Monday, 22 September 2014

William Booth on Christian Community

It's not good enough to see people who have lived lives of vice and serious sin saved in church only expect them to be respectable 'Sunday Christians' like us, sending them 'home' to places of temptation until our next church meeting.  If we are to see people grow strong in the faith we need to set up structures that enable people to be protected.  This involves personal sacrifice.  Such as?
  • Opening our homes, taking in single people and being a family to them
  • Setting up 'safe houses'
  • Christian households purposely living in close proximity and spending mealtimes with each other
  • Adopting children
  • Caring for sick, elderly and disabled people among us.

Here are some of Booth's thoughts on these things...

Secondly: The remedy, to be effectual, must change the circumstances of the individual when they are the cause of his wretched condition, and lie beyond his control. Among those who have arrived at their present evil plight through faults of self-indulgence or some defect in their moral character, how many are there who would have been very differently placed to-day had their surroundings been otherwise?

The Army's Founder was able to testify that these methods were effective:

And here let me say that it is a great delusion to imagine that in the riffraff and waste of the labour market there are no workmen to be had except those that are worthless. Worthless under the present conditions, exposed to constant temptations to intemperance no doubt they are, but some of the brightest men in London, with some of the smartest pairs of hands, and the cleverest brains, are at the present moment weltering helplessly in the sludge from which we propose to rescue them.
I am not speaking without book in this matter. Some of my best Officers to-day have been even such as they. There is an infinite potentiality of capacity lying latent in our Provincial Tap-rooms and the City Gin Palaces if you can but get them soundly saved, and even short of that, if you can place them in conditions where they would no longer be liable to be sucked back into their old disastrous habits, you may do great things with them.

On befriending unlovable and friendless people:

If we are we to bring back the sense of brotherhood to the world, we must confront this difficulty. God, it was said in old time, setteth the desolate in families; but somehow, in our time, the desolate wander alone in the midst of a careless and unsympathising world. "There is no-one who cares for my soul. There is no creature loves me, and if I die no one will pity me," is surely one of the bitterest cries that can burst from a breaking heart. One of the secrets of the success of the Salvation Army is, that the friendless of the world find friends in it. There is not one sinner in the world-- no matter how degraded and dirty he may be--whom my people will not rejoice to take by the hand and pray with, and labour for, if thereby they can but snatch him as a brand from the burning. Now, we want to make more use of this, to make the Salvation Army the nucleus of a great agency for bringing comfort and counsel to those who are at their wits' end, feeling as if in the whole world there was no one to whom they could go.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

William Booth on Education

How should I educate my children?

This is a very relevant, urgent, current question for all Christian parents.  I find it interesting therefore that William Booth had comments to make on this.  When Booth wrote this, we had moved to compulsary education for all children between 5 and 10 years of age.  The 'Board Schools' were set up to 'fill in the gaps' where church schooling was not available.

Both of these quotes question the quality and relevance of the education that children receive.  They also deal with the issue that can be best raised by posing a question:

If you put a well behaved child together with a badly behaved child, what happens?  Does the bad child become good or does the good child become bad?  I'll leave you to decide what Booth's conclusion is!

But, it will be said, the child of to-day has the inestimable advantage of Education. No; he has not. Educated the children are not. They are pressed through "standards," which exact a certain acquaintance with A B C and pothooks and figures, but educated they are not in the sense of the development of their latent capacities so as to make them capable for the discharge of their duties in life. The new generation can read, no doubt. Otherwise, where would be the sale of "Sixteen String Jack," "Dick Turpin," and the like? But take the girls. Who can pretend that the girls whom our schools are now turning out are half as well educated for the work of life as their grandmothers were at the same age? How many of all these mothers of the future know how to bake a loaf or wash their clothes? Except minding the baby--a task that cannot be evaded--what domestic training have they received to qualify them for being in the future the mothers of babies themselves?

And even the schooling, such as it is, at what an expense is it often imparted! The rakings of the human cesspool are brought into the school-room and mixed up with your children. Your little ones, who never heard a foul word and who are not only innocent, but ignorant, of all the horrors of vice and sin, sit for hours side by side with little ones whose parents are habitually drunk, and play with others whose ideas of merriment are gained from the familiar spectacle of the nightly debauch by which their mothers earn the family bread.

It is good, no doubt, to learn the ABC, but it is not so good that in acquiring these indispensable rudiments, your children should also acquire the vocabulary of the harlot and the corner boy. I speak only of what I know, and of that which has been brought home to me as a matter of repeated complaint by my Officers, when I say that the obscenity of the talk of many of the children of some of our public schools could hardly be outdone even in Sodom and Gomorrha. Childish innocence is very beautiful; but the bloom is soon destroyed, and it is a cruel awakening for a mother to discover that her tenderly nurtured boy, or her carefully guarded daughter, has been initiated by a companion into the mysteries of abomination that are concealed in the phrase--a house of ill-fame.

The second quote also deals with the effect schools have on the labour market, often resulting in unemployment and unrealistic expectations.  Again, a relevant issue for today.

