The “Mission Statement” of the Salvation Army (SA) says:
The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church.
Its Message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.
Note that its message is to be based on the Bible, its ministry is to be motivated by love, and its mission is “to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs.”
According to the SA journal titled The Salvation Army War Cry, “The Salvation Army provides services to 33 million people each year. Approximately 3 million of these people suffer from stress, relationship problems or mental illness” (Vol. 120, No. 9, p. 5).
A Christian Organization
One issue of the War Cry is titled “A Christian Perspective on Mental Health.” There is no question that the Salvation Army (SA) provides an extensive rehabilitation program for those who suffer from “mental illness,” substance abuse, and other problems of living. They have spent huge amounts of money to carry on their rehab programs. Indeed, SA is known as a Christian organization, but does it provide a truly biblical perspective and program?
Leaven in the Loaf
A “Mission Statement” of their publication War Cry speaks of witnessing “to the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to change lives.” However, laced throughout the SA rehab programs meant to change lives is the use of the very wisdom of men about which the Scripture warns. SA has adopted the alcoholism as a disease concept; it is immersed in the 12-Step Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) originated programs; and the language is that of addiction and recovery, including “once an alcoholic always an alcoholic” (see e.g. War Cry, Vol. 117, No 16, and Vol. 120, No. 9). The testimony in one article declares, “At one time I was a hopeless alcoholic—now I am an alcoholic with hope” (Vol. 117, No. 16, p. 17).
An article giving an example of “The Army’s Recovery Ministries” starts out this way:
“Hi, I’m Jackie, I’m an addict.”
“My name is Pat, I’m an alcoholic.”
“I’m June, I’m recovering from a drug addiction.”
“My name is Vicki, I’m a grateful recovering addict.”
“I’m Vivian, I’m still in recovery” (War Cry, Vol. 117, No. 16, p. 6).
The Bible used with this group of women is The Serenity Bible: A Companion for 12 Step Recovery. Since when does the Bible need to be augmented by an AA format and need to be integrated with the 12-Step vocabulary and mindset? It is only because we live in a psychological society that SA and other Christian groups have adopted and practiced the psychological mindset.
We have produced academic and biblical evidence in opposition to the integration of worldly addiction-recovery programs with Christianity in our book 12 Steps to Destruction. (See also “AA: Christian or Occult Roots?” in PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, Vol. 5, No. 5, and posted on our web site.) In these writings we refute a number of myths about AA and the codependency-recovery movement, including the idea that addictions are diseases, that AA is based on Christianity, that the founders of AA were truly Christians, that AA is highly effective, and that one can uncompromisingly Christianize the AA approach to addictions.
The AA Founders’ Faith
Bill Wilson and Bob Smith, the cofounders of AA both practiced spiritualism and believed in the validity and importance of contacting and conversing with the dead (necromancy, which the Bible forbids). Wilson described one particular encounter he had one morning in Nantucket with several entities, who supposedly told him their names. One, who called himself David Morrow, said he had been a sailor during the Civil War. Later that same day Wilson just happened to discover Morrow’s name on a monument in the center of town. The AA biography of Wilson says, “It is not clear when he first became interested in extrasensory phenomena; the field was something that Dr. Bob and Anne Smith were also deeply involved with. Whether or not Bill initially became interested through them, there are references to séances and other psychic events in the letters Bill wrote to Lois [Wilson’s wife] during that first Akron summer with the Smiths, in 1935.”
The Wilsons were conducting regular séances in their own home as early as 1941. They were engaging in other psychic activities as well, such as using an Ouija board. Also, as Wilson would lie on a couch he would “receive” messages (in a manner similar to that of the occultist Edgar Cayce) and another person would write them down. Whether or not creating the Twelve Steps involved occultic activity, Wilson and Smith’s commitment to spiritualism was intrinsically tied to their creation of and leadership in AA.
Alcoholism a Disease?
Dr. Herbert Fingarette, a professor at the University of California and an internationally distinguished scholar, wrote a book titled Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease. The subtitle tells what the book is about. Fingarette contends that “the public has been profoundly misled, and is still being actively misled.” He says, “The public has been kept unaware of a mass of scientific evidence accumulated over the past couple of decades, evidence familiar to researchers in the field, which radically challenges each major belief generally associated with the phrase ‘alcoholism is a disease.’”
In an article in The Journal of Biblical Ethics in Medicine, Dr. Robert Maddox warns, “When man defines disease, alcoholism becomes a disease. Then all manner of sin is labeled as disease, to be cured with chemical, electrical and mechanical treatments. Any sinful habit, from gluttony to fornication, from stealing to bestiality, can become a disease. Now even normal and good functions, such as conception and pregnancy, are seen as diseases. Fulfilling one’s calling before God as a wife and homemaker has even been viewed as disease.”
