Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The wages of stupidity

I had other plans for a piece I was going to write today - in fact two pieces were already vying for my attention when Step-Mum picked up a tweet from @salvationarmyuk which raised more than a little interest.

The 'Travelling Horse of Wrexham'
Whilst there's a saying on the railway that there's 'nowt so daft as the general public' (and a good degree of CCTV evidence to back this up), it is dangerous to proceed on that assumption in the PR space.

When the UK territory tweets "Read our latest response to the statements made on Australian radio regarding the LGBT community", they immediately invite not just a look at their piece, but for people to hit Google in search of their own truth. Five bewildering minutes later, having read the UK territory response (now, curiously, removed, but not before a screenshot was collected!) to something they didn't clarify the origins of, and the Australia Southern territory response which gave us the radio station name to whack into Google, I was listening to the 'Salt and Pepper' show on 'Joy 94.9', an Australian radio show, clearly by gay people, for gay people.

Their interview, on the back of a statement responding to a proposed boycott from a former pop star, which was only really reported by the gay media, with Major Andrew Craib, (at the time the Territorial Director for Public Relation, now all of a sudden Divisional Public Relations Secretary for South Australia, quelle surprise), was by the Army's agreement. He was not ambushed! That being so, you have to ask the question - what on earth were they thinking when they agreed to give an interview to a show which describes itself thus (cover your ears, children, the Army wouldn't want you reading some of these words so I've had to edit it):
"'Salt and Pepper' takes a salacious look at the week that was. Think of it as a queer media watch' Serena, the salty one and Pete,the peppery one, are a couple of grumpy old journo types who bring you an overview of the week in media. From Royal Wedding w**k to the simplest of idiots making stupid errors, we will look at media treatments of gay events around the world, and the headlines that you didn’t read right here in our own back yard. No one is immune – not event our own joystars. Join them to hunt through headlines, and wade through mediocrity, and just have a rollicking time."
I am not sure on what grounds they felt it was desirable or sensible to give an interview to a show for homosexuals which hinges on the word 'salacious', on a station with only 216,000 listeners, on a show that airs at 2300 on a Tuesday, but Major Craib's comments suggest that it was all about the money.

The Army was so desperate to try and make sure gay people kept giving, that it put itself forward for ritual humiliation. That would have been bad enough, but Major Craib's performance was an utter disgrace and a total embarrassment. If the show set out to 'wade through mediocrity', well, they succeeded.

I'm not going to type it all out, but I would encourage you, if you're a Salvationist, to grab your handbook of doctrine, a Bible, and listen to it here or here.

You might feel sorry for a soldier being stopped in the street and fed to the bears like this, but a Major? In a Public Relations appointment? Deliberately putting himself in that position? Was he crazy?

He didn't understand the scriptural or theological basis of our beliefs. He didn't understand the context of the book of Romans. He didn't even identify that the Army uses the same bible as all other mainstream Christians, or manage to make the point regarding Leviticus that if they objected to the old covenant, maybe they would like to take on a Jew regarding that, since they, not us, still live rigidly by it? Bit of a training issue, one might suggest?

He did, however, understand that his brief was to try to make good any damage to the Army's reputation amongst gay people or sympathisers, who may put their money where their mouths are and stop giving - and herein lies a greater problem, which becomes painfully apparent in the UK territory statement.

Another blogger has said this:
"Craibe’s reason for doing the interview was to convince members of the LGBT community that they should ignore the boycott call because The Salvation Army is a good organization doing good deeds in local communities. However, he was not prepared for the tough, but fair, questions he received. Instead, of tamping out the boycott flames, he undoubtedly fanned them.
While other Salvation Army spokespeople have stepped back from Craibe’s dogmatic statements, they have not completely repudiated them. They have all articulated the belief that members of the LGBT community are sinners existing in spiritual death and in need of salvation. Nevertheless, The Salvation Army is delighted to take their money. 
The Salvation Army is certainly entitled to its religious beliefs. But, given its beliefs, what did the organization really hope to gain by going on a radio show targeting the LGBT community? While Craibe was not adequately prepared, I’m not sure any amount of preparation would have helped much given the organization’s religious beliefs. Rather than helping to end the boycott, the interview will likely strengthen it.
The follow-up statements from The Salvation Army are also troublesome. The Salvation Army USA official statement makes it sound like the organization accepts the LGBT community. However, as Byrd’s [US NHQ PR Director] email to me reveals, the posted statement may really be just a fig leaf hiding what many in the LGBT community believe to be The Salvation Army’s true position: You’re a sinner. You’re broken. We look down on you. But, we want your money."
Even though I agree with the position the Army espouses, I am troubled by the logic, which is strong. It's not a big deal until you go to those people asking for their money, not least because once they've given, rightly or wrongly, they feel that they are owed a form of acceptance of their life choices which we cannot in all good conscience afford them.

As the blogger, Michael Rosen, concluded:

"The Salvation Army cannot have it both ways...
...The Salvation Army should develop a communications strategy before speaking. And, that strategy should be absolutely honest. Come to think of it, perhaps The Salvation Army needs to be honest with itself. Perhaps it should actually embrace the boycott movement rather than fight it. Perhaps it should stop accepting donations from people it believes are unrepentant sinners.
All nonprofit organizations should be true to their mission and values. When engaging the public, all nonprofit organizations should have a carefully crafted, but thoroughly honest, strategy in place. The Salvation Army missed the mark on both points."

