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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.




10 comments:

  1. If Christ is truly the centre of your life, then His life's example and His teachings will guide you in EVERY aspect of your life.. including your political and social views... not just spiritual matters..

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  2. This is interesting! I was always taught that our political stance was one of not choosing political sides, Democrat vs. Republican. We were called to serve all regardless of affiliation (political or otherwise). I have never been told that we are to be a-political.

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  3. How does your political stand trump your convenient with God and the Army? How can your "opinion" denounce the Gospel that proclaims repentance of sin the answer, not the "inclusion"? The critical officer is correct, when you don the uniform, your life reflects the organization you have signed up to represent. You know, the one that pays your lights, for your new vehicles and nice homes? If you can not adhere to the organizations standards and policies, the honorable thing would indeed to move on to a place where your views are celebrated.

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    1. My political stand does not trump my covenant with either God or the Army. My opinions do not denounce the Gospel. My opinions have been formed by that Gospel.

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    2. The Spirit of the Lord is reaching out to you Jeff to confront your advocacy of a godless agenda. Your fault is not so much with your political ideology as it is with the godlessness of sodomy and its slew of gross sexual sin. You have only one thing to do - repent. Otherwise you will be swallowed up by this sin and be made to suffer the eternal consequences of your error in leading people astray with false doctrine.

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    3. John - Thanks for stopping by this little corner of the interwebnets, and for leaving a comment. I hope that you'll come by this blog again in the future.

      I wish that you were more open to discussion, rather jumping immediately to condemn me, but I wish you well.

      Jeff.

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  4. Jeff,

    It seems your political or ideological stance has trumped the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In your original post, you indicate there should be an inclusion of LGBTI individuals in the ranks of The Salvation Army. This is a very confusing stance.

    It takes a serious amount of mental gymnastics to circumvent the reality where God defines as sin engaging in sexual relations with anyone who isn’t your spouse. The scriptures clearly define God’s ideal marriage as one man and one woman. Jesus affirmed this in Matthew 19:4-5. While history records in the OT various relationships may be in contrast to this, it was never a part of God’s plan. Furthermore, never once is a sexual relationship between two people of the same biological sex approved by our Lord. When it came to divorce, Jesus even condemned the idea of homosexuality by using the Greek word “porneia” when he mentioned “sexual immorality” in Matthew 5:31-32. Porneia is not only the root word for pornography, but it is used to identify all illicit sex including, but not limited to adultery, homosexuality, intercourse with animals, with a close relative and sex with a divorced man or woman.

    A main concern today is people don’t want to hear certain things defined as sin, especially if we or someone for whom we deeply care struggles with it. We can’t permit personal sympathies to trump the eternal truth.

    When Jesus intervened with the woman caught in adultery, in John 8:11, he showed the depth of his mercy by explaining he did not condemn her. However, he didn’t stop there. He told her to “go and sin no more”. He didn’t excuse it by justifying she was born with an inclination to have sex.

    As a Christian, let alone a pastor, you and I have the uncomfortable responsibility to call out the man who is cheating on his wife, just as we are the teenagers involved in pre-marital sex. Likewise, we also know when someone is addicted to alcohol, illicit drugs or pornography, they cannot follow Christ while indulging in these self-destructive behaviors. Too often, even people in the church carve out an exception for those who struggle with same-sex attraction, buying into the lie that this affliction is one people can’t overcome. To do so is to deny the power of the Holy Spirit to change and redeem man.

    The scriptures are clear. A person known to be living in sin is not to be in a position of leadership within the church. You suggest that people known to be engaging in activity contrary to the teachings of the scriptures be elevated to “ranks” within The Salvation Army. Everyone should be welcome to come, learn and participate in corps activities. However, when you know someone is a willful participant in sexual activity with another person who is not their spouse of the opposite biological gender, you should also recognize they have not repented from sin. To suggest they could be enrolled as soldiers, serve as local officers or become commissioned and ordained as an officer, isn’t just against values of The Salvation Army, but contrary to the teachings of God’s word.

    There is no redemption without repentance. If you are teaching people they are forgiven, but they have no signs of repentance from sin, you are in serious danger of being the person Paul cautioned us about in 1 Peter 2:1.