Fingarette says, “I just don’t understand why any churches would go for the disease idea, except insofar as they are taken by the notion that we have to be enlightened and that seems to be the enlightened view. The disease approach denies the spiritual dimension of the whole thing. People in the church may be afraid to take a different stand because it will be labeled antiscientific, antimodern, or old-fashioned. I think that’s all misguided.”
The Effectiveness of AA
In a book about treatment of addictive behaviors, William Miller and Reid Hester present a chapter titled “The Effectiveness of Alcoholism Treatment: What Research Reveals.” They say:
In spite of the fact that it inspires nearly universal acclaim and enthusiasm among alcoholism treatment personnel in the United States, Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) wholly lacks experimental support for its efficacy.
This is their concluding statement concerning AA:
Given the absence of a single controlled evaluation supporting the effectiveness of A.A. and the presence of these negative findings, however, we must conclude that at the present time the alleged effectiveness of A.A. remains unproved.
Dr. Stanton Peele, who is a senior health researcher at Mathematica Policy Research and author of Diseasing of America: Addiction Treatment Out of Control, says, “Several studies have shown that those who quit drinking via A.A. actually have higher relapse rates than those who quit on their own.”
The Journal of Studies on Alcohol (Jan. 1997) reports that the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism sponsored what has been called “one of the largest clinical experiments ever conducted.” In comparing individuals in various programs (including those in hospital settings and those on the outside), none of the treatments was more successful than the others. The only differences in success had to do with other factors, such as personal motivation and social environment.
SA Criticisms of the Church
SA has joined the worldly organizations such as AA, NA, ACOA and others in their criticism of the church. A War Cry article presents the following question and answer:
“Did you ever think about going to a church or somewhere for help?”
“Church? Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They would just make me feel worse” (Vol. 117, No. 16, p. 5).
Where is the SA criticism of the secular goups including AA itself? Why doesn’t SA admit the obvious and criticize the very worldly organizations they copy by revealing that there is no biblical grace in them because the God of the Bible is absent and Jesus Christ as the only way to the Father is entirely avoided? We continually receive letters from individuals who were excluded from AA meetings simply because they preached “the gospel of Jesus Christ,” which is what the SA “Mission Statement” claims to do.
Like their worldly counterparts, the SA brags about the success rates of its rehab programs. One article stated the following:
22.5% of all individuals who entered one of the 41 rehabilitation centers’ programs in 1996 graduated. The success rate for those in the long-term program was much higher.
However, the problem with the figures provided by the SA is that they are based on the say so of a “program development officer,” unsubstantiated by third-party researchers. And, there is no reference to follow-up studies after the “graduates” have been gone for awhile. We document many of the fallacies of the 12-Step movement in our book 12 Steps to Destruction. AA is notorious for making unsubstantiated claims that disappear when third-party researchers examine the claims. The same would no doubt happen with the SA claim since they use the 12-Step approach.
Employment of Personnel
Another area that is a compromise with the world and a contradiction of the SA principles is in the employment of personnel in the rehab programs and in the screening of individuals to enter officers’ training, as well as in the training programs for officers and ministers. According to the SA web sites, the degrees and education required for the personnel in rehab programs reflect the same academic and psychological training and experience requirements as for secular rehab programs.
While we checked with only one SA Territorial Headquarters, we suspect from reading the War Cry that psychologists and psychological tests are used throughout the SA for admission to the officer training. Two psychological tests included in the screening for those who wish to become officers are the MMPI and the 16PF. The DISC is also presented at the SA college.
The manner in which these tests are used is definitely contrary to the Standards volume available from the American Psychological Association. We have discussed these tests and their misuse in our book Missions & PsychoHeresy. We doubt that any independent third-party, well-known psychometrist would endorse the use of such tests in the manner in which they are used by SA.
The SA will say that the results of the psychological interviews and psychological tests do not themselves screen out any applicant, but that they are required, i.e. no one is exempt from them.
SA, like many evangelical organizations, has drifted from its original roots. Its Mission Statement has been corrupted by those practices just described. We wonder how many former recruits and present and past officers are aware of this drift and would agree with our criticisms. We know that some do.
The Salvation Army does a tremendous amount of good work and one cannot fault their tremendous efforts and good intentions, but we say that the SA (like so many other Christian organizations) has lost their first love as found in their origins and Mission Statement.