In November 1888, more than 200 American children, homeless and hungry, were fed Thanksgiving dinner in Jackson, Mich.
Seven years later in the same city, more than 500 of the poorest people were given Christmas meals, which were described as “ham, jam and glory, with turkey on the side,” according to an 1895 article in Jackson’s The Daily Citizen.
In 1919, selfless giving struck again as the city’s county jail inmates were blessed with a Christmas feast that many people would argue is undeserved.
This year across the United States, the age-old givers – now known as The Salvation Army – served more than 29 million people year-round.
From the homeless to the jobless to those battling addictions, from children to senior citizens to atheists and believers, The Salvation Army has provided noble care for people who would normally do without.
It began with one man, a selfless aim and an unyielding devotion to humankind. William Booth and his wife, Catherine, set out on London’s streets with full hearts and intentions of healing and helping those with empty pockets and lost hope.
With a firm belief in God within, Booth set no boundaries to his giving and was known to cater to the “lowliest” of citizens – thieves, prostitutes, gamblers and drunkards – just as he believed his Devine Power would do.
Because of his faith, Booth felt spiritually encouraged to share what he genuinely believed to be the glory of God with everyone he encountered.
Churches in London harshly judged those who Booth had served and saved because of their less-than-perfect pasts.
Despite this, the founder of the church (The Salvation Army is technically a church, not a charity) and former drunks and thieves paraded London’s streets in the name of God and charity.
Since its formation in England, the church has grown from a seasonal organization to a powerhouse foundation working 365 days a year to better the lives of Americans in need – no matter their gender, race, religious beliefs, history or, yes, sexual orientation.
In recent news, The Salvation Army fell victim to unreasonable and untrue accusations after one of its volunteers blatantly expressed his own views concerning the Christian organization and homosexuality.
When asked to clarify whether or not The Salvation Army believes that homosexuals deserve death, Australian Andrew Craibe responded, “Well, that’s a part of our belief system.”
Because of one man’s views, an entire movement against the organization has blossomed in the United States.
Gay and lesbian groups are targeting the foundation, deeming it unworthy of receiving charity during Christmastime.
The official spokesman for The Salvation Army, Maj. Bruce Harmer, released a statement following Craibe’s “extremely regrettable” remarks, ensuring Americans that members “do not believe, and would never endorse, a view that homosexual activity should result in any form of physical punishment.”
On Americablog.com, a progressive political blog created by John Aravosis, former writer for the Economist, users urge the public to drop “anti-gay bigots vouchers” into the red buckets of bell ringers this season – instead of donating money.
One blogger from the website brought attention to a statement he found on the website for the church’s Australian branch:
“[Homosexual activity is] as rebellion against God’s plan for the created order . . . Homosexual practice, however, is, in the light of Scripture, clearly unacceptable. Such activity is chosen behaviour and is thus a matter of the will. It is therefore able to be directed or restrained in the same way heterosexual urges are controlled. Homosexual practice would render any person ineligible for full membership (soldiership) in the [Salvation] Army.”
Even if the church’s views are anti-gay, it is a personal and religious freedom to not induct members who practice homosexuality – not simply for being a homosexual.
Not only are some members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community not donating, they have started a fiery lie claiming that the foundation refuses aid and service to homosexuals and spends donation money on anti-gay legislation.
This is far from the truth. All money raised within a community is donated to that community.
These are the lies that spread when people take offense before educating themselves on an issue.
Refusing to donate to an organization that has significantly changed the lives of millions upon millions of people from many countries because of its religious values is outrageous.
For those who oppose: Is this resentment worth losing employment opportunities, stomachs fed, paid medical care, transportation, disaster and social services, child daycare and rehabilitation centers across the United States?
Some of the programs offered through the church include a Los Angeles-based service that provides transitional and permanent housing to homeless and low-income families affected by HIV/AIDS, and the Missing Persons Program, which provided service to more than 209,000 people in 2004.
That same year, The Salvation Army’s League of Mercy saw more than 4.3 million people with special needs in hospitals, nursing homes and correctional facilities.
Seeing as the spokesman for the entire organization denied the Australian man’s ludicrous belief, and it says nowhere in the church’s statement that homosexuals do not deserve service or cannot operate in the church, The Salvation Army remains an important addition to societies today – and not during Christmas alone, but all year long.
Friends, stuffing red buckets with spiteful vouchers (instead of donations to the needy) is just as greedy and ignorant as those who believe in burning homosexuals at the stake.