The Salvation Army Doesn't Need DEI, It Just Needs To Be Salvation Army
The Salvation Army Doesn't Need DEI, It Just Needs To Be Salvation Army
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“We meet human needs without discrimination,” the Salvation Army website declares. This simple yet profound mission, rooted in the Christian Gospel, has propelled the Salvation Army to serve millions of Americans in need for over a century through a wide variety of programs that combat homelessness, hunger, addiction, and other forms of suffering. The Salvation Army’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives add nothing positive to this incredibly important work. At worst, DEI will only hinder the Salvation Army’s mission. 

As just one example of the Army’s charitable mission, let’s take its outreach to the poor and the hungry. The Salvation Army runs food pantries across the nation and distributes meals in communities hit by natural disasters. The nonprofit also provides financial assistance to families who struggle to pay their rent and utility bills. In America, people of all races live in poverty and struggle to put food on the table. There does not need to be any ideological component involved when Salvationists distribute food and financial resources other than a message of hope and compassion. 

As the Salvation Army’s 2022 annual report shows, practical assistance with food and shelter offered by loving, caring Salvation Army members has been completely turning lives around for the better for people in regions as different as Kentucky and Arizona. A common theme runs through this 2022 report: beneficiaries of the Salvation Army’s generosity/assistance talk about the hope and faith that the Army’s charitable activities gave them. 

Not one of them mentions race.

One single mother who was featured in the report experienced this renewed faith and hope after the Salvation Army helped her and her three children by providing them with food, necessities, and temporary housing so they would no longer have to sleep in their car. The report quotes her as saying, “If someone in poverty is struggling, I tell them, I tell them to have faith. To trust. And the Salvation Army will help them to come out of the situation.” Another single mother whom the Salvation Army helped by providing counseling and housing placement while she was battling cancer and struggling to provide for her three children champions a message of hope: “Keep the hope, don’t give up, and everything will fall into place.” 

As the Salvation Army’s own report demonstrates, Salvation Army programs that combat hunger and poverty are already transforming lives by providing hope and support. The Salvation Army’s mission is already being accomplished with no need of help from DEI. You can provide hope and support to people who need it without the added racial division. In fact, the poisonous racialized ideas of DEI have the potential to interfere with the Salvation Army’s ability to serve a wide variety of people effectively without discrimination. People of all races live in poverty and suffer hardship in this country, but the Salvation Army’s DEI programs imply that white people are more privileged than other groups [1] and thinks of white people as oppressors, regardless of an individual white person’s life circumstances. Salvationists infected by DEI teachings could begin to view white poor people as less deserving of their help than black or Latino poor.[2]  This would fly directly in the face of the Salvation Army’s mission to “meet human needs without discrimination.” 

The Salvation Army’s DEI initiatives are also unnecessary and likely harmful for the Salvation Army’s rehabilitation programs. The Salvation Army offers counseling, spiritual guidance, treatment, and skills and job training for Americans battling substance abuse. Drug and alcohol addiction can destroy a person’s entire life, and conquering addiction is no easy road. It requires patience, perseverance, hope, and loving, wise counseling, education, and spiritual renewal. These are all things that the Salvation Army already offers to those in need of help. There is no need to add DEI as an extra ingredient into the recovery process. If rehabilitation programs begin teaching their black and brown clients that racism is responsible for their difficulties, and that even if they persevere through their struggles with addiction, they will still face oppression and discrimination wherever they go, faith and hope will be replaced with distrust and despair. The impact on the rehabilitation programs’ success rates might be devastating. 

The Salvation Army is doing outstanding work, showing Christ’s love to millions of people every year by meeting their needs and giving them hope in times of hardship. This work transcends divisions and brings out the best in humanity. Commissioner Hodder and the Salvation Army leadership should drop their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives and let the Salvation Army’s redemptive work stand on its own merit.

Kenny Xu, is author of the new book, An Inconvenient Minority: The Attack on Asian American Excellence and the Fight for Meritocracy. He is the President of Color Us United, which advocates for a color blind society. 

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