Ring-a-ding-ding: a moral conundrum

I am an incredibly soft touch when it comes to people wanting my money for good causes.  The Better Half literally has to change the channel if one of those ASPCA ads comes on showing sad dogs being rescued and kittens pawing forlornly out of cages, because otherwise I will ask if we can send them money every time the ad runs.  (Seriously.  Every time.)  A certain international aid organization has gotten a tidy sum of my money because of the hopeful, happy expression on a little girl’s face as she hugs a goat in one of their mailers.  When the local NPR stations have their membership drive, I often have to remind myself that I already make an automatic monthly donation because otherwise I will call and give them more.

Look up “white liberal guilt,” and there’s a picture of me sheepishly forking over my credit card.

Anyhow, the other day I was leaving a store and passed a guy ringing a bell for the Salvation Army.  It seemed out of season, but that’s not why things stuck in my mind.  What was unusual is that I made no effort to rummage in my pocket for change, but instead scuttled past as unobtrusively as possible.

Why?  This:

An Australia-based Salvation Army official is catching heat for implying in an interview that gays should be put to death.


Ryan: According to the Salvation Army, [gay people] deserve death. How do you respond to that, as part of your doctrine?

Craibe: Well, that’s a part of our belief system.

Ryan: So we should die.

Craibe: You know, we have an alignment to the Scriptures, but that’s our belief.

I had read about the above a few days before, and it popped into mind when I saw the nice man ringing the bell.  And I decided not to give the organization any of my money.

Now, I don’t really think that Craibe or anyone else at the organization is itching to grab rocks to throw at my head anytime soon.  And frankly, I don’t really care what the Salvation Army believes about gays.  I didn’t care when 80s sitcom has-been Kirk Cameron told Piers Morgan that my ilk would destroy society.  It’s a free country, and I don’t think it serves any purpose to shame people into pretending they don’t believe what they do.  True, I’d prefer those beliefs not form the basis for public policy, but if people think I’m a horrible sinner who’s going to burn in hell for all eternity, that’s their business.

But that doesn’t mean I’m keen to give them any dough.  They can believe what they like, but if I don’t agree then they’ll have to ask someone else to help support their good works.  Right?

Except then I heard about this on the drive to work this morning (from a different source):

The Salvation Army will be opening a Mass Feeding Center tonight, July 2nd in the Exhibit Hall of the Roanoke Civic Center for citizens without power.


And that’s the problem.  As much as I may find their theology odious, especially as it pertains to people like me and families like mine, they do do good works.  Insofar as I have a theology, it compels me to do such things as feed the hungry and shelter the needy.  And isn’t that a more pressing matter than what they have to say about gays?

Is it morally proper for me to refuse donation to the Salvation Army because of their teaching about gays, even if it is peripheral to their mission?  Is my objection to that belief sufficient grounds to withhold charitable giving, when I would otherwise feel compelled to give?  Did I make the right call?  Can I stop feeling guilty for walking past the nice man with the bell (who almost certainly has no idea what some guy in Australia has to say about anything)?

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. Yes you can stop feeling guilty.

    There’s only a finite amount of $ to go around, and you decide your priorities. Although I am as straight as a ruler, I do not donate to charitable organizations whose fundamental beliefs state that homosexuality is wrong or evil. Those are not my values. I am a committed autism advocate, but I do not donate to Autism Speaks because their marketing demonizes autism (and that’s just one reason).

  2. Yes — absolutely OK. If you feel the need, send whatever you might have given the SA to your local food bank or soup kitchen. Then you can “feed the hungry and shelter the needy” without also aiding homophobes.

  3. Only if they are okay with you advocating the death of people who ring bells at shopping centers.

  4. I used to think doctors were pretty cool.

    But then Doctor Mengle.

    So now I think all doctors are bastards.

