On the Corner

By Robert Docter – 

Bland… how does that word strike you?

It’s sort of like warm milk…food with no flavor…no bite…colors so innocuous as to be almost non-existent. It doesn’t stink and it doesn’t refresh. It’s not moving. It’s not something one necessarily dislikes, but it sure isn’t a turn on. There is nothing exciting about bland. It doesn’t say: “Wake up–get started –move–do something.” It just sort of sits there.

If a person is bland they don’t even rate a label. They’re not nerds, because nerds usually have the reputation of being fairly bright. They might be attractive, but after a few minutes, people tend to walk away and find more stimulating conversation. Maybe the word vapid fits as well as anything. Bland people tend to be boring. They’re dull, flat, unimaginative–definitely uninteresting–kind of empty, tedious, monotonous. They certainly aren’t significant. I don’t find them intriguing.

Well…maybe this column is getting a little bland. I better get to the point.

Is bland a fair description of the Army?

Did I get your attention?

I ask that question because it was a word used to describe the Army by a highly respected newspaper religion writer working on a major metropolitan daily.

He was speaking primarily about the Army’s reluctance these days to confront controversial moral issues in the media. We fight against sin, but when the sin gets identified in a specific way within a community we tend, on too many occasions, to pull back. In fact, if an officer organizes an open-air street meeting outside a porn bookstore we tend to look on that person as a “loose cannon”–or maybe describe that person as an attention seeker.

If an officer challenges an unfair law through peaceful civil disobedience–like collecting in shopping malls–we tend to be critical. Isn’t a shopping mall a public place? Obviously the owners should have the right to provide “reasonable and prudent” restrictions on what goes on in the mall, but one could argue that instead of being reasonable and prudent they want to limit money distribution to their own cash registers.

The Episcopal Church says it’s okay for same sex couples to marry. I don’t agree with them, and I suspect many Episcopalians don’t either, but they sure aren’t bland–maybe wrong, but not bland. That’s the risk. Confronting controversial issues demands that one take a side. Doing nothing is “bland.”

The Army has a hard time these days taking on the establishment. Maybe they’ve co-opted us. That certainly wasn’t the position of the Founder. When William Booth saw a wrong, he worked to right it. He used all opportunities including doing things which might be applicable these days to “loose cannons”. He was passionate–exciting–significant–committed and public in his work.

But who is “the Army”? When the Founder was going strong there wasn’t any doubt. Now, should any captain in any town be encouraged to do anything on any subject he or she believed to be wrong? Nobody is isolated these days, and if one takes a “strange” position in Hickville, it’s on the tube in Metropolis that night.

I think there is at least one area of concern in which we should act aggressively and consistently. Our constituency is the poor–the world poor.

We must be advocates for the poor–the world poor.

If there is any group disenfranchised, neglected, victimized, dehumanized–we must challenge whatever establishment governs their lives in a positive and productive manner. If there are unfair labor practices, working conditions that diminish, housing standards which breed ill health, we must speak on their behalf.

Awareness is the first stage of change. Significant people make others aware of problems which must be addressed.

Let’s confront blandness in ourselves and be significant in our world.

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