William Booth believed there was no such thing as 'dirty money' - he would take it from anyone - even the likes of Lord Rothschild.

When I was a boy, I thought that was such a wonderful view to take; indeed, when I used to do my 'red shield appeal' (if you read 'red shield' in German, there's an interesting conspiracy theory!) enveloping during the mid-90s, our envelopes used to bear the words 'we do not benefit directly from the national lottery', or something similar. Grandad explained to me that the word 'directly' was because whilst we didn't take money from Camelot, we weren't to know if the tenner someone put in their envelope was as a result of three balls matching on the preceding Saturday!

It's not that simple though. In my youth I failed to perceive that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Not from the state, not from private donors. He who pays the piper may not exactly call the tune, but he can decide on the basis of the tune played if he wishes to fund the piper further.

The question I therefore ask is, does that matter? I would say yes, if it does to the donor, at least!

If you receive money to use as you see fit, that's great. But if you receive money wrapped with expectations other than those which you feel are right, that's a different matter.

The Army already subscribes tacitly to feminism, cheaply portraying men as abusive, homeless drunks who need setting straight and women and children as their victims, who need protecting. You only have to look at the materials we send to prospective donors, and put on the walls in our halls.

Similarly, at a lower level, there are those who, on this particular issue, are waving a rainbow flag through the Army's corps', and even the corridors of power, in pursuit of doctrinal change. There are many Salvationists who do not understand the Army's stance, because we are often scared of teaching it, and there are a good few, I reckon, who actively oppose it or even break it, but are soldiers nonetheless.

At the point where a radio show which claimed to want 'balanced debate' rounded on Major Craib for correctly asserting that homosexual acts are a choice, and therefore may be abstained from, there was a decision to be made. Do we want these people's money as our first priority, or do we want to be 'true to our colours'?

It was too late for the interview itself. Major Craib was in complete meltdown - in fact, we heard in the background the surest sign that someone is 'dying' in an interview - the ringing of their mobile phone, followed by a short silence and a message tone. I wonder who and what that was. Maybe we should have ordered Major Craib a taxi like Diane Abbott?

Returning to that first tweet, the international Army has decided to respond, and it's only because of that decision that the likes of me even know about the incident. That's right, something damaging happened in Australia as a result of a public spokesman dropping the ball, so we told the world. It looks like that has hit home now, in the UK at least, because the webpage, the statement, and the tweet advertising it, have all been excised less than 24 hours after they appeared. Light the blue touchpaper...

The interview took place on 21 June and it was yesterday, 3 July, that the UK territory's statement appeared. It appeared to have common elements with those from other territories. The opening paragraph, for instance, matches that on the United States NHQ page. Australia Eastern's Major Bruce Harmer's competent (though not hugely edifying) 'Q&A' response is also available there.

The UK territory chose not to link to that bit, but to write their own conclusion, and it's the last paragraph with which I must take issue:
"We respect and value the diversity of our staff and the people we support and treat them each as unique individuals. As well as having a right to be dealt with professionally, people can expect from us encouragement and a respect for their individual beliefs, ambitions and preferences." (emphasis added)
Insufficient use of the comma has inhibited the clarity of that last sentence, but I am sorry; for precisely the reason outlined by Paul in his epistle to the Romans, it would be utterly wrong of me to 'encourage' a preference for sin, the wages of which is death. (Rom 6:23). It would be wrong in civil society to believe that unsaved sinners merit wilful disrespect - it doesn't fit with 'love the sinner, hate the sin', but I am still entitled, indeed called, to the sincerely held belief that those who participate in homosexual acts are going to hell - and, regretting that, to sincerely want to do something to bring them to salvation and a more fulfilling way of life.

General Bond told us fervently from the Albert Hall platform a few weeks ago that she believes in the devil and hell, but not that we should evangelise out of the 'turn or burn' mould.

Scripture tells us again and again that the devil wants us to be comfortable with sin - to think nothing of it. That's the most dangerous situation - when we tell ourselves 'it's ok'. We are specifically called to guard against it!
"Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you." (Romans 12:2, MSG) 
"Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. " (Ephesians 6:13, NIV) 
Does the Salvation Army still believe in sin? In strong doctrine and strong mercy?

I hope so. If it doesn't, why would any Salvation be necessary?

If we do, then we should say so - and maybe it would be prudent not to expect donations from those who vehemently disagree, or would seek to mould us into something else.

A senior officer recently said to me that if we removed from the soldiers roll everyone who broke the dedication covenant made in relation to their children, we would have far fewer soldiers. We remove them for drinking alcohol, but not for failing to uphold the principles of Christian family life in relation to Children regarding whom they freely entered into an extra covenant relationship with God.

Maybe we should tell people, when they bring their child to the Army to be dedicated to God, that we don't actually worry about whether the covenant which the Army administers and into which the parents and congregation enter with the almighty, is kept? If the covenant is defiled by disrespect, the ceremony is as a clanging gong, is it not?

And if homosexual acts are one day no longer sin to be identified as such, when and how did we become arbiters? More to the point, which sin might we legitimise next?

The one that shouts loudest?

The one that's most socially acceptable or politically expedient?

The one which threatens to stop giving money to us?

If as individuals, or as an Army, we are ever foolish and short-sighted enough to take our eyes off being the best we can be, as saved sinners and sanctified saints, and dilute our doctrine for the highest bidder, or to keep the cartridge giving up, ours will be the wages of stupidity.

Eventually, we wouldn't even be there to love those people as God intended

Love from Daddy.

No comments: