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Salvation Army responds to claim that it’s promoting CRT, going 'woke’

Salvation Army
A Salvation Army bell ringer amid the COVID-19 pandemic. |

The Salvation Army has responded to allegations that it's promoting critical race theory and removed a document that raised concerns among some donors. 

Known for being among the most prominent faith-based charity organizations in the United States, the Salvation Army is facing criticism for publishing a document titled “Let’s Talk About Racism.” Intended to serve as “a resource developed to guide The Salvation Army family in gracious discussions about overcoming the damage racism has inflicted upon our world,” the document pushes back on the belief of some that the U.S. is a “post-racial society” and promotes works written by proponents of the controversial Marxist ideology known as critical race theory or CRT.

The 67-page document, crafted by the Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission, provides a framework for five discussion sessions to take place among small groups of employees. The introduction to the “Let’s Talk About Racism” guide indicated an “urgent need for Christians to evaluate racist attitudes and practices in light of our faith, and to live faithfully in today’s world.” 

The document states: “many have come to believe that we live in a post-racial society,” and further suggests that “racism is very real for our brothers and sisters who are refused jobs and housing, denied basic rights and brutalized and oppressed simply because of the color of their skin.”

The “Let’s Talk About Racism” guide has received particular scrutiny from the group Color Us United, which advocates for a “race-blind America” and works to oppose those “dividing America by race, religion, sexual orientation or any other characteristic” in the name of “racial equity.” 

Color Us United has launched a petition seeking to “keep the Salvation Army focused on its good works and prevent it from going woke.” The petition, which had garnered more than 15,200 signatures as of Monday afternoon, called for a revocation of the “Let’s Talk About Racism” document and asked the International Social Justice Commission of the Salvation Army to “recognize that the suggestion that their membership ought to repent ‘on behalf of the church,’ while well-intentioned, is antithetical to the Christian ethic of individual salvation.” 

The Salvation Army pulled the document from its website in response to criticism. It subsequently issued a statement expressing regret that “elements of the recently issued ‘Let’s Talk About Racism’ guide led some to believe we think they should apologize for the color of their skin, or that The Salvation Army may have abandoned its Biblical beliefs for another philosophy or ideology.”

“That was never our intention, so the guide has been removed for appropriate review,” the charity organization added.

In a short video released Friday, Salvation Army National Commander Ken Hodder rejected assertions that the charity organization has endorsed critical race theory: “We endorse no social theory or philosophy and we never will. And we’re not asking anyone to apologize for the color of their skin.”

The charity cited the document as one of several “internal study guides on various complex topics to help foster positive conversations and grace-filled reflection among Salvationists.” It insisted that “No one is being told how to think. Period.” The controversy surrounding the guide comes as outrage over the spread of “woke” ideology and critical race theory has accelerated in the U.S. 

Encyclopedia Brittanica defines critical race theory as an “intellectual and social movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of color.” 

According to Encyclopedia Brittanica, “critical race theorists hold that racism is inherent in the law and legal institutions of the United States insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans.”

Such definitions of CRT that fail to mention its Marxist roots are denying reality, according to Paul Kengor, professor of political science and chief academic fellow of the Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College. 

Kengor noted in an op-ed published in The Christian Post that the origins of CRT are the "Frankfurt School, Freudo-Marxism.” He further implored academics to "explain what CRT is and isn’t. Most of all, rejecting CRT doesn’t mean rejecting talking about racial discrimination. It didn’t in the past and it won’t in the future.

"Until then, in the spirit of Marxism, critical race theory will do what it does: divide people. We need to unite people around what is true," Kengor added. 

Much like the Encyclopedia Brittanica, the Salvation Army's “Let’s Talk About Racism” document asserts that “Race is not biological. It is a social construct.”

Additionally, the guide points to racial disparities in homeownership, health outcomes, education and incarceration as evidence of “systemic” and “institutional” racism in the U.S. It contains an essay titled “What is Whiteness?,” which urges readers to “stop trying to be ‘colorblind.’”

“While this might sound helpful, it actually ignores all the God-given differences we possess, as well as the beautiful cultures of our Black and Brown brothers and sisters. Instead of trying to be colorblind, try seeing the beauty in our differences, and welcome them into your homes churches and workplaces. Being colorblind also ignores the discrimination our Black and Brown brothers and sisters face and does not allow us to address racism properly.” 

The “What is Whiteness?” essay as well as the document as a whole promote controversial books written by two prominent proponents of critical race theory: White Fragility by Robin Di Angelo and How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.

As indicated in the “Color Us United” petition, the guide instructs readers to “spend time repenting on behalf of the Church and asking for God to open hearts and minds to the issue of racism.” 

While the “Let’s Talk About Racism” document has been removed from the Salvation Army’s website as the charity considers whether “certain aspects of the guide may need to be clarified,” another guide titled “Study Guide on Racism” remains online.

The “Study Guide on Racism” asserts that “the subtle nature of racism is such that people who are not consciously racist easily function within the privileges, empowerment and benefits of the dominant ethnicity, thus unintentionally perpetuating injustice.”

However, the “Study Guide on Racism” also makes statements critics are less likely to find objectionable, including a declaration that “the only race is the human one” and a proclamation that “followers of Jesus Christ now find essential unity in Him, rather than in culture and ethnicity.” 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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