON: It was written in 1949, so I could say “Why is anyone surprised,” but honestly, I think people are reading too much into it.
KAT: I really used to love that song… until I started listening to the lyrics. I still kinda have a love-hate deal doing on.
GORDON: I mean, the male voice is pretty clearly pleading with the female to stay, and whether or not he just loves her company or has less “noble” intentions, I’ve not gotten the impression that the gal is going to do anything but what she wants to, y’know?
EVAN: So how much do you think has to do with the actual lyrics versus their delivery? As the video above shows, that has a lot to do with their interpreted meaning.
GORDON: I think you CAN turn the lyrics into this scenario (Key and Peele did the exact same thing in a video of theirs), but I think you could potentially do that to a lot of things.
KAT: And I’m not sure the “what’s in this drink” line would have been an actual allusion to a date-rape drug… the way it tends to be perceived today. But I could be wrong about that.
GORDON: I think people started out having some fun with the double entendres and the 40s’ less than stellar treatment of women and this “problem” evolved more out of the newly created assumption that the song was “rapey”.
KAT: So it’s debatable whether or not the song is actually “rapey”, but if it really is, then does it matter if we continue to listen to it? I feel the same way about one of my favorite Christmas movies (It’s a Wonderful Life) and their treatment of the one black character (a maid).
I’m just wondering if we need to put aside the media that was produced in a time with recognizably messed up values, or if it can still be considered valid entertainment.
EVAN: I was talking to a friend and one of our regular readers a while back about what she thought about Thor: The Dark World [my feelings about it are pretty plain] and she said that she had to “turn off the sjw part of [her] brain, but there were some really enjoyable moments.”
“SJW” stands for “Social Justice Warrior”, which is oftentimes used derogatorily, apparently, but which is a moniker for those people on tumblr who are staunch advocates of feminism, other areas of social justice, et cetera.
Basically what she’s saying, and that I kind of agree with, is that we’re always going to find something that we find offensive if we look hard enough [and sometimes we don’t have to look that hard], regardless of the time period in which it was made. So, to answer your question with a question, when do we decide to let things slide?
GORDON: This isn’t the first time we’ve covered the issue on the blog, so I want to try out the general litmus test I had recommended-
Kat, say the first thing that comes to your head. Was It’s a Wonderful Life a good movie?
EVAN: I’d like to answer a well, but full disclosure, I have never seen It’s A Wonderful Life.
GORDON: I think, when it comes down to these people or movements or pieces of culture, we just have to ask ourselves that question. After all the consideration we give to its faults and merits, can we say that X is good?
KAT: I think it is still somewhat scary to give things your support, because that stamp of approval reflects back upon you. Especially if you are a person who hasn’t experienced the kind of thing happening in that song/movie/etc.
GORDON: I’m not necessarily giving my support to that song. I’m simply saying that when it comes to these decisions on complicated issues (be it Thomas Jefferson, mouthpiece of liberty and slave owner, to the Salvation Army, “Doing the Most Good [and possibly anti-gay]), once we’ve given them full consideration, we should be able to offer a general consensus on their value.
I gave the example in a post I wrote about naming streets or airports after historical figures– do we only name them after flawless champions of right and reason? If not, how do we decide what we value? What we want to claim as our heritage?
EVAN: I’m gonna pull us back, seeing as we’re close to out of time and should at least wrap up our viewpoints on this song. As far as I’m concerned the tumblr post on the right is kind of accurate in a pretty hilarious way, but at the same time we need to of course view all things within their respective contexts.
I think it’s fair to say that the song exemplifies a manner of courtship that people aren’t particularly comfortable with, and if that’s how they feel that is okay.
KAT: Agreed. I guess the issue of what we want to give our support to isn’t going to be easy. From the Sally Ann to Christmas songs, this kind of thing still just ends up a personal choice.
GORDON: That’s certainly true.
EVAN: Wow, Kat. You, uh, you wrapped this up better than I ever could have hoped to, so I guess we should probably say our good-byes, huh. I mean, this is our last Culture War Correspondence of 2013.
