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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Apolitical Army Is a Surrendered Army

Oh! people say, you must be very careful, very judicious.  You must not thrust religion down people’s throats.  Then, I say, you will never get it down.
                                                                             - Catherine Booth, Aggressive Christianity

Though I don’t often make much noise about my rank and title, I am an officer-a Major-in The Salvation Army, that part of the Christian church founded by William and Catherine Booth, with a mission to preach the gospel, and to meet human needs in the name of Jesus Christ without discrimination.

Recently, I have been chastised by some in our leadership for being too political. I have been upbraided for being vocal about my opinions. Apparently some of my comrades “vehemently disagree,” with my “political, social [and] spiritual views,” and they have made their disagreement with me known to the leaders at our territorial headquarters.

In a recent email correspondence I was told:

...officers are expected to remain a-political in their association with the Army, understanding that the freedom to exercise their civil rights and political activities are to be done outside of this association. That was easier to do when we could merely say "don't put up political signs in the front yard of your quarters" or "don't wear your uniform to a political rally". However, in a cyber world, our personal identity and actions aren't easily separated from our ministry standards and undertakings as a Salvation Army officer. The lines are more blurred online and we must be even more prudent if we are going to remain effective in our ministry.

And to this I say: Nonsense!  The Salvation Army has never been a-political.  

From Bramwell (son of the founders, and second General) Booth’s participation with journalist William T. Stead in the Eliza Armstrong case to rescue young girls from prostitution and “white slavery” in 1885 (and The Salvation Army work that continues to oppose human trafficking around the globe), to The Salvation Army’s work to reform and eventually close the notorious French penal colony at “Devil’s Island,” to the Salvation Army doughnut girls of World War I, the Salvation Army has, throughout its entire history, been politically active; aggressively so.

“There is no neutral position in a war,” says James H. Cone, "...preaching of the Word presents a crisis situation" (46) and one must make a stand, choose a side. The Army that is apolitical is an army that is no longer storming the forts of darkness to bring them down. The Apolitical army is a surrendered army.

Now, to give some concession to the officer who has criticized me, I recognize that I do not speak for the entire Salvation Army. I recognize that our international organization is large and varied, that there is a diversity of political opinion. I acknowledge and take seriously my responsibility to make clear what is my opinion and what is official Salvation Army policy. But putting on the uniform does not mean that my personal identity, my convictions, my political, social, and spiritual views will disappear. Nor should they be expected to disappear.

Yet I am told:

“If your witness and ministry is important to you - and even more, of greater importance than other ideologies you have embraced - then I encourage you to make your choices based on these priorities.”

Again, I say: Nonsense!

My witness and ministry are not of greater or lesser importance than the ideologies I’ve embraced. They are not divisible quantities that can be separately compartmentalized.  My witness and ministry and ideology are all part of the unified thing that is me.  If I am a socialist in my political thinking (one of those viewpoints that are so vehemently disliked) that is not separate from my faith; I learned my socialism from the Gospels and the Hebrew Bible prophets.  If I argue for full inclusion of LGBTI individuals in the ranks of The Salvation Army (something not yet done) that is not something separate and apart from my preaching of the gospel of grace; it is precisely because of that gospel of grace.

I have opinions, yes. And strong ones. I will be as careful as I can to portray them as my opinions - and to be clear when my opinions differ from others within The Salvation Army, or when my opinions may be at variance with Salvation Army policy, but I will not be neutral. I will not be apolitical. To be apolitical is to surrender to oppressors, and I refuse to surrender when the victory has already been won.

Cone, James H. Black Theology & Black Power.  San Francisco, California: Harper San Francisco, 1969.

This disclaimer can be found on every post I make here, but I put it here again to be clear:

The views, comments, statements and opinions expressed on this Web site do not necessarily represent the official position of The Salvation Army.

Biblical Limericks: Rebuked Him as Satan

He told them he would be forsaken,
rejected, despised, his life taken.
Simon Peter said, “No!
To this end you can’t go.”
But Jesus rebuked him as Satan.

Mark 8: 31 - 33

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Biblical Limericks: Our National Bird

The Eagle is our national bird,
despite what we have read in God’s word:
scripture says they’re unclean.
What does that even mean?
We shouldn’t eat them? That’s just absurd.

Deuteronomy 14: 11 - 12

Rainy Pines

I took this photo a few weeks ago.

The views, comments, statements and opinions expressed on this Web site do not necessarily represent the official position of The Salvation Army.


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