Thursday, March 28, 2013

Of Cupcakes & Cookies and Babies & Bathwater

I don't mean to brag, but I make a mean cupcake. And my cookies aren't half-bad either. I actually enjoy baking so I am sometimes pressed into service by family members in need of bake sale items for various organizations and causes.

Last fall, Baby Brother's Ex-Wife asked for donations for The Salvation Army bake sale. I've baked for them before, at BBEW's request, despite my uneasiness with some of the church's teachings and my deep reservations about the local organization's fiscal management. Because of these concerns, I had long since stopped dropping spare change in the Salvation Army's holiday red kettles.

Being the diligent overthinker that I am, I had sometimes wondered if donating my time and homemade buttercream frosting to an organization at odds with many of my own beliefs constituted a kind of hypocrisy--delicious hypocrisy, but hypocrisy, nonetheless.

I reasoned that I wasn't really supporting the church, I was supporting some of my nieces and a nephew, who have all been involved in and enjoyed church activities over the years. Besides, the voice in my head went on as I piped frosting swirls atop dozens of cupcakes, the Salvation Army is more than a church, it is a charitable organization--the local corps runs a food pantry and has an extensive program to provide food and gifts to needy families at the holidays, among many other things.

Surely those positives outweighed any perceived negatives. And, after all, it was just a couple of trays of cupcakes and a plate of cookies--my participation (or lack thereof) would not make a crucial financial difference.

A few weeks after my goodies had been delivered and sold, I was with a resident of the halfway house where I work when we walked past a Salvation Army red kettle bell ringer. The resident mentioned something he had recently read about the Salvation Army's vehement stance against same-sex marriage and about its discrimination against homosexuals who either sought aid or employment from the organization.

That a Christian faith-based organization would be against gay marriage came as no surprise--even the fact that they would prefer not to hire or promote gay men and women seemed to me obvious, if not necessarily acceptable. Believing as strongly as I do in the separation of church and state, I tend to embrace a broad definition of the words "religious freedom." Though it's a bit of a tangled mess in my mind, I could see how the church, being a religious entity, might be permitted an exemption from the fair hiring practices that apply to secular employers.

When it comes to denying aid or (as I discovered in my later reading) making that aid conditional upon a gay couple separating, we're in a whole other area--not only is that morally reprehensible, in my opinion, it's also downright un-Christian. Worse still, was the fact that The Salvation Army had not merely issued a statement against legalizing gay marriage, but was actively campaigning against legalization of gay marriage in the United States and around the world. Have I mentioned my passionate interest in the separation of church and state?

The concept of religious beliefs--Christian or otherwise--as legislation is terrifying to me and I feel it should be terrifying to people of faith as well. If your beliefs can be codified into laws so, too, can any other belief system. It continues to baffle me that most Christians who persist in pursuing religious-based legislation are the same ones who are so deeply appalled at the affects of religious-based governments in the Middle East, for example. The problem is not which religion controls the law, it's that any religion controls the law. Your right to practice your own religion comes from exactly the same place as my right not to practice any religion--to weaken one right is to weaken them both. The concept of separation of church and state, rather than being a threat to our nation is one of the key elements of its success, in my opinion.

I believe that legislation should exist to protect people and property from quantifiable harm--not to forward any particular group's moral teachings. In the case of gay marriage, perhaps you find homosexuality immoral or same-sex relationships icky or "unnatural," but being offended is not the same thing as being harmed. In the case of marriage inequality, it is clear that the measurable, quantifiable harm is being done to couples and individuals who are being denied financial and legal protections that other Americans enjoy.

So, back to those cupcakes...in the immediate aftermath of leapfrogging around the internet reading article after article on the subject, I determined that I would not bake another morsel for the Salvation Army church. But, as my initial ire cooled a little, I kept thinking about the fact that, despite an abysmal record in the area of gay rights1, the Salvation Army does make a positive difference in the lives of many, many people. Does the good still outweigh the bad now that I know more about the organization's stance on homosexuality and human rights?

Obviously, no organization is perfect and whenever we give of ourselves or from our pocketbooks to a charity, we may be unknowingly supporting things we would never choose to support. I am curious, my bloggy friends, what sorts of research you do before donating to a given cause? What formula do you use to determine the worthiness of an organization that will benefit (however minimally) from your money or efforts? 

For my part, I've decided the moral cost of donating to an organization which actively works to prevent equality for a segment of society is too high for me. I will respectfully decline the next time BBEW asks for donations for The Salvation Army bake sale and I will explain why. 