No one but a fool would say a word against school teaching. By all means let us have our children educated. But when we have passed them through the Board School Mill we have enough experience to see that they do not emerge the renovated and regenerated beings whose advent was expected by those who passed the Education Act. The "scuttlers" who knife inoffensive persons in Lancashire, the fighting gangs of the West of London, belong to the generation that has enjoyed the advantage of Compulsory Education. Education, book-learning and schooling will not solve the difficulty. It helps, no doubt. But in some ways it aggravates it. The common school to which the children of thieves and harlots and drunkards are driven, to sit side by side with our little ones, is often by no means a temple of all the virtues.
It is sometimes a university of all the vices. The bad infect the good, and your boy and girl come back reeking with the contamination of bad associates, and familiar with the coarsest obscenity of the slum. Another great evil is the extent to which our Education tends to overstock the labour market with material for quill-drivers and shopmen, and gives our youth a distaste for sturdy labour. Many of the most hopeless cases in our Shelters are men of considerable education.  Our schools help to enable a starving man to tell his story in more grammatical language than that which his father could have employed, but they do not feed him, or teach him where to go to get fed. So far from doing this they increase the tendency to drift into those channels where food is least secure, because employment is most uncertain, and the market most overstocked.

Friday, 5 September 2014

William Booth on the Gospel

I want to put it to you that the original Salvation Army was thoroughly Gospel-centred.

I say this simply because there is a strong emphasis on a form of outreach that is centred on 'Social Action' first and foremost, and I believe that many Salvationists focus on this and forget about the power of the gospel to change hearts, focusing on changing peoples' outward conditions.

The acid test:

The supreme test of any scheme for benefiting humanity lies in the answer to the question, What does it make of the individual? Does it quicken his conscience, does it soften his heart, does it enlighten his mind, does it, in short, make more of a true man of him, because only by such influences can he be enabled to lead a human life? Among the denizens of Darkest England there are many who have found their way thither by defects of character which would under the most favourable circumstances relegate them to the same position. Hence, unless you can change their character your labour will be lost. You may clothe the drunkard, fill his purse with gold, establish him in a well-furnished home, and in three, or six, or twelve months he will once more be on the Embankment, haunted by delirium tremens, dirty, squalid, and ragged. Hence, in all cases where a man's own character and defects constitute the reasons for his fall, that character must be changed and that conduct altered if any permanent beneficial results are to be attained. If he is a drunkard, he must be made sober; if idle, he must be made industrious; if criminal, he must be made honest; if impure, he must be made clean; and if he be so deep down in vice, and has been there so long that he has lost all heart, and hope, and power to help himself, and absolutely refuses to move, he must be inspired with hope and have created within him the ambition to rise; otherwise he will never get out of the horrible pit.

Food banks, take note:

The thing to be noted in all these cases is that it was not the mere feeding which effected the result; it was the combination of the feeding with the personal labour for the individual soul. Still, if we had not fed them, we should never have come near enough to gain any hold upon their hearts. If we had merely fed them, they would have gone away next day to resume, with increased energy, the predatory and vagrant life which they had been leading. But when our feeding and Shelter Depots brought them to close quarters, our officers were literally able to put their arms round their necks and plead with them as brethren who had gone astray. We told them that their sins and sorrows had not shut them out from the love of the Everlasting Father, who had sent us to them to help them with all the power of our strong Organisation, of the Divine authority of which we never feel so sure as when it is going forth to seek and to save the lost.

The work of the gospel:

1. The foundation of all the Army's success, looked at apart from its divine source of strength, is its continued direct attack upon those whom it seeks to bring under the influence of the Gospel. The Salvation Army Officer, instead of standing upon some dignified pedestal, to describe the fallen condition of his fellow men, in the hope that though far from him, they may thus, by some mysterious process, come to a better life, goes down into the street, and from door to door, and from room to room, lays his hands on those who are spiritually sick, and leads them to the Almighty Healer. In its forms of speech and writing the Army constantly exhibits this same characteristic. Instead of propounding religious theories or pretending to teach a system of theology, it speaks much after the fashion of the old Prophet or Apostle, to each individual, about his or her sin and duty, thus bringing to bear upon each heart and conscience the light and power from heaven, by which alone the world can be transformed.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

William Booth on Discipline

I don't advocate making the church into a regiment with military titles like 'General' and 'Captain'.  However, when I read these quotes it suggests to me that the church has lost it's sense of militancy.  What has happened to discipline?

We are in a battle, not a game of charades.

A man who has been in the Queen's Army is a man who has learnt to obey. He is further a man who has been taught in the roughest of rough schools to be handy and smart, to make the best of the roughest fare, and not to consider himself a martyr if he is sent on a forlorn hope. I often say if we could only get Christians to have one-half of the practical devotion and sense of duty that animates even the commonest Tommy Atkins what a change would be brought about in the world!

Another quote:

The ordinary operations of the Army have already effected most wonderful changes in the conditions of the poorest and worst. Multitudes of slaves of vice in every form have been delivered not only from these habits, but from the destitution and misery which they even produce. Instances have been given. Any number more can be produced. Our experience, which has been almost world-wide, has ever shown that not only does the criminal become honest, the drunkard sober, the harlot chaste, but that poverty of the most abject and helpless type vanishes away. Our fourth credential is that our Organisation alone of England's religious bodies is founded upon the principle of implicit obedience. For Discipline I can answer. The Salvation Army, largely recruited from among the poorest of the poor, is often reproached by its enemies on account of the severity of its rule. It is the only religious body founded in our time that is based upon the principle of voluntary subjection to an absolute authority. No one is bound to remain in the Army a day longer than he pleases. While he remains there he is bound by the conditions of the Service. The first condition of that Service is implicit, unquestioning obedience. The Salvationist is taught to obey as is the soldier on the field of battle.

Food for thought.