The Salvation Army (TSA) is losing donors and facing accusations of “going woke” because of an internal guide TSA created to promote conversations about racism. TSA has defended the guide, titled “Let’s Talk About Racism,” although the organization has since removed it in order to evaluate whether it needs clarification.
“Although we remain committed to serving everyone in need—regardless of their beliefs, backgrounds, or lifestyle—some individuals and groups have recently attempted to mislabel our organization to serve their own agendas,” said TSA in a Nov. 25 statement responding to the controversy. “They have claimed that we believe our donors should apologize for their skin color, that The Salvation Army believes America is an inherently racist society, and that we have abandoned our Christian faith for one ideology or another. Those claims are simply false, and they distort the very goal of our work.” The statement continues:
The truth is that The Salvation Army believes that racism is fundamentally incompatible with Christianity, and that we are called by God to work toward a world where all people are loved, accepted, and valued. Our positional statement on racism makes this clear. These beliefs and goals are critically important because we know that racism exists, and we are determined to do everything the Bible asks of us to overcome it.
The Salvation Army’s Guide on Racism
The 67-page guide, “Let’s Talk About Racism,” reportedly released in April, states at the beginning that it is “voluntary” and “designed to stimulate gracious discussion among Salvationists who choose to participate…It is not a position or policy statement, and it does not replace, supersede, or act as an addendum to The Salvation Army’s International Positional Statement.”
The purpose of “Let’s Talk About Racism” is to help people understand how racism has impacted American society, how those situations diverge from God’s purposes for people, and how participants can address racism in their own contexts. TSA’s goals for those who go through the guide include that participants will “lament, repent and apologize for biases or racist ideologies held and actions committed” and “develop action steps for continued personal and corporate growth towards a posture of humility and anti-racism.”
The guide is divided into five sections that people can work through on their own or in a weekly discussion group. The authors emphasize the importance of listening to other people’s perspectives and the need for patience in a challenging conversation. “Be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading as you deal with a difficult topic that requires a lot of grace,” they write. “Each conversation should begin and end in a time of prayer.”
Criticisms of the guide include the fact that it presents racism as both an individual and a structural problem, denounces “color-blindness” as “dangerous,” and encourages participants to evaluate their own potential biases. The guide encourages people to lament and repent of personal and corporate sin, including passiveness, in relation to racism.