Pipe dreams


by Terry Camsey, Major –

In the Los Angeles County Museum of Art there is a famous painting by René Magritte, a Belgian painter. It is a picture of a Sherlock Holmes type of smoking pipe and bears the title: “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”… “This is not a pipe.”

On the surface that seems a curious comment. It undoubtedly is a pipe. But one senses he is suggesting that there is something beyond the image. In other words, that it is not just a pipe. So what might it be?

An adult (primarily) male pacifier that gives the smoker comfort? Or, a cause of cancer, in both the smoker and unfortunates who are constantly exposed to second-hand smoke? Certainly a source of revenue to both pipe maker and tobacco producers? Plus the agent of a potential insidious addiction!

Perhaps René Magritte had a point!

What if we put up a picture of a Salvation Army corps building with the title, “This is not a corps.” And, what if we looked at what that building represents beyond the image. What thoughts then come to mind? What might it be?

A barn to store the harvest? …A boot-camp to train and equip soldiers? …A mission to send out missionaries? …A refinery where the crude may be refined? A restaurant where spiritual food is made available? …A laundry where robes may be washed white? …

…How about a refueling center where people can get powered-up for the immediate journey ahead? …A museum to honor and preserve the past? A sanctuary, refuge for those needing help? …A lighthouse warning the lost of imminent danger? …A refuge, shelter from danger offering safety and security?…

A hospital for hurting people? …An incubator to hatch Christians? …How about a sign-post to help lost people find their way? …A bridge the unsaved can cross to meet Christ?

Those readers who enjoy a challenge to exercise their mind could doubtless add many more aspects of what a corps is (or, perhaps, should be). It may point up weaknesses or affirm strengths. It is certainly a fascinating exercise.

Another way to look at a corps is by the labels attached. We have tabernacles, temples, missions, congress halls…there are also in some territories, corps called castles, citadels, fortresses…all of the latter suggesting defense from outside intruders. That was part of their function in the early days. The book, The Old Corps (which inspired John Gowans to write the musical Glory), demonstrates that such descriptions were appropriate then. It tells of Salvationists lining up inside the hall, praying before they went out to face the shouting and jeering skeleton army.

In one such incident, the soldiers found themselves lucky to get back to the building alive, and one of the local officers managed to save the flag by wrapping it around his body under his uniform.

Now what about, “This is not an Army flag”? Is the flag itself sacred, or does its worth lie in what it represents?

It’s a piece of cloth with symbols on it…identification and a rallying point on the field of battle…it represents a sovereign, nation or cause

Try it and see what you can discover. Let us know, so that we may all benefit from learning your thoughts.

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