by Kenny Xu
In regions like suburban Philadelphia, the Salvation Army’s red kettles at retail entrances are a timeless reminder of ordinary Americans’ philanthropic commitment to the less fortunate. Unfortunately, Salvation Army leaders have now dared to accuse these same Americans of participating in a “racist” society where “racial groups are placed into a hierarchy, with White or lighter-skinned people at the top.”
The organization’s “Let’s Talk About Racism” curriculum for its officers and soldiers has sparked national outrage for its admonition that white people “repent” for “racism” and for its belief that America “work[s] to keep White Americans in power.” Yet rather than admit that these woke ideas are not shared or supported by its donors or staff, the leadership of the Salvation Army has hidden its new effort from the public.
Since early this year, the Salvation Army has conducted mandatory diversity trainings for its officers that ascribe “racial inequity” to “racism.” The campaign defines racism as “any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between racial groups.” This divisive framing alienates Salvation Army officers who work in the field to serve people. It suggests to officers, moreover, that any disparities between local black and white populations can be blamed on white racism, thus minimizing the problems endemic to communities themselves.
It’s far from evident that “racism” is the cause of problems in cities like Philadelphia, where progressive political leadership has played a crucial role in record-breaking crime and failing schools. But instead of carrying out its longtime mission of serving struggling neighborhoods in Philadelphia and elsewhere, the Salvation Army has begun focusing on its distorted definition of endemic racism.
The organization’s new woke direction is quickly becoming engrained in the institution. It recently hired two “diversity, equity, and inclusion” directors, who will have the power to veto any organizational curriculum or guidance that they view as not being DEI compliant, according to a Salvation Army officer. This woke “guidance” will be mandated to the organization’s more than 60,000 officers worldwide, according to one involved at the College for Officer Training.
In any type of organization – especially a massive one – dissent is necessary for proper functioning. The Salvation Army’s mission to “preach the gospel” of Christ and meet needs in his name isn’t political – and it’s not open to revision. But embracing wokeness imports a secular ideology into the organization, which shifts the focus away from its religious mission and toward ideological ones. To top it off, some Salvationists are forced to affirm these woke principles as a condition of service.
Today, the Salvation Army seems less focused on its religious foundation than on championing woke publications such as Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist” and Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility.”
There is no greater repudiation of the Salvation Army’s principles than a rejection of colorblind thinking. In 1880, Salvation Army commissioner Frank Smith said that the Army will be among “the first Christian communities of America who will faithfully and wholly break down the wall of partition separating the white from the colored.” Booker T. Washington, a historical advocate for colorblindness, said he respected the Salvation Army because it draws “no color line in religion.” Colorblindness was integral to the Army’s structure. Kendi and DiAngelo, by contrast, argue that colorblindness is wrong because it ignores the lived experiences of “marginalized groups” – an ideological claim. The Army can’t serve the Gospel and the world at the same time.
The Salvation Army’s DEI programs will do more to harm minorities and the impoverished than help. The organization’s members and supporters will not stand for these sorts of policies. As president of Color Us United, an organization created to stand up for the individual dignity of ordinary Americans against abusive woke policies, I traveled to the Army’s national headquarters in Alexandria, Va., to negotiate in good faith with its national commander, Kenneth Hodder. I asked him how critical race theory has helped a single inner-city child. He had no answer. Yet he has refused to release a statement denouncing critical race theory and rid the Salvation Army of wokeness within its curricular materials.
Wokeness is eating the organization’s good works alive. These policies help nobody except ideologues who want more control over the Army’s apparatus. The Salvation Army needs to reaffirm that America is not a racist country, denounce critical race theory, and commit to ridding itself of insidious ideas wreaking havoc within the institution.
With its donors beginning to push back, the organization stands at a crossroads. It has a chance to change course and recommit itself to the Gospel. The alternative is staying on a path that will betray its mission and harm the people whom it aims to serve. It’s time for the Salvation Army to reject wokeness.
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