Home Christian News Ed Stetzer: ‘Cancel’ the Salvation Army? I Think Not.

Ed Stetzer: ‘Cancel’ the Salvation Army? I Think Not.

Salvation Army

In the end, it appears everyone gets a turn to face our new cancel culture. Left or right, our new pressures of ideological purity and tribal buzzwords eventually set their sights upon even the most absurd of targets. Case in point is the recent war conservatives have decided to wage on the Salvation Army.

That’s right, the Salvation Army— the folks who care for the poor while others, left and right, try to cancel them.

In Religion News Service, I explained:

Yet beyond its evident good work, the Salvation Army is a powerful example of how the church must endure against the buffeting of a polarized society. In this new day of cancel culture, the Salvation Army seems to be consistently hit from both sides of the ideological divide.

Let me elaborate further here, as others seemed to have seized the moment for their own purposes, at the expense of the Salvation Army and the people they serve.

Crusading in the WSJ

Last week in the Wall Street Journal, Kenny Xu, a crusader against affirmative action, took aim at the Army in the latest skirmish in our cultural war on how to handle race, racism, and past injustices.

Yet, it’s not really about the Salvation Army—it’s about scoring political points at their expense, and at the expense of the poor.

I’m grateful Xu at least recognized the historic and broad respect the Salvation Army has earned over its more than 150-year history.

But in the same breath, Xu transitions to a litany of hyperbole and mischaracterization that has become emblematic of our political and cultural discourse. At the heart of Xu’s concern is that “an internal coalition of woke ideologues now endangers the organization’s reputation.” Worse, at one point Xu suggests that their concern for justice is, at some level, financially driven as they “court more corporate giving.”

Seriously?

The similar refrain of dismissing authentic concerns with cheap buzzwords and slandering motivations is as tiresome as it is routine. But because it proves effective in sparking outrage, the cancellations continue.

I am deeply appreciative of the Salvation Army. I hope you will join me in appreciation of its historic model of integral mission, showing that evangelism and justice are integral to the gospel. Moreover, in a season of cultural tribalism, the Salvation Army actually provides a powerful example of how the Church must endure against the buffeting of a polarized society. In this new day of cancel culture, the Salvation Army has responded to criticism from both sides of the ideological divide with charity, truth, and an unwillingness to compromise their mission.

Canceled from the Right

It’s not surprising that the Salvation Army would be criticized from the left, given the Army’s commitment to the gospel, traditional sexual ethics, and more.

Now, however, the Salvation Army has come under criticism from the ideological right. This anti-woke crusade, reflected in the piece by Kenny Xu charging Salvationists with “radical woke overtones against American Christians” shows that some who on the one hand say they are opposed to cancel culture are nevertheless willing to discount the historic and devoted service to the gospel by the Salvation Army.

The current criticism comes as the Salvation Army tries to engage issues of race—using Christian language suggesting that Christians might consider repenting for racism, which seems a pretty biblical practice. (For one example, consider Southern Baptist resolutions repenting for past slavery and ongoing racism.)

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the Founding Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible story. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates. He serves as interim teaching pastor of Calvary Church in New York City and serves as teaching pastor at Highpoint Church.