Soldier (The Salvation Army)

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A soldier is a Salvationist who is at least 14 years of age and has, with the approval of The Salvation Army Pastoral Care Council in each local Salvation Army corps (formerly called the Census Board), been enrolled as a warrior in the Christian denomination - The Salvation Army - after signing the Salvation Army Articles of War. The soldier expresses his commitment in every area of life, but more specifically through the ministry and work of a local Salvation Army corps.

Covenant[edit]

Salvationist Soldiers are considered by their peers to be covenanted warriors exercising 'holy passion' to win the world for Jesus. The covenant, known as the Articles of War, is a lifelong commitment to God through The Salvation Army that is fleshed out by a full book of Orders and Regulations called Chosen to Be a Soldier [1] published by the International Headquarters of The Salvation Army. There is also a complete book, formerly called the Handbook of Doctrine, now titled Salvation Story, that explains the doctrines to which the soldier subscribes.

The text of the covenant, which is quoted below, reflects the Army's determination to remain faithful to its standards and principles. All Soldiers (including officers of all ranks) are urged from time to time to re-read the solemn undertakings to which they have set their hand and to reaffirm before God their dedication to Him and to The Salvation Army, so that their lifestyle and service will be in keeping with the Soldier's Covenant.

Swearing In of Soldiers[edit]

Having completed 'recruits classes', been approved by the Pastoral Care Council and having signed their Articles of War, a soldier is publicly enrolled under The Salvation Army flag usually as part of worship of a Salvation Army corps. The soldier makes a public declaration by reading the articles aloud and will often first wear a Salvation Army uniform on this day. An Officer of The Salvation Army, usually the corps officer of the corps into which the soldier is being enrolled, normally conducts this ceremony.

Uniform[edit]

Soldiers are encouraged to wear the uniform as a sign of covenant community. The uniform is a visible profession of faith in Jesus Christ and identifies the wearer with the Christian faith. The uniform also identifies the wearer as being a person who can be called upon to discover more about the Christian faith.

The uniform differs according to rank, nationality, and activity engaged in.

Criticisms[edit]

Many Christians (including Salvation Army adherents) object to the tradition of soldiership for various reasons. The most prominent objection is the age at which children may be enrolled, i.e.: 14 years of age. Such opponents argue that it is immoral or deceptive to ask a child to sign a lifelong covenant at that age, particularly when they are too young to legally engage in some of the activities singled out in the Articles of War (consuming alcohol, smoking, etc.). Consequently, it is common for Soldiers to revoke or break their covenants when they reach adulthood.

Other objections are based on the Army's preferred treatment of Soldiers, especially uniformed Soldiers. Many roles within the corps (including paid positions) are reserved exclusively for those in uniform, including, in some corps, the opportunity to play in the band or sing in the choir. Opponents to this practice cite the book of James, chapter 2, which prohibits Christians from showing preference to any person based on clothing in the context of corporate worship.

A final common objection, while depending greatly on culture, is that the wearing of a uniform and the vow to abstain from alcohol is counter productive to the stated goal of the Salvation Army (i.e.: to spread the gospel). The uniform is widely viewed a status symbol (rather than a symbol of a man at war) and, due to its resemblance to a police uniform, often infers that Soldiers view themselves as "moral police". This perception is off-putting for those in society who differ in opinion and immediately establishes obstacles between the Soldier and those they wish to witness to. The vow to abstain from alcohol, even moderate amounts, gives the impression that the Soldier thinks of them self as morally superior or that those who partake in alcohol are to be condemned. Many European cultures in particular interpret the refusal of alcohol as rude or prudish. Again, this will socially isolate the Soldier from those they claim to be serving. However, the opposite can be considered to be the fact. The wearing of a uniform can be seen to obviate initial fumbled introductions. Most consider the uniform as opening conversations which would otherwise remain closed, allowing discussions to move on from 'pleasantries' to more important matters. The uniform is seen to open more doors than it closes.

Junior Soldiers[edit]

The Salvation Army takes seriously the capacity of children to have an authentic Christian experience. A Junior Soldier is a boy or girl who, having professed conversion, having signed the junior soldier’s promise, and being between the age of 7 and 13, becomes a Salvationist.

In some places Junior Soldiers also wear a form of uniform which differs according to the locality. A Junior Soldier uniform for a boy would be a white collar shirt, navy blue dress pants, black shoes, navy socks, Junior Soldier pins and tie. A Junior Soldier uniform for a girl would be a white collar shirt, navy blue skirt/skort, navy tights, black shoes, Junior Soldier pins. In Australia Junior soldiers have opted to wear a polo shirt reflecting the colours of The salvation Army flag (either blue, yellow or red). This gives the Juniors Soldier a sense of individuality while still belonging to the Junior corps. Often a uniform is not worn, but a Junior Soldier wears a badge (pin) with rings to indicate which level of activity or projects each Junior Soldier has attained (similar to a bar on a military medal).

The 'Junior Soldier promise' reads this:
"I know that Jesus is my Saviour from sin. I have asked him to forgive my sins, and I will trust him to keep me good. By his help, I will be his loving and obedient child, and will help others to follow him. I promise to pray, to read my Bible, and to lead a life that is clean in thought, word and deed. I will not use anything that may injure my body or my mind, including harmful drugs, alcohol and tobacco."[2]

Enrollment Statistics[edit]

According to The Salvation Army Year Book 2008 as of 1 January 2007 there are 360,222 junior soldiers and 1,082,166 senior soldiers in The Salvation Army. Additionally, in the 2010 Year Book numbers have increased - Junior Soldiers total 378,009 and Senior Soldiers total 1,122,326 internationally. As at 2010 The Salvation Army was active in 120 countries.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Chosen to be a soldier : orders and regulations for soldiers of the Salvation Army by Salvation Army. Publisher: London : Salvation Army, International Headquarters, 1989, ©1977. ISBN 0-85412-518-3, ISBN 978-0-85412-518-0
  2. ^ http://www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/www_sa.nsf/vw-dynamic-arrays/5685B006CB0C3AC7802573750042401C?openDocument