I will not, as First Niece2 suggested while she and Hubby and I were mulling all this over, make trays full of cupcakes with gay pride symbols such as rainbow flags for The Salvation Army to sell at their next bake sale. But I can't say I won't be tempted.
 



1. A.K.A. civil rights for people who happen to be gay.

2. Not one of the nieces involved in The Salvation Army church or activities.

[I welcome dissenting viewpoints regarding issues raised in this post, but please express those viewpoints respectfully so that I may respond respectfully as well. Hate and nastiness will not be tolerated. If you are interested in more information about The Salvation Army's record on this issue, this article is a good place to start.]

20 comments:

  1. Well written and reasoned, as usual Masked Mom. I agree with you on so many points. As a Christian, I am terminally baffled by what seems to be a swelling surge to entangle church and state. To paraphrase a popular bumper sticker: "Keep your laws off my religion!"
    What I find interesting (in the sense that it discourages me immensely) is that it's only certain types of immorality (by Christian standards) that are unacceptable. By the rubric that the S.A. and other organizations like it have determined, they also shouldn't give help to gossips, hypocrites, alcoholics, slanderers, fornicators, dissenters, and so on. When you think about it in those terms, there's no one that should receive aid, 'cause ain't none of us perfect. But no. It's a hypocritical double standard that is fueled by fear and prejudice and a lack of understanding of one's faith (in my humble opinion.) I imagine the Good Samaritan stopping to ask the man on the side of the road, beaten and bloodied: "Oh wait. Are you gay? I can't help you then."

    I think a lot of the Christian rhetoric is misdirected, anyway. Christianity (and most religions - maybe all?) should transcend time and place and politics. At its core, it is a personal practice and the beliefs of others - even whole nations - should have little bearing on what a Christian believes and does. But somehow it's all been politicized and bent out of kilter and made into a grotesque and ugly public spectacle.

    From my Christian perspective, the acts of giving and helping those in need are essential to the practice of my faith, regardless of the recipient. Sadly, I don't think this is a commonly held belief. Maybe it is. Maybe it's just the hypocrites who are noisy. I hope so.

    I could go on and on... would you like me to go on? Maybe not. ;) Good for you with the cupcakes, though. There are other organizations that could use some sweetness that are less prejudicial in their work.

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    1. I love pretty much everything you have to say here, as usual, TL. My favorite part, though is your Good Samaritan hypothetical. So dead on. Thanks for your thoughts.

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  2. I think that some of the more vocal "Christians" are giving us "real" Christians a bad name :) I do believe that God is no "respecter of persons" and that we are so so wrong to judge.

    As for your cupcakes, I do love me some buttercream. Well, LOTS of buttercream!

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    1. No doubt that more buttercream all around could soothe some of the world's woes.

      Regarding "Christians" vs. Christians: if adulthood has taught me anything, it's that generalities are useless at best and dangerous at worst. I definitely do not assume that the "bad" behavior of a few individuals reflects upon the group as a whole.

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  3. I just recently blogged about this as well. I have real issues with the vein of Christians who have issues with homosexuality. Since I grew up in a church and culture (and am still very ensconced in it)that is publicly anti-marriage equality, I've had to toss around the whole, "do I keep associating with these people even though I am at odds with what they are saying/doing on this issue." In the end, I always decide to stay, because I'm committed to be the opposing voice in the room - the one who will hopefully get others to think about what they are saying and doing in a new way. And I know that has happened more than once, which is encouraging. Taking rainbow pride cupcakes to my next church event is super tempting.

    Anyway, if I weren't ensconced as I am, I would do the same as you, and just decline to participate. But I'm on the "inside" if you know what I mean.

    Also, I believe that cupcakes should have enough buttercream on them so that there is equal buttercream to cake ratio. I hope you agree.

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    1. I've been trying to make time to get over to your place and get caught up. Looking forward to what you have to say on the subject. I admire your reasons for staying--and for being the opposing voice. I think you may be on to something in that I think lasting change often (and maybe even always) comes from the inside.

      And I am a hundred percent with you on the cake to frosting ratio. I have frequently referred to cupcakes as "frosting delivery devices." :)

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  4. MM - so good to read your comments - my typing is so limited right now - f***ing right arm surgery - but suffice it to say - and you know this is coming - agree agree agree
    and I wish I could be a cupcake baker! nothing i bake ever comes out any good.....

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    1. oh, and why not rainbows on cupcakes????/ i think that is perfect!

