27 December 2023

Living Right While Righting Wrong: A timely rallying cry for justice

Major Heather Poxon

Living Right While Righting Wrong book cover

Major Heather Poxon (THQ) reviews Living Right While Righting Wrong by Colonel Wendy Swan.

Historically, the Army's stance on what might generically be called social protest has waxed and waned since 1865. On the one hand, the Army has earned, and is earning, a reputation for interventions in the pursuit of justice, socio-economic justice included. On the other, honesty compels us to admit to seasons of 'ease in Zion' (SASB 580), at least in some territories. Nevertheless, William Booth's match factory example from 1891 stands as an admirable template in the field of spiritual, political and societal activism.

Colonel Wendy Swan's book explores the Army's curious relationship with what might be regarded as politicking. She bravely analyses the impact upon Salvation Army structures - and, therefore, policies - in terms of goodwill received from the public, when, in the words of Jesus, the arch activist, we should be wary of community acclaim if it comes with a high price tag (see Luke 6:26).

There is, though, reasonable ground for optimism. Faced with the juggernaut of capitalism - think modern expressions of abuse and exploitation - the Army can be said to be picking up the reins of concern and combat. Corporations and multinationals may need to reckon with a burgeoning sense of disquiet within the Army's international ranks. Echoes of Booth's 'I'll fight' declaration are floating afresh through the windows of headquarters buildings everywhere.

We are indebted to Colonel Swan for this red-yellow-and-blue rallying cry - it is sensible, urgent and difficult to ignore - and for her willingness to unashamedly connect 21st-century Army mission with that of the biblical prophets of history.

The issues at stake are timeless. The prophets, of course, were not obliged to respect denominational traditions and policies. The challenge to the Army, in that context, speaks for itself - Colonel Swan might be quietly, but powerfully and intelligently, throwing down a timely gauntlet. How Salvationists respond remains to be seen, but her challenge is a fresh representation of what others, all the way from Amos to William and Catherine Booth, have said for ages.

As Colonel Swan writes, 'As part of the universal Christian Church, it is timely for The Salvation Army to articulate its theological convictions regarding justice in the world arena. In doing so, it must not speak from the safety of a prevailing powerbase, but prophetically from the margins, its traditional home.'

Written by

Photo of Heather Poxon.

Major Heather Poxon

Territorial Environmental Officer, THQ

Buy the book

Living Right While Righting Wrong is available now from store.salvationarmy.ca.

Living Right While Righting Wrong

Discover more

Read the latest album and book reviews.

Consider your response to social issues.

A podcast of testimonies to encourage and inspire.

Our weekly magazine.