Friday, November 19, 2004

Hugh Hewitt is right to assert that:
The season we are on the cusp of celebrating is uniquely a religious season. It has its origin in the journey of a poor and homeless family who were given shelter, and in the entry of grace and mercy into human history in the form of Christ. The Salvation Army is uniquely a mission to the homeless and the poor --the lost and the least. They are not just another charity, and it is not just any old time of year.
Still, just because a cause is worthy and the season seems right does not mean it is entitled to set up shop wherever and whenever it pleases. What's called for first is perhaps a little gratitude to Target for the years it allowed the Salvation Army. Earnest, heartfelt letters suggesting that their soldiers added something special this time of the year and that they'll be missed. Something, in short, that doesn't start Target off as the bad guy and make it into a war between the righteous and the whore of Babylon. If the Girl Scouts show up at your door and you're on a diet, do you want to start hearing that you no longer care about the welfare of young women?

Going straight for the old boycott suggests that an organization with a solid track record can be declared sinister at any time for any cause regardless of what else it does. If Target's, or Wal-Mart's or any business' goodwill is this easily lost among those who support the Armies of Compassion, businesses will soon give up even trying. Here is a segment of the population, they can say to themselves, that is just too touchy. They take anything we've done for them in the past for granted and write us off the second they don't get their way.

Having been involved in small and family businesses, it's been my experience that there are few groups which understand why or how you can make a donation or grant a favor to one local charity without kicking in for everything else that comes along. Nobody ever seems to say, "With all you've done for the Boy Scouts, we understand why you might be tapped out, so we'll try next door." Instead, businesses that pick and choose often face more hurt feelings than those that simply say, "Sorry, the owner does his charity stuff privately" and keep a lid on what that is or how much or where.

For my money, Target has the right to choose what causes to support and by what means. Surely it's sad that the Salvation Army wasn't on their list this year, but backing them into a corner where business life is reduced to saying "yes" to every worthy cause or being declared Scrooge on the front pages sends a real clear message to businesses: You can't win. If you really love the Salvation Army, patronize stores that have their people outside. Write the organization a check. Speak in sorrow, rather than anger, about how you're going to Wal-Mart more and Target less this year because the bell-ringers really keep you in the spirit of things.

But this "battle" is not revealing merely about Wal-Mart but about supporters of the Armies of Compassion. If the best your Christian compassion can come up with is sinister suspicions yielding to anger and denunciations when a company with a not-bad track record does something you don't like... when your choice of action is holy war, not an attempt to understand, forgive (if you feel forgiveness is needed) and voice a hope for better things next year... well, doesn't sound very Christian to me.

Write a letter to Target. Tell them you'd love to see a great cause like the Salvation Army again paired with a great company like Target. Tell 'em how their support not just for the Salvation Army, but for other causes, has bucked up your appreciation for them over the years and you're sad about this hiccup in things. Let 'em know you've had good feelings for Target at the holidays but feel like something is missing. But e-mails starting "Re: You are Satan. I hope your corporation dies..." are rightly rejected as coming from people of little faith, tolerance, patience or compassion. I'd hope that good Christians in a lifelong struggle could do better than this as they face the vicissitudes of life.

posted by gbarto at 1:34 AM  


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