    Before you attempt to justify your way around this, I encourage you to listen to the teaching of Sam Alberry, who has struggled with same sex attraction his entire life. http://thevillagechurch.net/resources/is-god-anti-gay/

    Sam clearly understands the difference between temptation and engagement with sin. He understands that with the power of the Holy Spirit he can stand against sin in the manner prescribed by the scriptures.

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    1. (Continued)

      On another note, I agree with you in part, with respect to how our core beliefs are not “divisible quantities that can be separately compartmentalized”. The concern I have is we need a foundation of a biblical worldview. It sounds to me you have adopted a belief system not born out of the bible, but rather black liberation theology taught by pastors like Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson. Their kind of socialism, more accurately defined as Marxism, is not born out of the Gospel and the Hebrew Prophets. There are some elements of it that are plagiarized from scripture, but in the end are riddled with deceit and destruction.

      The type of communal environments referred to in places like the Book of Acts, in the NT, are only achievable when all participants in the group are willful partakers who are also followers of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Even so, most of the Mayflower survivors attempted communal living, only to find that people began to only put forth the least amount of effort while expecting to receive maximum benefit. It failed and many people died. The colony changed their structure to include land ownership centered on a private subsistence culture. It was only once this occurred that people began to prosper and thrive in the colony.

      Marxism, which is supposed to lead a culture through socialism to communism, forcibly takes from unwilling participants that which they have earned through hard work and redistributes those earnings in a manner deemed fair by the expert authoritarians. When people are not willing participants, this is called theft, even though enforcers may seek to justify it as a tax. Since we still live in a country governed by the people, we can still choose to stand against a Marxist theology. Capitalism isn’t perfect, but our present economy is probably more appropriately described as crony-capitalism. That is wrought with all kinds of ills, which we are suffering from today.

      In the end, the theology of the pastors I mentioned, also concentrates on getting even for the sins committed in generations past against their forbearers. There is no justification for atrocities that happened to their ancestors five and six generations removed, but this kind of retribution theology isn’t biblical. It is this kind of theology promoted by authors like James Cone, which is used to justify black on white racial hatred. It is only further exacerbated by present day policies which keep people trapped in a dependent class of society. That however, is a whole other discussion.

      With respect to liberation theology, I encourage you to listen to Pastor Tony Evans’ take on it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRo_AZ4L38Y Another good read about the history of liberation theology can be found here: http://www.christianexaminer.com/article/defector.liberation.theology.a.soviet.plot.of.the.cold.war/48895.htm

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    2. Anonymous (why hide? why not be public with your convictions?)

      I'm not a Marxist. I've read some Marx, yes. But I learned my socialism from the gospels and from the prophets. (Did you miss that in my original post? I said it pretty clearly.)

      I have also read James Cone, and very much appreciate his writing. He does not - as you claim - promote "retribution theology." If you've read his work, then you've seriously misunderstood it.

      Anytime someone says "the scriptures are clear" I am pretty sure that they've never really read those scriptures. The scriptures are not unambiguously clear on many issues. If they were, we wouldn't have competing claims about what the scriptures say and mean. Those who say "the scriptures are clear" really mean "my interpretation of scripture is the only one I'm willing to hear."

      I'm not confused. I'm not engaged in "a serious amount of mental gymnastics to circumvent" the scriptures of the Hebrew Bible and Christian New Testament. I take it seriously. I am committed to the Salvation Army's first doctrine - that the scriptures of the old and new testament are the rule for Christian faith and practice. If I have a different understanding of those scriptures than you, that does not mean that I have rejected them.

      If you choose to stop by here again, and to post further comments, please share your name - don't be anonymous about it.

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  5. Jeff, I agree with most of your positions as I too consider myself a progressive Salvationist and except for some opportunities to express that on the internet, have learned to keep my mouth shut when socializing with most officers and soldiers. I've found the vast majority of them to be conservative Republicans who have some sort of unknown, ingrained affinity for the Fox News Channel and the rantings of the Xian right about America once being a Xian nation that has since lost its way! However, when it comes to being apolitical as TSA interprets it there is a difference between having personal political beliefs as a citizen and getting the Army involved in party politics. Booth himself once wrote that he preferred to remain friendly with all political parties and not favor one over another so that they could all come along side the Army and help him with its work. So, sorry but TSA's official position on the subject is something I wholeheartedly agree with! TSA and its representatives (officers) should not as an organization get involved in party politics period! As an individual private citizen though, one can believe in and act upon whatever political position one wants to.

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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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