Out in the Cold

Last weekend, searching for Christmas gifts for my granddaughter, I drove to the local Target store. As I walked in, I realized that something was missing. At this time of year there should be the sound of Salvation Army bell ringers. Then I remembered: Target won't allow them this year. I did an about face, got in my car, drove several blocks, through several traffic jams, and arrived at another shopping center for another store. On the way in, I smiled at the bell ringer and dropped something in her kettle. Last year, bell ringers in front of Target raised 9 million dollars. This year, with bans from Target and a few other stores like Best Buy, the Salvation Army is worried that it won't be able to make up the difference, even with other stores like Books-A-Million stepping in to help. Why would Target turn away the principal agency helping the poor? According to their website, "Target Corporation has a long-standing 'no solicitation' policy at all of our stores. . . . We receive an increasing number of solicitation inquiries from nonprofit organizations and groups each year and determined that if we continue to allow the Salvation Army to solicit, then it opens the door to any other groups that wish to solicit our guests." Come on. Most businesses with non-solicitation policies make an exception for the Salvation Army because of the great public service it performs. And Target has done that every year. Why change now? Political correctness? Fortunately, many Christians are giving Target a reason to invite the bell ringers back. Shortly after my experience, my daughter called and said that she was on her way to Target when someone told her about the policy. She stayed away. I talked to three other friends this week who won't shop at Target anymore. Then I conducted a little informal survey, calling some members of our church and asking whether they were shopping at Target this year. Uniformly the answer was no. Christians are clearly becoming more sensitive to what's going on in our culture, and it's a good thing. I have a special place in my heart for the Salvation Army because in nearly thirty years working in the prisons, I have seen them everywhere. We work with them to help people start new lives when they come out of prison. They really care about those whom Christ called "the least of these my brethren." And they have the courage of their convictions. Many years ago the Army was told that to receive public funding in New York they had to conform to the hiring practices required by the city. That would have meant hiring people whose lifestyles were offensive to what Christians believed. So the Army turned down the money. In addition, the Army is one of the most efficient organizations in the country. We have on our staff some former Army officers, and they're among the most dedicated people I've known anywhere. I have spoken to the Army several times and have been mightily impressed. So I've sent the money I would have spent at Target to the Salvation Army instead. And while I was at it, I threw in a little bonus. If you decide not to spend money at Target this year, my recommendation is that you might want to do the same thing. Let's make sure that the Salvation Army and the needy people they serve are not left out in the cold this Christmas. For further reading and information: Today's BreakPoint offer: The How Now Shall We Live? Devotional is a wonderful Christmas gift for loved ones and friends -- and a great way for you to start the new year too! This 365-day devotional will help you live boldly for Christ in today's world. And get your friends, family members, neighbors, and church leaders a gift subscription to BreakPoint WorldView magazine. Call 1-877-322-5527. Learn more about Salvation Army and how you can help. Read Target's solicitation policy. Other companies banning solicitation by Salvation Army include: Home Depot, Circuit City, Best Buy, and Barnes & Noble. Companies that welcome Salvation Army include: Mervyn's, Big Lots, BJ's Wholesale Club Inc., Autozone, and Books-A-Million. Vickie Chachere, "Target faces backlash for banning Salvation Army bell ringers from its stores," San Francisco Chronicle, 2 December 2004. Cynthia D. Webb, "Target's no-solicitation policy hits Red Kettle drive," Dallas Business Journal, 8 October 2004. Steve Levin, "Target stores tell Salvation Army to retreat," Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pa.), 20 November 2004. Elliot Blair Smith, "Target sticks to its decision to bar Salvation Army kettles," USA Today, 6 December 2004. Sarah Ingle, "Kettle coming up short," Loudoun Times-Mirror, 7 December 2004. David Rattigan, "Closing the giving gap," Boston Globe, 5 December 2004.


Chuck Colson


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