    • *sigh*

      Look, man. I’ve had my beefs with you in the past, but recently things have seemed better, and I’d really like to keep things mellow. So I’m just going to ask outright for you to make your point plainly, instead of being needlessly cryptic and making irksomely inflammatory references. The last time someone made a reference to Josef Mengele, I deleted it. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt here, but maybe you’d like to help me see what notion you’re trying to communicate?


      • You thought (organization) was really good.

        Then you saw (member of organization) who was really bad.

        Now you hate all of (organization).

        You honestly don’t see anything wrong with this chain of reasoning?

        • It doesn’t fit?

          Organization supports good causes.
          Organization supports bad causes

          Do you still support organization?

          The unspelled out jump there is whether the SA in general has an anti-gay viewpoint, or just that one guy. You assumed ‘just the guy’, but the post indicated it was the whole organization.

          • “Salvation Army spokesman Major Bruce Harmer quickly released a statement distancing the organization from Craibe’s “extremely regrettable” remarks, noting that members do “not believe, and would never endorse, a view that homosexual activity should result in any form of physical punishment.”

            Harmer goes on to note: “The Salvation Army believes in the sanctity of all human life and believes it would be inconsistent with Christian teaching to call for anyone to be put to death. We consider every person to be of infinite value, and each life a gift from God to be cherished, nurtured and preserved.” “

        • And the SA’s history of campaigning in different countries to either keep homosexuality illegal or campaigningand financing anti-GLBT discrimination laws, or their lobbing the previous White House admin to allow them to get federal funds without having to eliminate their ability to not employ or offer full family health benefits on the basis of sexual orientation (which started a boycott of SA by the gay community that’s run more than a decade)?

          That was all just that one (member of organization)? Boy, he really gets around.

          Good thing there’s no reason for the (organization) to be controversial on this subject.

          • I was about to say DD had a point, dependent on whether the Australian official spoke for the organization as a whole. But if this is true, I find it very good reason to boycott the Salvation Army. (Hint: I didn’t read the link.)

        • I’ve got no problem judging Police Organizations or Government Organizations based on similar chains.

          If you’ve got a mouthpiece who doesn’t have the sense to shovel sand, you have an obligation to GET A NEW ONE. Here’s how the spokesperson should have handled that “We have Biblical Principles as our bedrock, yes, but we focus more on Jesus and how he told us to be like the Good Samaritan. We see our job as to feed the hungry, heal the sick, comfort the afflicted, and spread the Gospel. All are welcome.”

          And if the interviewer decided to push it and ask “But what about Leviticus?” and otherwise fish for a damning quotation, have a spokesperson who could say “You know, last Easter, we fed X0,000 people a dinner with all of the fixings… and they had a choice between eating lamb or eating ham. Leviticus says a lot… but we see our job as to feed the hungry, heal the sick, comfort the afflicted, and spread the Gospel. All are welcome.”

          If you have a spokesperson who, effectively, peppersprays proverbial college students doing little more than proverbially non-violently sitting down and, not only that, does it ON TAPE???, then your spokesperson’s ass should be fired. After a hearing, of course.

          If they aren’t, you are officially allowed to come to conclusions about the entire organization.

        • Y’know, man. You could actually just express an opinion, like everyone else has had the courtesy to do. But no. Not you. You have to make some pointlessly obscure reference in an effort to appear clever. How very droll.

          Serves me right for thinking better of you, I suppose. More the fool me.

          • Those who are fearful resort to Gentile tactics of lording over others with political majorities or economic power.

            What is that word doing there?

          • Mike, hardcore Protestantism is tough for secularists as well as Catholic and Jewish types to wrap their minds around. Read through his blog—for instance, Constantine is everything that’s wrong with “political” Christianity and by extension, Papism, the Roman Church.

            Yet Moore believes history is “providential,” IOW that God used Constantine for His own inscrutable divine purposes. By “Gentiles,” I assume he means those working in disharmony with God’s will, not in accordance with it. Roman oppression, that sort of thing. Hardcore Protestants are into that arm’s-length “in this world not of this world” thing, and Baptists in particular have been at the vanguard of separation of church and state for theological purposes. [As opposed to the secular “for the good of government” purposes.]