GORDON: That’s means you’re not going to be seeing Gordon in a while folks, as I’ll be off taming wolverines in the Mongolian steppes using nothing but a Honda accord owner’s manual and a rusty spoon (or I’ll stay at home, I haven’t decided yet).
KAT: And I will be partying up Christmas style, because unlike some people here at CWR, I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!!
EVAN: I’ll likely say it again in my Friday post, but after that we’re out for two weeks, with a few end of the year posts a little later on. We deserve a break just as much as you deserve to read this post. Because you’re worth it.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a . . . good rest of 2013? I, uh . . . I didn’t think this through. I’ve also never seen any version of A Christmas Carol all the way through . . .
Man, you guys know I have to comment here.
First off, I know that Salvation Army terminology is legitimately confusing. Here’s a quick rundown:
Soldier=Full-fledged church member (equivalent to being baptized into your church)
I am a soldier who also just so happens to be an employee. I am not an officer. Our friend Katie will be when she’s ordained in June, though.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way time to discuss the issue at hand.
Here’s a really solid response covering many of the complaints: http://salvationarmynorth.org/about-us/what-we-believe/lgbt-statement/
As Gordon rightly pointed out I am in most cases very much in favor of the LGBT community. Christianity as a whole has not been kind to that community and I believe that the only Christlike (hell, ethical or even humanly decent) response to our history of oppression is a great big apology (See http://www.themarinfoundation.org/imsorry/). The church as a whole has a long way to go.
That said The Salvation Army is not a discriminatory organization. As you point out there are isolated incidents, like there are with any Christian organization, but as an organization we believe those incidents are in opposition to our core values and beliefs.
I work for the Portland Citadel Corps (Salvation Army church) and this Christmas season we are serving approximately one thousand families in the Greater Portland area with food, clothing, and toys. This is only possible through the contributions of donors. My wife works at the Divisional Headquarters for Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and has the unfortunate job of handling our mailings and the responses we get. Every day she handles letters ranging from “I’m sorry I can’t give because of your beliefs” to “F*** you, burn in hell!” And all this based on misinformation about what we actually believe.
Kat, you mention that you hope this controversy isn’t hurting us. I’m sorry to inform you that it really, really is. We work with limited funding and many Salvation Army churches (example http://www.wcsh6.com/news/article/265576/2/Salvation-Army-looking-for-last-minute-donations) are running out because our donations are so far below the support we would normally expect at this time of year.
As you probably know I am all for boycotts. I boycott several corporations and buy exclusively fair trade chocolate, coffee, tea, and sugar because I believe where my money goes really makes a difference. But boycotts only work if there is something worth boycotting. No Salvationist holding to the actual teachings of The Salvation Army would say homosexuals should be put to death, so why cripple our entire organization when no good can come of it?
All this started a few years ago when a small LGBT news source out of California claimed that The Salvation Army discriminates in it’s services. I have a little experiment for you to try. Go into any Salvation Army and ask for assistance of any kind. They will ask you to fill out a form. Inspect that form carefully. Does it anywhere ask you about your sexual orientation? No? Are you sure? Check again.
No. The Salvation Army does not discriminate in our services based on sexual orientation. That information is not relevant to whether or not a person is in need so why would we collect it? We exist to serve people in need. No exceptions.
As I said The Salvation Army where I work is serving about a thousand families this year. Many of those are immigrant families whose needs fall through the cracks. And given that Maine is a state with legalized gay marriage and a relatively large LGBT community (especially in Portland) I would be very surprised if among the people we are serving there were no members of the LGBT community.
What really frustrates me here is the progression of accusations, a sort of grasping at straws. When The Salvation Army responded to claims of discrimination with a series of interviews with LGBT individuals who had received services from us certain members of the LGBT community responded this year with photoshopped images and unwarranted attacks. Why? I legitimately don’t understand.
If you want to boycott a discriminatory organization or corporation please do. There are so many. But please do not boycott The Salvation Army because of falsified claims.
The only people who really suffer are the people we serve.
“Key and Peele already did it” is going to become the new “The Simpsons already did it.”
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