Lewis Grizzard Wednesday: Salvation Army

The Salvation Army

One of my favorite sounds of the Christmas season is the ringing of bells by Salvation Army people. 

They normally station themselves at entrances of shopping malls, and the idea is to ring the devil, if you’ll pardon the expression, out of their bells in order to entice shoppers to donate money. 

I interviewed one of those bell ringers for a column several years ago. I asked if he ever got tired of ringing that bell all day long. 

“I hear the thing in my sleep,” he said. 

I bring this up to introduce the rather strange situation that developed up in Rome the other day. 

According to the report I read, two Salvation Army workers got themselves fired because they were unable to get shoppers to throw enough money into their pots. 

I’m serious. These two ladies, Dorothy Clark and Debbie Stuart, got a job ringing bells for the Salvation Army during the Christmas season. They were to be paid $3.65 an hour for their trouble. Mrs. Clark said she and her co-worker were told they had to bring in $100 a day. When the ladies failed to meet that sum, they were axed. 

Giving from the heart 

Army Lt. Ray Tuno, their boss, “told us if our relationship with God was what it should be, we would bring in the money.” 

“But people give from the heart,” Mrs. Clark went on. “What does he want us to do, hit people on the head with the bell to make them give more?” 

Naturally, the Salvation Army is stonewalling and refusing detailed comment on this situation. I get the feeling the Salvation Army is embarrassed, as well it should be. 

It never ceases to amaze me how television preachers – and now in this instance, even the Salvation Army – seem to use the threat of God when they ask for funds. 

I don’t know and I don’t care what Dorothy Clark’s and Debbie Stuart’s relationships with God are, but I do know it didn’t matter one red cent when the two women were out there ringing those bells. 

A threat from on high

This is something right out of the handbooks of Oral Roberts and the like. I will never forget a letter BrotherOral sent out after Jesus had come to him in a vision and told him the exact amount of money his “prayer partners” should donate to him. 

The threat was there: Don’t give the money, my children, and God is going to be very, very mad. 

I think Mrs. Clark’s comment was right on target. What did Lt. Tuno want them to do, hit people in the head with their bells to make them give more? 

I also think I know what the answer would be to such a question: 

“If you can’t get their cash, give ’em a bash.” 

Such thoughts as these always bring tons of letters from people who ask what right I have getting involved with God’s work. 

I don’t mess with God’s work. But I also don’t want a bunch of jerks using God’s name to frighten people into parting with their cash. 

It should be the personal conscience, and only that, which guides a person when he or she gives. 

The trouble is, I’m not certain if some of the takers still have a conscience to guide them.

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