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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Never on any Consideration Oppose the Interests of The Salvation Army

I have just begun reading a biography of the fifth general of The Salvation Army, General George Carpenter.  I’m not very far into it just yet.  Young George has just signed his “Articles of War” which the author describes as “a creed, a promise to abstain from the use of all intoxicating liquor, bad language, dishonesty, and a solemn promise to obey the lawful orders of Officers and never on any consideration to oppose the interests of The Salvation Army. (Carpenter 35)”

We could quibble over the issue of drinking, and what constitutes “bad language” but it’s that final clause that really jumps out at me: to “never on any consideration…oppose the interests of The Salvation Army.”

I don’t really know what that means.  It sounds an awful lot like what Michael said to Fredo in the Godfather.

The Salvation Army, like every other human institution, has had its share of scandal. Is it in the Army’s interest to keep quiet - to not "air our dirty laundry in public," so as to maintain our good reputation and the trust our donors place in us, or is it in the Army’s best interest to bring these things to light? The leadership of the Army sometimes make bad decisions. I know that they "bathe their decisions in prayer" and that they're "guided by the Holy Spirit" and yada, yada, yada.... But sometimes they screw up.  Sometimes, despite all the piety, they make bad decisions.  Is it in the Army’s interest for officers and soldiers to obediently salute and follow these "lawful orders", or to tactfully and respectfully oppose them – even to the point of disobedience?

Please note – I am writing about generalities here.  I have nothing specific in mind – only hypothetical abstractions. 

But where is the line between obedience of orders and (to use Salvation Army in America’s current branding slogan) “doing the most good? Sometimes those things don’t line up exactly.

The language of the Articles of War (Soldier’s Covenant) has changed somewhat in the years since the then-future general George Carpenter signed his oath; the current version no longer contains that troubling phrase.  The current version reads: “I will be true to the principles and practices of The Salvation Army, loyal to its leaders, and I will show the spirit of salvationism whether in times of popularity or persecution.”

But the question is still in there.  Loyalty to our leaders may not always be true to the principles and practices of The Salvation Army.  What is a soldier or an officer to do?

Carpenter, Stella.  A Man of Peace in a World at War. Australia, Privately Published. 1993.

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