The Salvation Army has pulled its “Let’s Talk About … Racism” guide after an uproar and donor backlash over the guide asking white supporters of the charity to deliver “sincere” apologies to black people for racism.
“The desire is that Salvationists achieve the following,” the Army says in an online “resource” titled “Let’s Talk About Racism,” listing several goals including to “lament, repent and apologize for biases or racist ideologies held and actions committed.”
The resource claims Christianity is inherently racist and calls for white Christians to repent and offer “a sincere apology” to blacks for being “antagonistic… to black people or the culture, values and interests of the black community.”
“Many have come to believe that we live in a post-racial society, but 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,” one lesson in the resource says. “There is an urgent need for Christians to evaluate racist attitudes and practices in light of our faith, and to live faithfully in today’s world.”
“And as we engage in conversations about race and racism, we must keep in mind that sincere repentance and apologies are necessary if we want to move towards racial reconciliation. We recognize that it is a profound challenge to sit on the hot seat and listen with an open heart to the hurt and anger of the wounded. Yet, we are all hardwired to desire justice and fairness, so the need to receive a sincere apology is necessary,” the resource added.
In an accompanying Study Guide on Racism, the Salvation Army says whites are racist. “The subtle nature of racism is such that people who are not consciously racist easily function with the privileges, empowerment and benefits of the dominant ethnicity, thus unintentionally perpetuating injustice,” it says.
“We must stop denying the existence of individual and systemic/institutional racism. They exist, and are still at work to keep White Americans in power,” the lesson says.
In a lengthy statement after the uproar, the Army said “although we remain committed to serving everyone in need—regardless of their beliefs, backgrounds, or lifestyle—some individuals and groups have recently attempted to mislabel our organization to serve their own agendas. They have claimed that we believe our donors should apologize for their skin color, that The Salvation Army believes America is an inherently racist society, and that we have abandoned our Christian faith for one ideology or another. Those claims are simply false, and they distort the very goal of our work.”
The truth is that The Salvation Army believes that racism is fundamentally incompatible with Christianity, and that we are called by God to work toward a world where all people are loved, accepted, and valued. Our positional statement on racism makes this clear. These beliefs and goals are critically important because we know that racism exists, and we are determined to do everything the Bible asks of us to overcome it.
The Salvation Army occasionally publishes internal study guides on various complex topics to help foster positive conversations and grace-filled reflection among Salvationists. By openly discussing these issues, we always hope to encourage the development of a more thoughtful organization that is better positioned to support those in need. But no one is being told how to think. Period.
In this case, the guide “Let’s Talk About Racism,” was issued as a voluntary resource, but it has since become a focus of controversy. We have done our best to provide accurate information, but unfortunately, some have chosen to ignore those efforts. At the same time, International Headquarters realized that certain aspects of the guide may need to be clarified.
Consequently, for both reasons, the International Social Justice Commission has now withdrawn the guide for appropriate review.