Damaging photos of Pete Buttigieg have surfaced — ringing a bell for the Salvation Army.
The images of the South Bend mayor and Democratic presidential candidate participating in the Red Kettle Ring Off, a friendly competition between officials from South Bend and nearby Mishawaka over who can raise more for the Salvation Army during a day of bell-ringing, date from 2017.
The gay publication Out reported them as if it had broken a major, or at least a noteworthy, story. “Pete Buttigieg Volunteered for the Homophobic Salvation Army,” read the headline. The piece noted, accusingly, that it’s “something he’s apparently been doing for years. He also held a mayoral event at a Salvation Army center in South Bend (Indiana) last year.”
If you think that volunteering for an organization raising funds to provide food and housing, among many other services, for the needy is an inherently praiseworthy act, you haven’t been following the woke left-wing activists cutting a swath through American culture.
Any institution, no matter how storied or how generous, is subject to a punitive campaign of social ostracism that is often highly effective. In today’s environment, what seems preposterous one moment is inevitable the next, and after one target is ground into submission, another is quickly found.
The Salvation Army would seem a bridge too far. Its red kettles are iconic, as much a part of Christmas as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or “Miracle on 34th Street.” During the heavily commercial Christmas season, the red kettles are a token of charity and fellow feeling. It takes a perverse worldview not to have fond feelings about this tradition, which is spectacularly successful on its own terms, raising almost $150 million a year.
But the commissars of political correctness aren’t amused, and don’t let sentimentality interfere with their dictates.
They’ve already accomplished what would a few years ago have been considered impossible — bullying the explicitly Christian restaurant chain Chick-fil-A out of its donations to the Salvation Army. The army is now so radioactive that the pop singer Ellie Goulding threatened to cancel a halftime performance at the Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving, kicking off the red kettle campaign, over the group’s alleged anti-gay bigotry.
The first thing to know about the Salvation Army is that it is a church, founded by the Methodist preacher William Booth. He started his Salvation Army, with military ranks for its clergy, to reach the hungry and the needy through service. With more than 1.5 million members and a presence in roughly 130 countries, it is a spectacular example of, as Billy Graham once put it, “Christianity in action.”
As such, it obviously reflects Christian morality. “Soldiers, the core group among members,” one religious writer explained, “take covenant vows that cover doctrine, loyalty, willingness to evangelize and help the needy, and clean living (no alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography or profanity).” The army’s position that marriage should be between a man and a woman isn’t an exotic invention, but standard Christian teaching.
The idea that the Salvation Army has an anti-gay animus stems largely from its opposition to anti-discrimination laws that it worried would impinge on its conscience rights, and criticism over its policies regarding transgender people (especially the practice of some places of assigning people to male or female facilities depending on their gender at birth). The organization has made clear again and again, though, that its services are available to all.
Commenting on the scandalous Buttigieg bell-ringing images, the press secretary for the left-wing Alliance for Justice opined, “I know the photos are two years old, but still, I can’t help but wonder if Mayor Pete just looks at what LGBTQ activists have been working on for years and then chooses to spite it.” Or perhaps he was rational and broad-minded enough to appreciate the massive good done by one of the most admirable institutions in the country.
Rich Lowry is on Twitter @RichLowry.