During this election campaign, we have had some concern that the Salvos are getting too far into the political arena, and that they should remove themselves from the affairs of the state.
This statement concerns me. I understand the purpose of separation being one of protection of the people of the state; so that my values that flow from my beliefs are not unfairly placed on those who profess no such faith. I both understand and support this notion. However, if I am called to remove myself from the advocacy of those oppressed by the unjust structures inherent in capitalist democracies simply because I have both a faith, and an allegiance to a denomination, then I will have to disagree.
Some of our greatest political activists were Christians, and were active because of their faith. William Booth, Martin Luther King Jr, William Wilberforce, President Lincoln!! To be Christian does not make you silent on issues of government. The Salvation Army must speak for those who are not heard, and they must speak to the people in power. That includes business leaders, community leaders, and yes, politicians. The Salvation Army is apolitical, and will criticise any political party or position that does not represent the needs of the most disadvantaged. We will always be, unashamedly, involved in advocacy for those most in need, and that will always involve us in the political arena and at times in fierce political debate.
And let us remember, that to be political does not mean one needs to always be critical. Very often, those engaged in politics will come to The Salvation Army and seek the wisdom of our practical experience, or ask us how a policy could be shaped. We work together, regardless of the party, to better the justice outcomes for the most disadvantaged. However, when we find that a Party is taking us down a path we believe to be detrimental, we will speak out against the policy (not the party, or the person). Politics is all around us. To turn our back on it would be to turn our back on our people. The Salvation Army will continue to work apolitically until fair outcomes are a reality for all.
Here is a Papal encyclical on this topic that I found helpful, and hope you will too:
“Founded to build the kingdom of heaven on earth rather than to acquire temporal power, the Church openly avows that the two powers—Church and State—are distinct from one another; that each is supreme in its own sphere of competency. But since the Church does dwell among men, she has the duty "of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel." Sharing the noblest aspirations of men and suffering when she sees these aspirations not satisfied, she wishes to help them attain their full realization. So she offers man her distinctive contribution: a global perspective on man and human realities.” ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PAUL VI ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF PEOPLES, MARCH 26, 1967