Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Salvation Army Kettle

I'm a Salvationist.

The church I attend is the Salvation Army. It's not a perfect church--as it's populated by imperfect people--but overall I joined it because I agree with the message which it embraced at its founding.

One of the most visible icons of the Salvation Army is the Red Kettle which appears throughout the world during this time of year. The Red Kettle has a long history, as it began in 1891, with the Captain Joseph McFee wanting to help the poor in San Francisco. Unfortunately, he had no funding for his desire to help the poor, then he remembered seeing a large kettle called "Simpson's Pot" during his days as a sailor while in Liverpool, England. The Simpson's Pot was basically the same thing as the Red Kettle today in that passengers of those boats docked at the port in Liverpool would toss coins into it to help the poor.

So the Captain took a pot to Oakland Ferry Landing, tossed a sign up, and was thus able to collect enough donations to have a Christmas dinner for the poor, and the Kettle has spread like wildfire both through the collective unconscious related to the Christmas season and through the Salvation Army itself as a viable means of collecting donations.

Now, you may be wondering why on earth I'm talking about these things. After all, nearly everyone has seen one, and while some may not know all that history junk up above about them, they all know that the Kettles are related to helping the poor during Christmas.

The reason I'm writing on them, is because of an article I read today about what is being called a "plastic kettle." Apparently, these were tested in Dallas and Colorado Springs last year, and this year they are enlarging the test market to 30 cities.

What this thing is, is basically your standard Red Kettle, but attached to it is a wireless credit card reader similar to the ones found on gas station pumps.

I read the linked article over on Fox News, and frankly, was dismayed.

I don't like credit cards. I'm not even that fond of my debit card and do carry cash for my lunch during the week and things like that. I firmly believe that it is too easy to over-extend ones self with either of these things, in addition to other problems associated with them.

But even above and beyond that, the Salvation Army in its primary role as a Christian Church should not be encouraging the use of debt-creation tools.

After all, Romans 13:8 states (NIV):
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
That's Paul, telling the Romans quite clearly that they should pay off their debt as fast as possible.

I find it hard to reconcile that scripture with the preponderance of tools which are designed to make it easier to put us in debt.

Additionally, what they seem to fail to grasp (or worse, never considered) is that debt is bondage, and Galations 5:1 says (NSV):
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
There, that is Paul telling us to eschew any form of slavery--whether to debtors or drugs or alcohol or even to the legalism which the Galations were preaching in regards to the Law.


No, this is a bad move on the Salvation Army's part, as it leads directly to further bondage and debt, a state which we as Christians are supposed to be moving away from. The Bible teaches that we are supposed to live free lives, secure in the knowledge of the Grace and love of Christ.

As far as I am concerned, and as a Christian, I won't be using a plastic kettle. Ever.

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