This Is Not The Salvation Army!

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The Body Builder

by Major Terry Camsey –

There is a famous painting by Rene Margritte, a Belgian surrealist painter, that is of a tobacco pipe. Underneath it are the words, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” (This is not a pipe).

It is a pipe, of course, but the painter would have the observer dig beyond the obvious. It is a source of pleasure to some and annoyance to others. It is satisfaction to some and aggravation to others. It might be seen as an instrument of death since there is evidence of links to cancer. Others may look at it and see an aesthetically pleasing design with graceful curves and bowl.

It might represent the adult equivalent of a baby’s pacifier, especially when sucked on with no tobacco in the bowl. Then again it might be seen as a tar trap with that chemical closing the stem as surely as cholesterol can close the arteries.

For fitness aficionados it might be seen as lung exercise apparatus since it does exercise the lungs as they suck in the smoke.

Can you see what I am getting at? What is seen (but not actually observed) superficially represents first impressions only, which may be shallow and incomplete if not misleading.

Is the flag of The Salvation Army a flag or a symbol of something much deeper? Is a drum The Salvation Army? Or a tambourine? Or a bonnet? Or an emergency disaster vehicle? Or a Song Book? Or ranks? Or The War Cry?…They may contribute to the external image of the Army and, by that token, be Army. But they are certainly not the Army.

They are external images that, collectively, may even make us recognizable on the streets, but they are not the Army, else people would know exactly who we are and what we stand for. They don’t, to judge by the number of people who feel that the reason we don’t attract people is because “they don’t know we are a church!” Which we are, and yet not.

A church building is not the church. You know it, and I know it, yet many people see only archaic buildings, full of archaic people who have lost touch with the world.

You hear it often, “That’s not Army!” I always find it interesting to press people who say that as to what they mean by it. “What is Army?” I ask. You know what they say? “Flags, tambourines, bonnets (not so frequently now in this country, but elsewhere. You’d be surprised) emergency disaster activities, song books, ranks, War Cry, soldiers, bands, mercy seats. Whisper it, but I have even known of well-meaning Anglo officers telling Hispanic officers that in the Army we don’t clap the verses to songs. It’s not, apparently, Army.

Now, I say all this with tongue in cheek, of course, just to get the juices flowing (and, who knows, perhaps the blood boiling). Because The Salvation Army is far, far more than the outward trappings so pregnant with meaning to the insider, yet of no significance to others.

Surely the key to The Salvation Army lies in its spirit…in the reason we do things, not in the “vehicles” we use to, hopefully, convey that message to others. We should be constantly asking “Why? Why?” in order to rediscover the original purpose, then pursue it with fresh vigor.

When I get to Heaven, I don’t think God will ask me why I was not like Joe Bloggs, or anyone else. He will ask, “Why were you not you…the way I made you, to fulfill the mission I sent you for?”

He will not ask The Salvation Army, “Why were you not like Willow Creek or Saddleback Community?” He will, I am quite certain, ask, “Why were you not The Salvation Army?”

How would you like us to be able to respond to that question?

I know what I should like.

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