Charity season: The critical fault in relying upon grace

By in Opinions
A Salvation Army volunteer rings the bell at a donation stand in Midtown Plaza on Dec. 1, 2018.

December is often looked at as a charitable season, and many organizations look to bolster their donations at this time of year. As with most things, however, it is best to know all the details surrounding who you are supporting.

The Salvation Army is an international Christian church that started working as a charitable organization in 1882 as a way to give “hope and support to vulnerable people” in 400 communities across Canada and more than 125 countries around the world, according to their website. These efforts include a variety of services, such as mental-health and addictions services, meals and overnight shelter.

The Salvation Army achieves these supports through donations and revenue generated through thrift stores. These thrift stores, alongside the donation collectors posted in the entrances to Walmart stores, make up the majority of the public’s interactions with the organization.

These services are largely objectively positive for those who receive them, and many would have trouble with providing services to vulnerable peoples. However, the Salvation Army has had more than its share of controversies during the course of its history.

Accusations of prejudice on the part of the Salvation Army are something that has been taken up in the past, with allegations of anti-LGBT discrimination — including fighting non-discriminatory hiring laws for LGBT persons in the United States.

After these messages were brought under scrutiny, the Salvation Army altered their statements surrounding these issues in order to maintain relevance in a modern climate. In fact, there is a page on their website stating that they act in compliance with Canadian anti-discrimination law and that their efforts are put towards helping members of any marginalized community.

Whether this shift to increase inclusion is the result of an actual paradigm shift within the organization or simply the result of avoiding legal disputes, an attempt to fit in as opinions change is irrelevant to the bigger issue at play here. The decision to support a cause will most often be informed by a person’s own views, but the real question is whether any opinion should have a place in helping vulnerable communities and persons.

Organizations such as the Salvation Army exist to supplement public assistance programs — essentially filling the gaps left by capitalism and government support programs. This allows individuals to choose who they support or whether to support any causes at all. When you break it down, charitable organizations allow people to opt in to provide people with the basic needs of survival.

The fact that whether or not someone gets the crucial support they need depends on another person’s willingness and ability to help is an imperfect system at best. If charitable organizations are needed, there is room for prejudice to form — such as the Salvation Army attempting to exert political pressure — and for some causes to go without support because they are not in the public consciousness.

Whether or not a person survives should not fall upon the grace of others, and it should be seen not as an opportunity for charity but rather as a failure in the world around us. Charitable organizations are, of course, largely a positive force despite a few exceptions, but they cannot be viewed as a permanent solution to most problems because of their dependency on the public.

Pointing out problems is one thing, but solutions are another thing entirely. A solution to all poverty and injustice in world may seem impossible, and while charity is a good Band-Aid for the time being, it is not a concrete solution.

Jack Thompson / Sports & Health Editor

Photo: Riley Deacon / Photo Editor