            Russell D. Moore is Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also serves as Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics.

          • I’m not sure that Christians who subscribe to a particular theology have a monopoly on calling themselves “biblical.”

          • I though it was a very nice essay, very clear both in what he believes in and why he doesn’t consider a boycott the proper mean to pursue it, and very generous to those who disagree on either count.That word threw me, though — I’ve never seen it used to mean “others” by a non-Mormon Christian. But I came to the same conclusion about its meaning there that you did.

          • Heh heh. I knew that would get yr attention. Still, it takes quite a bit of theologizing to get past Paul of Tarsus on this one, and theologizing is always suspect in the face of sola scriptura.

            We would not call Roman Catholics “biblical” Christians in this sense either; the Romish go in for quite a bit of theologizing. “Fundamentalist” Christians lacked enough scope [and is pejorative in secular fora]; “evangelical” has too much scope. Thus, I settled on “biblical,” sola scriptura with a relative disdain for theologizing.

            And of course there’s the larger point of an ever-widening circle of boycotts. Now Anderson Cooper has turned gay to try to save his ratings, and Macy’s has donned the gay uniform as well

            —and quite fetchingly, we must add:


            Although the Sally Army opposes the gay agenda, it’s passively; Macy’s is actively advancing it. If it’s not one thing it’s another. Ah, for the simple days of table grapes and Teletubbies.




            At the forefront of AIDS outreach in Dade County, the Here’s Hope program is a 68-bed facility that provides tranisitional housing, meals, case management, NA and AA support groups, individual drug and alcohol counseling, HIV education, life skills, and ESL classes and health care to individuals and families infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.


          • Mike, America was built on Protestantism; now it’s Jews and Catholics manning the Supreme Court to extract the fruits of its Founding promises. Not an original note of the irony on my part, but accurate, i think.

            There was also this recent book that made the same case about the early 20th century: Jews and Catholics finally included in, the term “Judeo-Christian” invented.


            Tri-Faith America: How Catholics and Jews Held Postwar America to Its Protestant Promise. By Kevin M. Schultz

          • I don’t think one must subscribe to everything one finds in the Bible to call one’s self “biblical.”

            Or are women expected to keep silent in your church?

          • “My” church, Russell? I don’t discuss “my” church in fora like this, I thought you knew that.

          • Fair enough. We need not discuss “your church.”

            But the whole sola scriptura thing is a canard. Very few churches these days (blessedly) use the Bible as an inerrant template for what they believe or do. A great many more delude themselves by thinking they do, but they don’t really. They pay attention to what they like, and ignore what they like.

            So, sure, it may take theologizing or whatever to “get past” Paul of Tarsus on homosexuality. Who cares? (I am no great fan of Paul’s, myself, and generally think he swapped being one kind of Pharisee for another, but never stopped being a Pharisee at heart.) We manage to overlook lots of other things he said, so it’s nothing to be too self-congratulatory about when we latch onto that one.

          • Russell, taking Paul as “gospel” truth is more biblical. Just is. I’m sympathetic to the theology that Paul isn’t Jesus and therefore doesn’t have Jesus’ divine authority, but the “biblical” view is that God put everything between those covers as Divine Writ, the Word of God, and that includes the epistles. According to the sola scriptura view, they are not commentaries, they do not contain error.

            As for your view that such folk are “deluded,” that’s an intramural Protestant battle, and with over 30,000 sects, I suppose what made for Protestantism in the first place.

          • Tom, it is a fool’s errand to try convincing me that any church on the face of the earth follows everything found and commanded between Genesis and the Revelation. Every single one picks and chooses, whether or not they are honest enough to admit it.

          • I wouldn’t try to convince you of anything, Russell. This is a colloquy, a public discussion, where ideas are exchanged for the reader to consider.

