Among charity organizations existing currently, there is one that takes its mission so seriously that it sees itself as a military unit on duty. The Salvation Army—one of the most famous Christian charity organizations worldwide—is truly an army in many senses but one: instead of taking lives away, it attempts to save them, both physically and metaphysically.
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The Salvation Army owes its existence to one man: William Booth, who founded the organization in 1865 in an attempt to relieve poor people in Britain from their misfortunes. At first, he preached in the streets of London, and as people listened to him, Booth directed them to nearby churches and chapels for food and a place to sleep. However, many of the poor could not find shelter because Victorian churches rejected them due to their extreme poverty, and “inappropriate” or “unorthodox” dress and habits; in order to solve this problem and provide the poor with a place to eat and sleep, Booth founded the East London Christian Mission. The term “Salvation Army” emerged later, when Booth was dictating a letter in which he compared believers to God’s army; as the name “Salvation Army” appeared, the goals and structure of the organization became clear: Booth called himself “The General of the Salvation Army,” and his wife Catherine became the “Mother of the Salvation Army.” A progressive trait of the organization—especially considering the fact that it appeared in Victorian Britain—was that women could participate with equal rights, so Catherine occupied the position of an ordained minister. In accordance with the organization’s name, each member had a rank similar to those existing in the army; regular church members were called soldiers, and those of higher ranks were ministers. The name “Salvation Army” reminds all of its members that they are on a mission: saving souls. Booth quickly realized that the last thing hungry and exhausted people think about is the salvation of their souls, so in order to keep up with the mission, he established the “three S” principle: soup, soap, salvation. The idea was that when people’s primary needs are satisfied, they can direct their thoughts and eyes to God. These principles are kept nowadays as well (GotQuestions).
Booth did not want his church to be correlated with the existing religious traditions, so he eliminated all of the forms of outward religious observance. As for other outward symbols, the Salvation Army differed from other religious organizations greatly. It emulated the structure and charters of a military organization. In 1878, the organization adopted its first flag designed by Catherine Booth, and starting from 1880s, the organization began to establish its corps all over Britain. At that time, the Salvation Army already utilized military-like uniforms, ranks such as “cadet,” lieutenant,” “captain,” or “general,” and its own terminology; for example, the places of religious worship were called “outposts,” newly recruited members were “captives,” and Bible readings were “rations.” Such a fresh approach looked attractive to the masses tired of traditional preaching, so the Army increased in numbers quickly: by the beginning of the 1880s, there were 127 officers and 81 corps across Britain and overseas (VictorianWeb.org).
The Salvation Army’s religious doctrine is based on 11 principles, or the articles of faith.
These articles are:
- We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God: and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice.
- We believe that there is only one God, who is infinitely perfect, the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things, and who is the only proper object of religious worship.
- We believe that there are three persons in the Godhead—the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost—undivided in essence and coequal in power and glory.
- We believe that in the person of Jesus Christ the Divine and human natures are united, so that He is truly and properly God and truly and properly man.
- We believe that our first parents were created in a state of innocency, but by their disobedience they lost their purity and happiness; and that in consequence of their fall all men have become sinners, totally depraved, and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God.
- We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has, by His suffering and death, made an atonement for the whole world so that whosoever will may be saved.
- We believe that repentance towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and regeneration by the Holy Spirit are necessary to salvation.
- We believe that we are justified by grace, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; and that he that believeth hath the witness in himself.
- We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.
- We believe that it is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified, and that their whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- We believe in the immortality of the soul; in the resurrection of the body; in the general judgment at the end of the world; in the eternal happiness of the righteous; and in the endless punishment of the wicked (BBC).
In order to deliver salvation, the Army uses music (the famous orchestras marching around the streets of almost any big city in the world), propaganda, free food and shelter for homeless and those in need, and also sells cheap clothes and other goods through a network of shops, preaches, and helps people in a number of other ways. Members of the Salvation Army can be found almost anywhere where there is a disaster, and where people are desperately looking for help.
The Salvation Army is a charity organization founded by William Booth in London in 1865. His initial purpose was to help poor people find food and shelter, but when he noticed that Victorian churches often rejected these people because of their appearance and habits, he decided to establish an organization that would help them. Booth, as well as his wife, led the organization, established its structure, doctrine, and principles of work, and although there has been more than 150 years since its emergence, the Salvation Army exists today. This is probably the best proof of its efficiency and popularity in the world.
- “What is the Salvation Army, and What Do They Believe?” GotQuestions.org. N.p., 04 Jan. 2017. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.
- “The Origin and Early Development of the Salvation Army in Victorian England.”Victorianweb.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.
“Salvation Army.” BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.
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