You probably have it wrong about The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. I read some shoddy journalism which claimed SA is “anti-gay” which is laughable, untrue, and not all in keeping with the stats on how many LBTQ people are helped and supported by The Salvation Army.

I feel I need to come to their defense, not only as a board member, a volunteer, a donor, but as a recipient of the love, spiritual support, and acceptance of Salvation Army officers. Officers who’ve spent Christmases with my family, sang “Be Thou My Vision” in my wedding, helped me see beyond my yuppie lifestyle in New York by giving me cans to sort in a warehouse, challenged and encouraged me in my faith, and provided hope in dark times.

Because I have faced dark times. I have felt alone. Questioned my faith. Watched loved ones die. Waited in a hospital room for bad news.

So though I may not need food from a Salvation Army soup kitchen, and by God’s grace have all I need, I still need the Army.

I needed it back in 2013 when I first visited The Salvation Army corps in Harlem (where I sang praises, for the first time, alongside a former drug addict and a drag queen), and I need it now, 5 kids later, living in suburban Ohio.

I needed it when Hurricane Sandy happened and we lost power at our apartment in downtown NYC, and I need it now when I want my kids to see that Jesus loves everyone, especially the downtrodden.

If you haven’t met a Salvation Army officer, meet Darell:

And if you think you know The Salvation Army, you don’t. They may wear uniforms, ring bells at Christmas time, and look traditional….but they are anything but. In fact, they are the most progressive people I’ve ever met – I’ve encountered more interracial couples in The Salvation Army than I have in any other church or nonprofit organization I’ve been involved with.

Did you know women preach in their churches?

That SA fights human trafficking around the world?

And with all the nonprofits that come and go every few years with big ideas but no infrastructure, no vision, and no staying power –  The Salvation Army has been around for 150 years. My grandfather volunteered there, my dad’s on the board, I served on the board, my mom works with women and children at the shelter in Phoenix, my daughter threw a Valentine’s Day party at the Cleveland Salvation Army homeless shelter…it’s a generational involvement that you can count on.

They’re not going anywhere.

Big names have been helped by Salvation Army. People like the hilarious Chris Rock.  Lebron (who played basketball in a Salvation Army gym growing up.)

And if you think The Salvation Army is “anti-gay” then you haven’t attended a church service or served a Christmas meal at SA. Because if you worship there or stand in a soup kitchen line, you will meet all types. Because The Salvation Army’s mission statement states it simply:

“Our mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”

They do that.

They’re also effective. In grad school I read Peter Drucker’s description of The Salvation Army, “No one even comes close to it in respect to clarity of mission, ability to innovate, measurable results, dedication, and putting money to maximum use.” 

They’re inclusive. A fellow board member in NY, a prominent partner at a major law firm once told me:

I learned about Salvation Army about the same time I found out I was not poor. I was six. My parents explained to met that only poor kids could get free milk at school, and then I saw the same classmates who got the milk and their parents being given packages by people dressed in uniforms. When I asked my grandfather who those soldiers were, he told me – and I quote him verbatim – ‘They are very nice people. You can always trust them, even though they aren’t Jewish.”

So please, especially my journalist friends whom I love dearly, before you go after hard working social service workers, who provide spiritual and holistic support to all kinds of people with all kinds of problems, make crap money for doing it, and serve our communities, 30 million Americans annually, simply because they LOVE Jesus….do your homework.

Every time I hear Lauren Daigle’s song “Rescue” and she sings “I will send out an Army to find you in the middle of the darkness” I know she’s singing about the Army. The Salvation Army.



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