GROVELLING FOR JESUS: THE SALVATION ARMY AND WORKFARE

In Down and Out In Paris and London George Orwell describes staying in a Salvation Army Shelter.

‘To my eye these Salvation Army shelters, though clean, are far drearier than the worst of the common lodging-houses. There is such a hopelessness about some of the
people there--decent, broken-down types who have pawned their collars but
are still trying for office jobs. Coming to a Salvation Army shelter, where
it is at least clean, is their last clutch at respectability.’
[1]

He goes on to describe the tyrannical way in which the place was run and the charging for tea and basic foods, which, as he observes, was probably given to them for free.  He concludes by observing:-

‘They are certainly cheap, but they are too like workhouses for my taste. In some of
them there is even a compulsory religious service once or twice a week,
which the lodgers must attend or leave the house. The fact is that the
Salvation Army are so in the habit of thinking themselves a charitable body
that they cannot even run a lodging-house without making it stink of
charity. ‘

I have never forgotten this passage and think of it often when I hear the rattle of an SA tin or the jolly band playing hymns. There is something particularly nauseous about ‘compulsory religious service’ and in particular prayer that turns my stomach.

All prayer is an act of grovelling, the three bullying monotheism's make no bones about this; this act of prostration, submission, acknowledgement of one’s unworthiness in the face of the great deity lies at the core of these belief systems. God alone is worthy of praise and glory. The language is replete with images of submission, is of master and servant, of shepherd and sheep. 

‘Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.’ Nehemiah 8:5-7

So there is something particularly disgusting in forcing the already poor and desperate, a captive crowd, to prostrate themselves and give thanks for their poverty.

Some people seem to have been surprised that The Salvation Army became involved in Workfare. I was not; it seemed to me wholly in character.




[1] Down and Out In Paris and London Chapter XXIX http://www.george-orwell.org/Down_and_Out_in_Paris_and_London/28.html
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