Salvation Army Scrubs Replacement Theology From Website After Scrutiny
One step at a time.
Approximately two days after The Algemeiner published an article about the Salvation Army’s stance on the Jewish people, the charitable organization has quietly removed a document from the internet that propounded the notion that, “Israel has largely forsaken its place within the care and special purposes of God.” People who click on the link to the article will now see a “file not found” message.
Officials from the Salvation Army have not responded to repeated queries, but it seems reasonable to conclude that The Algemeiner article prompted the organization to take down the document, which has been preserved at least five times on the Wayback Machine’s archive-crawler beginning in 2014.
It’s a small step, but it’s a good start. The document, which called on Christians to fight antisemitism, also declared that the “it is the obligation of Christians to bring Jews into the Christian fold.”
“In the face of ready acceptance or stubborn obduracy the Christian Church must continue to fulfill this mission [of converting the Jews],” the article announced.
The words “stubborn” and “obdurate” regularly appeared in the anti-Judaic writings of the early church fathers who were offended at the Jewish refusal to accept the Christian gospel. Numerous scholars have concluded that these writings were a precursor to the Holocaust in Europe in the 1930s and 40s.
The assessment that the Jews no longer have a place in God’s plan for humanity is one of the main features of Christian replacement theology — also known as supersessionism. The prevalence of supersessionism in the Christian faith, despite efforts to discredit the theology by numerous Christian scholars, has been a significant concern of interfaith relations activists in the decades since the Holocaust. Many anti-Israel commentators, such as Naim Ateek, Gary Burge, Mitri Raheb and Steven Sizer (and others), rely on supersessionist arguments to portray the existence of the Jewish state as an affront to the Christian faith, and therefore unworthy of Christian support.
The Salvation Army’s apparent supersessionism is not nearly as punitive as the writings of these commentators, but it is troubling nonetheless.
Concerns about supersessionism have increased since the terror attacks of 9/11, as Muslim sources proclaim that Islam supersedes or replaces both Judaism and Christianity and jihadists invoke these sources to justify their attacks against Jews and Christians throughout the world. If Christians embrace a supersessionist attitude toward Judaism, they have no warrant to complain when Muslims embrace a supersessionist or supremacist attitude toward their faith.
The general public needs to pay close attention to how the Salvation Army proceeds in its response to this controversy. The fact that it has taken down the offending document is a good first step. But at some point, the organization is going to have to explain why it made the decision. Did the Salvation Army remove the document to protect its reputation or is the document’s removal a harbinger of a change in attitude toward the Jewish people?
The upshot is that theology matters — it matters a lot — in how humans deal with one another on both an individual and collective basis.