Stores have started to put out their Christmas decorations and yesterday the restaurant I ate lunch at was invaded by the Salvation Army. I guess it is time to gear up for this year’s “War on Christmas.”
I was sitting with my family at lunch when all of a sudden a bunch of people in white uniforms walked into the restaurant to eat. They looked like airline pilots, but I didn’t think we were close to an airport. Then I took a closer look and realized they were members of the Salvation Army.
Most people don’t know much about the Salvation Army except that they take and sell used stuff and ring an annoying bell during the holidays begging for money outside stores which they claim is used to help the poor. As it turns out, there is more to it than that. This group actually thinks of themselves as a somewhat military group complete with uniforms and ranks.
Even though they call themselves the “Salvation Army,” people sometimes forget that they are religious fundamentalists.” Could you imagine if atheists had a group called the “Atheist Marines”? The media would be using such a group as evidence that atheists were becoming militant even if the group just did charity work. But no one claims that the Salvation Army are militant despite the fact that they are strongly fundamentalist and have metaphorically weaponized charity in their battle to “save souls.”
According to Wikipedia:
“The Salvation Army’s ‘War Congress’ in August 1878 said ‘I would like to wear a suit of clothes that would let everyone know I meant war to the teeth and salvation for the world’”
That sounds very peaceful.
The fact is that this “army” believes that human beings are “totally depraved and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God,” and they believe “in the general judgment at the end of the world; in the eternal happiness of the righteous; and in the endless punishment of the wicked.” In other words, they believe in the concept of Hell and they preach this concept to a captive audience of people in need of food, clothing, and shelter.
It bothers me that they prey on people when they are physically and mentally vulnerable rather than waiting until people are in a position where they can best think critically about the claims being made and who have the resources to check the accuracy of those claims. This is really my problem with most religious missionary groups, but the Salvation Army has of course “militarized” their missionary efforts.
I’m cool with trying to help those who are in need, but I just think people shouldn’t exploit people’s vulnerabilities to push a theological agenda. We have to remember that the Salvation Army’s mission is to “preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Helping those in need is merely a recruitment tool and a PR stunt.
Remember the earthquake in Haiti? A group of Scientologists went down there to help those in need and in addition to food, water, and other aid, they also provided free personality tests and Thetan audits. The media went ape-shit and everyone criticized them for exploiting the situation. At the same time, Christian missionaries went down there to do the same thing and handed out free solar powered Bibles. Did anyone in the media think this was exploitation? No, they said that it was great that those in need at least got the aid they needed and who cares about the Bible thing.
Exploitation matters! People’s vulnerable situations shouldn’t be used to win converts. People should be treated with dignity and respect. Help those in need and leave your Bible’s at home. When those people are no longer in a vulnerable position in life, then you can tell them about your magic man who turned water into wine and was killed but came back to life and can never die and no you can’t see him because that would take away your free will to believe in this ridiculous 2000 year old story. When people are properly feed, clothed, and sheltered, with a job, less concerned about their next meal, have spare time, have access to the internet, and the capacity to think critically about what they are been preached about, then you can share your message with them. Unfortunately for the religious, this approach usually ends up with people laughing in their face.