Like clockwork, gay rights groups are encouraging boycotts of the Salvation Army this holiday season. The SA insists that it does not discriminate against gays, but it “hates their sin.” While I agree that this sounds a lot like Orwellian doublespeak, I have mixed feelings about the effort.
Most of my friends know me as a Bah-Humbug kind of a guy. I really don’t get into Christmas. I don’t like 98% of the music — though I’ll stop to listen to Nat King Cole sing “The Christmas Song” pretty much anytime, and I rather like Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time is Here.” I don’t like all the Santa hats and candy canes. My family’s very Christian, so all the Jesus gets to me.
However, there’s one thing that I do like about the Christmas season, and it’s usually the thing that gets overlooked the most. Whether it’s Christmas, or the Solstice, or the New Years, this is a time when we traditionally think of those less fortunate than ourselves, and try to help them. I don’t know how long this has been a tradition, or whether it’s Christian in origin or not. It’s a good tradition, and I’d love it if all the bad ties and stupid gag gifts from Dirty Santa parties could be scrapped, and all that money spent on helping the poor.
To that end, I’d like to say something to all those who are planning on boycotting the Salvation Army this year. It’s easy to take a stand by doing nothing. The real challenge is to take a stand by doing something BETTER than what you’re taking a stand against. Yes, fellow atheists and gay rights advocates, I’m calling you out. Put your feet and your money where your mouth is. Donations are down across the board. Here are some suggestions for how you can make a real difference while taking a chunk out of the Salvation Army’s backside:
- Decide not to exchange gifts with the family this year, or keep it to one gift of twenty dollars or less. Take the money you would have spent, and donate it to the secular charity of your choice.
- If that’s not snarky enough for you, make donations in the name of all your religious family members to the secular charity of your choice. They’ll get thank you letters. It will warm their hearts, and yours.
- Vote with your feet. The Salvation Army isn’t the only organization that can get permits to solicit donations. Get your ass to your favorite charity and get a donation drive started. Lead it. Recruit your friends.
- Have the guts to call out your friends for protesting by doing nothing. People need help the most when it’s the hardest to give.
- Finally, don’t be shy about telling everybody what you’re doing. False modesty won’t get us anywhere here. Think about it. When we start announcing that we’re giving to all these secular charities, it’s going to make the Christians mad. Some of them will give more to the Salvation Army just to spite us. And guess what… the poor are the winners all the way around, and don’t we look clever for baiting the Christians into our clever little trap!
Here’s a list of secular charities.
Sometimes it’s easy for us secular folks to get caught up in being mad at the religious people, and it’s very tempting to just lash out indiscriminately at groups that don’t agree with our egalitarian ideals. Even so, I think we need to make sure we’re adhering to our own ideals, and more importantly, what those ideals represent. We’re here to try to make the world a better place, right? Well, here’s the chance to prove that we aren’t just so much bluster. Frankly, I’d rather everybody donate to the Salvation Army than have the needy suffer because of our ideals.
So, if you’re thinking of boycotting the Salvation Army, good for you for standing up for the ideal of equality. Now, make the harder move and stand up for giving even when it hurts, and helping your fellow man in their time of need. If you’ve already done that, thank you very much from the bottom of my heart. Let’s make this the Bestest Non-Christian Christmas Ever!
(And just think of how hard FAUX News would squirm if atheists out-gave Christians this year…. ooooh, but that would put a crimp in their little scheme.)
EDIT: I don’t normally do wholesale edits like this, but I think this one is worth doing. The Facebook conversation this has sparked has put me onto a point I think is very salient. Personally, I’m not a big fan of boycotts. I don’t like selling hatred of other people, and boycotts feel a lot like telling other people to hate somebody. Beyond that, most boycotts hurt employees much more than higher-ups, and in the case of the Salvation Army boycott, it hurts the people who need charity.
To that end, I think that rather than boycotting the Salvation Army, we should focus on targeted giving. Instead of going on and on about how much the Salvation Army sucks, let’s spend the time promoting all the worthwhile charities that we can believe in without reservation. It accomplishes the same purpose without making us look like haters.