The New York Times reports today that what The Salvation Army is really all about (the New York division, at least) is, well… salvation. This should come as no surprise, and yet it does, year after year as newspaper reporters discover that the bell ringers and thrift shoppers are actually missionaries; Daniel J. Wakin’s intelligent report is only the latest entry in the genre.

Christianity Today, as one might guess, got the drift of the thrift from the beginning, and haslong lamented the secularization of the Salvation Army and the somewhat bewildered newspaper coverage that attends internal efforts to reverse it.

Diane Winston, author of Red-Hot & Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army and a friend of The Revealer, presents a more nuanced perspective on theArmy’s evolution at Killing the Buddha. You can hear Diane discuss the Army, along withDana Milbank of The Washington Post and a representative from the Army, on this archived edition of The Diane Rehm Show (scroll down to July 19).

Meanwhile, the stories that await curious reporters are those of the Salvation Army in practice. Not fuzzy-wuzzy tales of the toys for tots and soup for lost souls, but portraits of belief as it is actually lived, somewhere between the poles of “innocuous faith” and “dangerous fanaticism.”The Revealer wants to know: How do the fires of the Lord warm the hearts of salvation soldiers standing in the cold?