Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Well lets start with this yes the Seahawks lost because Josh Brown missed a field goal I choose to say nothing more. But last week was a horrid football weekend.

This has been a major issue around here lately. I don't even know what to say. This system has major problems. Funding is the biggest issue. There is not enough funding dedicated towards helping people get clean. I mean this place has more homeless and the funding has not increased in many years. Reagan really screwed everyone when he closed the institutions. So many who are out here are so gone they can not be helped by most programs down here. Their Co-occurring disorders are just too great.

I had a good talk with a gentleman in the program he has a MA in theology (he studied up in Berkeley at the Catholic seminary up there). We talked about a number of issues but next week we will talk theology. He has met other Army officers and asks the question how can someone as progressive theologically as I am function in the Army with its evangelicalism/fundamentalism. That is a fair question so I think I will flush it out here so I will have an answer for him.

First, it is not easy at times for myself or other officers. I come from things from a social work side not an evangelism side, and yes sometimes I see those at odds with each other depending on how both are done. I argue we are best as an innercity social ministry. This means the traditional Army church means very little to me. I attend the mandatory meetings (often with a good book like last commissioning). However, I do not, never have, and never will believe that those events are what the Army is all about, in fact the detract from the social ministry we are called to. This outlook (not unique among officers) has caused friction, especially in my head! However, like a doctors exam I grin and bear it.

Secondly, I can happily affirm the doctrines of the Army as I understand and interpret them. I know to many Calvinist who are officers to think that there is any kind of agreement on the interpretation of the doctrines. I interpret them relationally and I teach liberal, conservative, and relational interpretations. I am open about my struggles with hell, but we never say who the wicked are. But theology has never been the problem. Oddly enough because I have studied it and love it when anyone has ever really questioned my theology my answers seem to placate them. My politics are a different matter though.

I am not the only officer who sees Bush more as an anti-Christ then a president. Now my words may be extreme, and I am vocal, this blog has got me in trouble before because of how I said the things I said. But while many disagree with me we can be friends. Lets face it we are all wrong anyway.

The biggest theological issue that has divided the Army is holiness. First, most officers do not know what they think holiness is. The give a text book answer that they can't really describe because they have not had the experience (if such a thing exists). I disagree with some because I see it as a process starting at or before conversion ending at death. Salvation I see as a process starting at or before conversion and ending at death. The goal of both is to be perfected in love. We live and have our being in loving God and neighbor. So I see them as synonymous. Perfectly acceptable within our doctrines. I just don't like chopping life into nice neat time periods. Its a lot messier then that.

I can be a salvationist because we have a good grasp of God's mercy and love.

My biggest issue is an internal one that has to put up with all the crap that gets in the way of what God raised us up for namely to meet the needs people in Jesus' name without discrimination. Furthermore, historically we are called to the poorest of the poor the innercities, I get irritated when i see that we have left them.

Salvation is not about creed or even belief its about a transforming relationship with God and other human beings, however God has chosen to reveal his nature to the person.

So I guess it comes to this I be here because I'm supposed to be here now. I really don't know why at times (welcome of cadets, commissioning, and other long boring meetings) but at other times I know why (people changing, moving away from skid row, staying sober, changing) that is why I can be an officer, even though I'm a progressive, post modern, recovering evangelical, caffeine addict, skeptic, who thinks we are all wrong anyway.

Have fun and whenever your convinced you must be right, your not.

Besides I'm rarely right...

And on theology no one is...

So drink your favorite beverage (non alcoholic for salvationists and addicts) sit back and watch some football!


Bill said,
"Reagan really screwed everyone when he closed the institutions."
Is Bill talking about the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill? If so, that process began in the late sixties and proceeded through the seventies before Reagan took office. See deinstitutionalization: "The process of deinstitutionalization was considerably accelerated by two significant federal developments in 1963. First, categorical Aid to the Disabled (ATD) became available to the mentally ill, which made them eligible for the first time for federal financial support in the community. Second, the community mental health centers legislation was passed.

Some clearly recognized that while many abuses need to be corrected, this legislation went too far in the other direction and no longer safeguarded the welfare of the patients. (For instance, Richard Levy, M.D., of San Mateo, California, argued this point long and vigorously.) But these were voices in the wilderness. We have still not found a way to help some mental health lawyers and patients' rights advocates see that they have contributed heavily to the problem of homelessness--that patients' rights to freedom are not synonymous with releasing them to the streets where they cannot take care of themselves, are too disorganized or fearful to avail themselves of what help is available, and are easy prey for every predator." Also here, "Prior to Reinvestment, the money saved from closing psychiatric hospital beds went into the state’s general fund. While hailed as a great accomplishment, the Reinvestment Act has allowed New York State to avoid putting any general fund dollars back into the mental health system. Today, our state simply shifts money around throughout the system." States recognized significant savings in the closing of state mental institutions. The plan was that those savings would be reinvested in the communities the mentally ill were being released to. Instead, state governments (as in the New York example above) elected to covet those savings. As Glenn Reynolds put it earlier this year speaking of the homeless on his blog, "De-institutionalization let states save money while looking compassionate. It was irresistible. But the more difficult (and expensive) follow-through was highly resistible." Incidentally, one of Glenn's readers added this concerning his brother who suffered as one of the mentally ill homeless, "I thank God for the Salvation Army for all the time they spent trying to help him". I'm glad, though, that you are able to be a Salvationist in spite of the difficulties. Good and thoughtful post.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:08 PM  


Glorybound is correct. Deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill began in the 1960's. It was a "bill of goods" sold to this country by mental health professionals which has caused problems for us even today.

I worked in the inner cities in the 1980's and realized this program was a failure in many aspects. It was a well-intentioned program with a cost-effective benefit to the goverment. As far as I am concerned, it was a failure then and continues to be today. It makes problems for your organization and others seeking to meet the needs of the inner city.
Most shelters have mixed populations of normal people and those who are mentally ill which causes untold problems and dangers.

If I recall there were three US presidents in the 1960's - one Republican and two Democrats:
Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson.

If there is any fault in The Salvation Army it is seeking to remain a church instead of a mission. By that, I mean, instead of spending nearly all of its money on direct services, it has to maintain infrastructure as a church. I for one believe William Booth would not have continued "church" once other churches began accepting our clients. I think we would do well to go to a mission concept where 98% of our resources go to direct services to help the people actually get out of poverty. Our officers would be Christians who "roll up their sleeves" doing the work in the trenches with the poor and leave church-work and church structure to others. We certainly should do what we can to win the people to Jesus Christ like street evangelism, but guide the people to other churches for long-term care and discipleship. Right now, we are being less effective in social services and church work as the dollars, manpower and resources are limited to do both. In most cases, we have left the inner city and headed for the suburbs, which seem to be a slap in the face to William and Catherine Booth and perhaps to our mission.

I think both you and Glorybound make correct assumptions, but I'm not sure which party started this whole mess. I would suspect that there were people on both sides of the political arena that made wrong choices for the sake of the dollar. God bless you!

L. Michael Fletcher

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:57 AM  

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