Carol Platt Liebau

Friday, November 19, 2004

Well, well, well. Austin Cline, writing at the Agnosticism/Atheism blog, attacks this blog for decrying Target's unconscionable decision to kick out the Salvation Army.

Cline argues that it's just a matter of enforcing a "no solicitation" policy fairly -- after all, Oxfam, Catholic Charities and the United Way aren't being allowed to solicit. In Cline's view, having the Salvation Army at Target stores is nothing more than a "tradition" whose time has passed.

Memo to Austin Cline: WIth all due respect, you've got it wrong.

Like it or not, Christmas is still a religious holiday, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ -- whom Christians believe is the son of God and their Saviour. The point of Jesus' humble birth -- and the theme of his life -- was that God's love extends not just to the wealthy and powerful, but to even the lost, the lowest and the least among us. The Salvation Army reflects that message, and exclusively ministers to the destitute and the homeless, offering the promise of redemption through Jesus Christ.

Austin, Oxfam isn't a religious charity. Catholic Charities is sectarian. And United Way offers money to a number of causes -- some of them worthy, some not -- but certainly not exclusively to ministries for those most in need of hope. Nor is there any evidence that they have even sought to solicit at Target -- they don't raise money that way. And as Hugh Hewitt has pointed out, Target profits handsomely from the Christmas season. So how ungrateful it is that they want to expel from their premises a symbol of the "spirit of Christmas" from whence so much of their prosperity derives!

And contrary to your arguments, Austin, the Salvation Army is one of the best-run charities in America. In fact, a book has been devoted to that subject -- the online summary notes that management guru Peter Drucker has called The Salvation Army "the most effective organization in America".

Similarly, Forbes magazine, in its yearly analysis of 200 American charities, finds the Salvation Army to be one of the top ten "that shine," noting that, "Meager salaries for officers and large numbers of volunteers help keep efficiencies very high and overhead low."

Clearly, agnostics and atheists do not agree with the religious aspect of The Salvation Army. But in a prosperous country, in the season of giving, is it really so terrible to provide as many opportunities as possible for Americans to give a little money to raise up the poorest and the most hopeless among us?


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