**I envision a couple of movies unfolding in my mind where non-conformists make the “required” uniform more fashionable and, dare I say more aesthetically pleasing.**
Let’s face it (and let’s get this out of the way right off the bat) – The Uniform is not going to win any fashion awards.
It will not be walking a runway in Paris or being featured in one of those high-end boutiques anytime soon.
Chances are older generations will be more prone to argue for consistent uniform wear than most of the younger generational soldiers. I am not here to argue for or against uniform wear (an auditory sigh can be heard being exhaled all around the Army world). I am here however to recognize the need for such a uniform in our army.
The uniform is recognizable, sure it might be a marketable feature from time to time but it should also be a symbol of hope to people who see it. There are many soldiers and officers who can bear witness to the fact that people will inevitably come up to us and say something to the effect of “Oh, The Salvation Army, you don’t know me but The Salvation Army saved my life….” The uniform is recognized by those it has helped as well as those who want to help. We may have to sacrifice some comforts in order to wear it. By putting it on we are taking off our personal identities and some of our individuality and becoming a part of something greater than ourselves…or better yet, perhaps our identities and individuality begins to make this Army greater than before. We do this together. We wear the uniform for a purpose. We share in this mission and fight not as a solitary soldier but as a unified army…so be recognizable!
I am not saying that Jesus donned one of our finest polyester threaded navy blue uniforms or anything, but I am saying that we can embrace the uniform by understanding what it stands for. Remember that the “S’s” stand for Saved to Save (or Saved to serve). Who have we been saved by? – Christ. He has provided us this salvation and displayed for us what holiness looks like. We have been saved for a holy purpose – to show others how new life can be and to help others navigate the murky sin-sick waters of life as well. We can glorify God in these uniform through the ways that we conduct daily lives. Can we practice “Christ-likeness” out of uniform? Of course, and we ought to, but we can also utilize this semi-comfortable contraption to bear witness of a transformed life. I am not saying wearing the uniform is always easy, but neither is living a holy life. Again, we can draw some parallels here but they are not mutually exclusive either. If you are a soldier and you are committed to the cause of the Army then consistent uniform wear is probably a given.
3. Uniqueness of Witness To Others
Barring that you don’t get delayed in airports often and get frequently mistaken for airline pilots and staff members, the uniform can be a relatively unique witnessing tool. People are quite curious as to what the uniform is all about. If anything it’s a wonderful conversation starter. Bear in mind that witnessing is so much more than the old “gospel tract” methods. It is so much more than “cold calling” people, or yelling from a street corner “Jesus Saves”. People are people and want to be engaged as such. If we have hidden motives and agendas we are disingenuous in our witness. Wearing the uniform will either scare people away or cause them to ask certain questions…and who knows perhaps you can develop a relationship with someone because of it. With wearing the uniform, we do not hide the fact that we are Soldiers and Christians. We all know of areas in which Christianity has been tarnished by inconsistent witnesses and down right hypocritical people – and we cannot afford to be that kind of witness while in uniform. Seriously, if you don’t think you can be a consistent witness in and out of a uniform (PLEASE JOT THIS DOWN) – THEN DON’T WEAR THE UNIFORM! I don’t mean to be harsh but either wear it with conviction or don’t. Either embrace the symbolism behind the uniform or walk away from it.
The Future of The Uniform?
Look, I don’t know what the future holds for the uniform, but if what we have seen in the last 20 – 30 years indicates anything, the Salvation Army uniform can and will change. This doesn’t mean that it will all but disappear, but it might mean that certain adjustments will be made – **ahem the bonnets and high collars…will skirts and pantyhose be next? I don’t know. Can I say that I ALWAYS enjoy wearing full uniform – of course not! Will I stop wearing my uniform as long as I am a soldier and officer – No. Would I welcome some adjustments or modifications to the uniform in the future? You bet I would!