I have never met a member of The Salvation Army. I have shopped at their thrift stores, I have seen their bell ringers around Christmas Time, but I have never, in a social setting, met someone who was a member, or even an ex-member. I find this somewhat unusual.

"But..." I can hear someone typing right now "as a coastal elite, maybe you just don't get out enough, and don't meet enough salt of the earth folks". While there might be something geographical in my not having encountered any members (or soldiers of the Salvation Army, it isn't because I am not familiar with members of lots of religion. The Western United States is the land of Mormons, and if you ever ended up going to a basement punk show in a Portland house party, back when that was still a possibility, you could probably rely on the bass player, over a Pabst, telling you how they started out playing violin in the school band back in Pocatello and then questioning Mormonism when they realized half the kids in the band were LGBTQ. Jehovah's Witnesses? Probably my first introduction to the idea of religious differences was in first or second grade, when a group of children would leave the room when we had our hour-long elementary school halloween or Valentine's Day parties. I remember being a child and my father telling me that his friend, a Jehovah's Witness, couldn't "talk to his kids the way I talk to you, not about anything important". And of course, I meet Jehovah's Witnesses knocking on my door. Those are two of the more idiosyncratic religious groups I grew up with. As for the old stand-bys, people who were raised Catholic, and now talk about it as either a source of lingering guilt, or of a few fun additional holidays; or of the Evangelical Christans who became wiccan after discovering weed and anime, are so standard that they don't have to be mentioned.

That last paragraph did not mention the Salvation Army, but that is the point: they are conspicuous by their absence, from the cultural milieu I live in. The beliefs and lifestyles of other religious groups are part of our culture, in the form of jocular taunts, grudging respect, or heartfelt sympathy. But I know nothing about what it is like to be in The Salvation Army, for good or for bad. This is a weird blind spot for me. Why has the Salvation Army not produced any robotically hygienic Presidential candidates? Why have they not produced any entertainers who convert and then dramatically refuse to sing the racy songs they built their fame on? Why is a church and organization that has such a presence in our culture so personally absent and bereft of a personal narrative?