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    2. Gracie, I'm still behind over at your place and I don't even have surgery as an excuse. Working hard to get caught up. I had a feeling you would be on the same page on this particular topic. And as for the rainbow cupcakes, I totally considered it, probably longer than I should have. ;)

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  5. First, let me get this out of the way, I support the right of any two people to love each other. I also support their right to legally be bound to each other, if they so choose. I hope that this ridiculousness of who can marry and who can’t will be a distant memory of us old folks and common unquestioned occurrence for the next generation.
    The third thing I support are the rights of everyone to actively express their opinions, even if they differ from mine.
    I am not a religious person, probably more of a doubter, to be perfectly honest.
    But, I do understand the passion of those who are strongly committed to their beliefs. Are they supposed to change their stands on issues in which they firmly believe, simply because certain ones have now become “popular” ?
    I think it is fairly obvious that a lot of the laws in this country are religious based, taken directly from the ten commandments. How many laws are “thou shalt nots”?
    I think we are fooling ourselves if we think there is such a thing as separation of church and state. After all, doesn’t every political person end a speech with “and may God bless America. I don’t think any politician could be elected to an office if he/she were an atheist or wasn’t affiliated with some religious organization.
    Just as an aside I wonder if Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc would be described as “un-Christian like”?
    Anyway, finally, I am thrilled that I live in a country that allows one to decide to not bake cupcakes, if that’s what one chooses to do. I am also proud to live in a country of people who I have “faith” in will eventually do the “rights” thing.
    I would finish this by say Amen, but being a doubter and all it would be kind of hypocritical of me, you know?

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Lynda. I absolutely agree about everyone having the right to express their opinions--and I don't imagine the strongly held opinions of some people to sway on this issue. I also don't believe (obviously) that opinions should be the deciding factor in laws generally and in civil rights laws in particular. I think you're right that separation of church and state remains more of an ideal than a reality. I would like to point out, though, that while the laws of the land may have originally borrowed heavily from the Ten Commandments, the commandments themselves are largely reflective of common sense prohibitions and rules that existed in human civilization for millennia before they were codified in the Bible. Human civilizations could not have grown or thrived without many of those basic rules.

      When it comes to politicians invoking God in speeches and waving their alleged faith about, it is an extreme turn-off to me, not because I find faith offensive but because I find it difficult to assume the politician is sincere. And if even if he is, I believe religious faith should be irrelevant in public office. I realize, though, that I am in a minority in that belief. One other thing about the "faithful" politicians--I've always wondered how the people who are swayed by a politician's profession of faith can be sure it's not just a cynical ploy on the part of the politician to garner more votes.

      I, too, am grateful for living in a country where I can make the cupcakes or not make the cupcakes AND blog about it. :)

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  6. Well, I will chime in with only one thought: Love is the greatest power. Love has taken me above and beyond these past months, and though I strongly feel that two people should be able to do whatever they darn well choose, I do respect everyone's prerogative to think the way he or she feels is right.

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    1. Amen, amen, amen. Thanks, Mark. :)

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  7. Thank you!
    Loved following your thought process on this issue. I look forward to reading more from you as we are both participants of the 2013 A-Z Blog Challenge. As a participant in this challenge I also nominate your for the Liebster Award, find out more about your nomination at http://100smilechallenge.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/liebster-award-i-accept/

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. And thanks for the award. Will stop over to your place soon. :)

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  8. MM, yes. Just yes. I do research every year based on HRC's Corporate Equality Index and Buyer's Guide. I've changed many shopping habits that were previously unexamined based on these reports.

    I agree that each person, and each organization should decide what is right for them. I don't necessarily think that organizations who don't support equality should be out of business, but I do believe that my dollar is my vote. Hence my refusal to patronize businesses with a red square on the Buyer's Guide and my hesitancy to patronize businesses with a yellow square.

    And I agree with Mark above that love is the greatest power. I do not condone hateful or rude behavior, period. I support love, in all forms.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts--and those links. I will be checking them out. I have a feeling the great cupcake boycott of 2013 is just the beginning of my inactive activism.

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  9. Oh wow. I had no idea the Salvos were so anti. . . I somehow thought they were more liberal minded and modern than that. . .
    Glad you didn't make the cupcakes. . .er, cupcake.
    Stella xx

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    1. I know exactly what you mean, Stella. I had assumed the same thing. But turns out, they're very anti. One of the most alarming incidents actually involved comments made by an SA Major in Australia. http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2012/06/salvation-army-official-gays-deserve-death/53885/

      Thanks for stopping by. Hope to swing by your place and catch up in the next day or so. :)

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  10. I'm really enjoying your blog...looks like we have a lot of views in common. I stopped supporting the Salvation Army for the same reasons and wrote a post about it a few years ago:
    http://marie-everydaymiracle.blogspot.com/2010/11/you-might-want-to-think-twice-about.html

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