Dear Salvation Army,
I see an inconsistency and I’m wondering if you see it too.
I have been to some divisions and locations where uniform wear is enforced almost militantly and there has been a real lack of grace when someone falls out of line. Flipping the coin, so to speak, I have also witnessed in other areas of the country and world where the uniform is stressed less, and I would imagine not “policed” like others clearly are. I have even witnessed territorial and some divisional officers in other places being publicly photographed in “Army” polos and other “not full-uniform” wear, or in casual uniform wear.
I am most certainly not criticizing this practice, nor am I railing against the uniform, but I wonder if a shift has begun in what the army deems as “appropriate uniform attire”? It most certainly is not universal anymore, and I am rather happy to see women being able to “buck the trend” and wear suit pants instead of polyester skirts if they so choose. Is this also a trend that will continue until suit pants are considered for full uniform for Women? Some might consider the staunch supporters of the full uniform wear to be old fuddy-dutties or too stiff in a swiftly shifting organization. I am not so sure about that either. But I do wonder if we should consider a universal change given the fact the times have changed as have styles of most of the world’s militaries -from which we were modeled after. I might sound a bit progressive here, but why haven’t we adapting and changed yet? Is it that hard to do so? Beyond the rationale “this is what it is” can we clearly articulate why it is so difficult to change it?
Questions to Ponder:
Is full uniform still practical?
What purpose does it serve to the world around us? Do they see and understand what it is we are wearing and why? Do we simply wear it because it is what we do?
Beyond these questions, and the practical applications of uniform wear, can or should the Army be pursuing modern updates or allotments? Has this already begun? Perhaps I serve is a moderately more conservative part of the Army world than you, and you are already seeing this trend…help us out and tell us about it! Historically uniform wear was cost effective to many who could not afford certain “richer” clothing, but the uniform costs today have gotten more expensive, tunics ranging from $200 – 300…these uniforms are not cheap and that historic purpose, at least in my “neck of the woods” is now obsolete.
Someone will inevitably write me (and probably criticize me…again) and say, “But you’re missing the point, there are far more pressing matters to address” to which I would say you are correct…but then why do we spend so much time on the emphasis of uniform? Others might argue that it is our witness as those who are Saved to Save (or Serve, which ever you like) and is represented in our obedience to the uniform…quite right, but it goes deeper than that doesn’t it? We aren’t necessarily obedient to the “Uniform” we are first and foremost obedient to God and then from Him all other forms of obedience flows. One wonders if the uniform is a detractor or an attractor for others to join our ranks? I am not saying that I hate this uniform, please do not take that from what I am saying here, I am merely wondering to what end does our uniform wearing take us? Why do it? Who are are impressing? The General? Our Leaders? God? Of course I am being facetious here, I know why we wear it…but is this a general consensus? Or is it part and parcel to something deeper, more lasting within us? Can you tell me its purpose? And do YOU believe this purpose is lived out in your use of the uniform?
So I guess this pondering is two-fold:
1) Should the Army consider adapting and updating the uniform universally (understandibly there are certainly culture issues at play here as well)?
2) What is the spiritual benefit to the use of Uniform in our witness to ourselves (Ecclesia) and to the world around us? To the last point, the uniform is certainly recognizable to some places of our world and to the poor and downtrodden.
What do you think?
Tell us your thoughts, concerns, gripes, Ideas, convictions…let’s hear it!
Ponder with me on this if you will!
Something more for the Army world to ponder today.