  5. I have the cutest Shih Tzu, and right now we’re out of dog food. Can you help?

      • I’m a starving grad student and out of ramen. I have a Sarah McLaughlin CD and a camcorder. What is your mailing address?

    • We need a League YouTube channel devoted to “videos that make Russell send us all money”.

      • I could put up a bunch of videos of baby girl loudly crying because she ‘needs’ more crayons, M&Ms, toys or an iPad, do you think he’d cave? She can get pretty pitiful.

        • Sorry, I am actually impervious to the cries of children. I am, personally, the proximate cause of many essentially every day I go to work.

          If you want to wring cash from your kid, you need to shoot video (still photos work fine, really) of her looking innocently proud of an animal she’s caring for.

  6. Surely there are other charities on the same beat, no?

    • That’s my thought. If there are other charities that aren’t, say, genocidally homophobic, then why not donate to them?

  7. I’m with the commentariate here Doc. The Salvation Army has no monopoly of charity provision in the storm afflicted parts of the US. If you Google a bit you’ll likely be quickly able to find other smaller organizations specifically taking donations for helping with this relief.

    Heck, donating to them instead of SA would probably result in more charitable bang for your buck that giving to a larger charity like SA would. Smaller, younger and more singularly focused charities pass on more of their money to their causes than the bigger ones do.

    If it’s any consolation when you mentioned why you were at the liquor store I felt a brief strong urge to rush out and buy you a bottle of vermouth; none of our kind should be without the gentle comfort of vermouth!

  8. I have the same crisis of consciousness every time my kids ask to go to Chik-fil-a.

    Yes, they’re a bunch of gay bashing reactionaries, but should I deny my kids because of it? I could say, “no we can’t go because daddy disagrees with their politics”, but to a young child that comes across as “daddy is an asshole who is denying your right to waffle-fries”.

    On second thought, that’s a horrible comparison. Carry on.

    • I tend to be a little more forgiving of businesses than charities, since I think of it as a transaction rather than a gift, though perhaps that should be the other way around?

    • Can you elaborate, or provide a link?

      Chik-Fil-A gives a shit about gay people?

    • This is a big problem for me. I love chik-fil-a’s food, and they just opened a store in Chicago (about six months ago). My girlfriend and I go there on date night a lot (we’re pretty cheap dates). And yet, I hate the message they apparently endorse.

      • They put an addictive chemical in their chicken that makes ya crave it fortnightly.

        There used to be a local Cuban restaurant with delicious food, and really nice staff – really made you feel welcome, like family. I loved this place, and went all the time (it was very close to where I was living, and cheap to boot), turned a bunch of friends on to it. This was in the mid-90’s.

        One day I saw an interaction (from the opposite end of the counter) between the owner and a black man. It appeared the black man was trying to order and the owner was basically just ignoring him, stonewalling. I was kind of far away, and wasn’t entirely sure what I was seeing, plus I thought there could be some history there. The man trying to order did look a little bit run-down and I thought that maybe he was a homeless guy begging, or trying to run some sort of scam, or maybe he was in last week, and threw up on the counter or something.

        Anyway, I didn’t really think much more about it at the time, but later I was in there another time, and this time a well-dressed black guy and his wife or girlfriend were basically getting the same treatment; the black guy was just completely in disbelief, looking around at other patrons, like ‘ are you seeing this?’. There was no doubt now in my mind that the owner just did not want to serve blacks.

        A Cuban friend of mine from Miami told me that Cuban prejudice against blacks is extremely common (whether amongst all Cubans or expatriates only I do not know, and I am taking her word for it here and have no idea how common it really is).

        I resolved to never go again, despite the great food, and how nice they always were to me, and how affordable it was.

        My boycott lasted only 8 months.

        I am so weak when it comes to good food. 🙁

        The restaurant failed anyway eventually, so there’s that.

