At the worst possible time of year, the Salvation Army is suffering a major public relations crisis. After progressively flirting with Critical Race Theory in recent times, the Salvation Army (TSA) was last month called out by donors and members for its embrace of wokeness. Newsweek reports:
As The Salvation Army launches its Red Kettle Campaign this holiday season, some of its long-time donors are withdrawing their support from the 156-year-old charitable organisation citing its newly embraced “woke” ideology as the reason.
Concerned Salvationists and donors are particularly upset with “Let’s Talk About Racism”, a recent initiative that uses an “anti-racist” lens and familiar CRT talking points to outline the church’s alleged racial sins and how to atone for them.
After backlash, the Salvation Army removed the curriculum from its website “for appropriate review”. According to the Daily Wire, the resource “claims Christianity is inherently racist and calls for white Christians to repent and offer ‘a sincere apology’ to blacks for being ‘antagonistic… to black people or the culture, values and interests of the black community’.”
The irony is that the Salvation Army has historically played a leading role in confronting racism in the United States, pre-empting the civil rights movement by some five decades. As conservative pundit Don Feder notes, “throughout its history, the Salvation Army has served people of all races in America, even during the era of segregation. Today, 60% of those it helps are minorities.”
“Still, the organisation is driven to apologise for its imaginary sins and demand that all Caucasians do the same,” he writes.
A Color Us United petition that calls on TSA to “stop letting race activism dilute the good work of fellow Salvationists and supporters” has garnered almost 15,000 signatures.
In a lengthy Facebook post, well-known Christian apologist Greg Koukl announced that he was terminating his monthly donations to the Salvation Army and directing them to another organisation. He lamented that, having read the controversial curriculum in detail, “it rapidly became clear to me that TSA has fallen for critical race theory lock, stock, and barrel.” Koukl minced no words:
To see that TSA has been taken in by the likes of Ibram X. Kendi (How to Be an Anti-Racist), Robin DiAngelo (the thoroughly discredited White Fragility), and the (also thoroughly discredited) NYT “1619 Project” has my head spinning. Your material’s baseless claim that “our foundations were built on racism” is beyond belief…
In my estimation, CRT is a Trojan horse taking in well-intentioned Christian enterprises that— because they care about justice and oppose oppression—naively promote the most serious threat to biblical Christianity I have seen in 50 years.
Koukl is clearly well-read on the topic and aware of its cunning dialectic. “I am not going to fall for the CRT ‘Kafka trap’ that my protestations are actually evidence of my racism,” he wrote, “and neither should you.” Koukl also clarified that he does not dismiss all concerns of ongoing racism in the modern West:
I am not claiming there is no racism to be dealt with or are no racist Christians who need to repent. What I am saying is that critical race theory is not an accurate characterisation of contemporary racial dynamics in America (as many have argued). Therefore, since its analysis is faulty, it offers a faulty solution, one that creates a whole set of new racial tensions and provides no productive resolution to them.
His warning was stern but gracious: “The Salvation Army—unwittingly, I believe—has made common cause with an ideology that is openly hostile to Christianity if you read the fine print.”
On Twitter, TSA responded to the wave of criticism, saying, “the sensationalist claims that The Salvation Army has entered a political war are simply not true.” In a longer response, the organisation downplayed their embrace of CRT without backing away from it.
“The Salvation Army occasionally publishes internal study guides on various complex topics to help foster positive conversations and grace-filled reflection,” the statement read. It inferred that any misunderstanding was due to TSA’s detractors, not TSA itself. “Some individuals and groups have recently attempted to mislabel our organisation to serve their own agendas.”
Admirably, the statement sought to assure members and supporters that the church had not “abandoned its Biblical beliefs for another philosophy or ideology” — and that its goal was still “to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in His name without discrimination”.
But given the divisive and insidious nature of Critical Race Theory, not all TSA supporters will find these reassurances comforting. Through the centuries, many Christian denominations have died from within after trying to syncretise the gospel with popular ideologies — with higher criticism in the 19th Century being a prominent example.
The Salvation Army has done untold good in the 156 years of its existence — both by remaining faithful to its message, and through its army of members and donors.
Where it goes from here is yet to be seen. But whatever its future, the Salvation Army must take seriously the warnings of its supporter base, lest “doing the most good” becomes a thing of the past.