Salvation Army Bell Ringers Drafted in the War on Christmas?
Most of us have heard the old Christmas musical standard Silver Bells (inspired by the sound of Salvation Army bell ringers) with its jingling refrain, “…it’s Christmastime in the city.” But maybe the “new sound” of an American Christmas may be more appropriately described as the roar of canon fire … or at least the static of endless bickering.
There’s a lot of battle lingo being tossed around in the news already this holiday season: the War on Christmas, Occupy Christmas, not to mention the ever-present Salvation Army and their bell-ringing bucket brigade fight against poverty.
The latest skirmish in this vein is the uproar over a recent corporate decision made by midwestern retailer Mills Fleet Farm. Fleet Farm’s co-president, Stewart Mills Jr., anounced the company would donate funds directly to the Salvation Army in lieu of allowing bell-ringers to collect at their stores. The decision (made primarily to prevent their legal obligation to allow other solicitors onto their property) was then quickly and apologetically overturned as “unfortunate” and “wrong” after a flurry of media coverage. The change of policy was not further explained, but in financially difficult times, bad PR can prove costly.
Other retailers are heeding the Christmas war cry of politically agressive conservative groups such as The American Family Association and the Liberty Counsel, each of which maintains a “naughty and nice” list of U.S. retail businesses who do or do not use the word “Christmas” in their advertising, in order to pressure companies to toe the conservative Christian line. Walgreen’s recent decision to use Christmas-specific phrasing (rather than generic references to “holidays”), was declared as a War on Christmas public relations and media victory by right-wing conservative groups.
At a time when many Christians (such as myself) are preparing to comemmorate the birth of our proclaimed Prince of Peace, the religious right once again takes its own bizarre twist on the Holy Christian Scripture for the militant rhetoric of its political crusade.
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Photo credit: Angela Braun