  9. Like you, I personally tend to not care what people believe so long as they don’t put their ideology into public policy.

    They can believe that I’m going to hell, fine, fine, oh, you’re feeding people? Here’s a $20.

    That said, for any given response to any given crisis, there are always at least one (if not seven) competing charities helping people. Maribou and I like Heifer International. If we feel loving, we can donate goats, or bunnies, or duckies. If we are really pissed off we can give bees.

    If you find yourself wanting to give, but not wanting to give to people who are trying to do everything they can to alienate you? Buy some bees for them.

    • Heifer International is the organization I referenced in the OP with the picture of the smiling girl hugging a goat. I asked people to donate to it (and Smile Train) in lieu of Christmas presents last year, because they very cunningly sent me mailings with pictures of kids I could be helping in them. I am a goner if you send me pictures of hopeful-looking kids.

      • Oh, of course. (I admit, due to my upbringing, when I think of charitable organizations, I think of World Vision, HCJB Radio, Project Mercy, New Tribes, or Moody Bible Institute… that sort of thing. When you mentioned the goat-hugging, I immediately saw a World Vision logo above it. Non-Missionary charitable organizations are so new and novel for me (even in my 30’s!) that I assume that they’re new and novel for everybody. I should really, really stop doing that.)

      • Alas, some of us, being a little cynical, or is that “coal-hearted” have not been quite as impressed with Heifer International, and Smile Train seems to reaching an optimum size for the service it provides, but seems to do a much better job than its competitor, who runs more adds. But then we have contributed to both (though I have a trip to Arkansas in my “future works” plan).

      • Heifer International

        Are they the ones that donate day-old bread to the indigent?

  10. Wouldst thou go amongst men? Firstly, thou must learn to cleanse thine hands with dirty water.
    —Nietzsche, TSZ

    If you’re looking for someone that shares all of your ideals, you might be better off just staying in bed and pulling the covers up over your head.
    It’s enough to share a few objectives with the people we come across.
    Like you and I, they also travel a long journey.
    Be kind to strangers; for each one of them is locked in a fierce battle.

    That said, I don’t think it matters much in the long run whether you donated on one certain occasion or not.
    You have a good heart, doc (of course, I don’t mean that in the medical sense– I know how touchy you are about naturopaths. . . ); your inner nobility will find a way to express itself.
    In fact, I can tell you that it practically demands that it should be expressed.
    It’s part of who you are.

  11. I give money to Salvation Army. Check with your local chapter, point this disgusting episode out to them. I have already forwarded it to my contacts within Salvation Army. In point of fact, Salvation Army has been doing work with indigent AIDS patients since the disease first appeared and they have never stinted since. They were among the first to do so.

    • Second to this – feel free to not donate, but make sure the org. knows why, either through yr local chapter or as high up as you can get your complaint heard.

      ‘Hmmm, donations are down this year’ could be attributable to any number of things. ‘Donations are down, and man people are PISSED’ is more clear, and more likely to effect the kind of change you want.

  12. My wife cries whenever those ASPCA commercials come on. She has to leave the room. Part of me feels they are a bit manipulative in that way.

    • There’s a show on some sitcom (I wish I could remember what it was, it seemed Seinfeldian in nature) wherein they are roped in to trying to raise money for a kid named Roscoe or something like that who has cancer. For a picture, they take a picture of him with the family’s aging bet. They rake in a lot of money… donors assume the dog has cancer.

  13. Is it morally proper for me to refuse donation to the Salvation Army because of their teaching about gays, even if it is peripheral to their mission?

    Yes. You are not choosing to cease charitable giving per se, but giving by way of a particular means (via the SA). You can reject the means without rejecting the end.

  14. Well, you obviously want to support their activities. And you oppose their position on gays. So why not tell them, every time you donate, that your gay? A little, “I know you hate gays and all, and I’m gay, but I believe in the good work you guys are doing, so here’s some cash” sorta thing.

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