Of all the religious organizations out there, I think the Salvation Army used to have the most fascinating terminology for church-related things. In this first part of a series of articles on Salvation Army terminology, we are going to take a quick look at their basic terminology like knee drills, firing volleys, soldiers, officers, and articles of war!
Keep in mind that the strong military overtones are directed towards the enemy of our souls, Satan and his evil spirits as they fought against sin, darkness, and Satan. The military metaphor itself is Biblical. Consider Ephesians 6:11 - 17 where we are told to put on the whole armor of God, or 2 Corinthians 10:4 where we are reminded that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, and neither are our enemies. In addition, this warfare is never enacted against people: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Ephesians 6:12).
Blood & Fire
The Salvation Army's war cry was "Blood and Fire!" with reference to the blood of Jesus Christ (which cleanses us from all sin, I John 1:7) and the fire of the Holy Spirit (referring to the tongues of fire that fell at Pentecost, Acts 2:3). That's why you see those words on their crest, and many times on their flag. None of the Salvation Army's work would even be possible with the blood of Jesus and the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
The Articles of War is the Salvation Army statement of belief. It has undergone some changes in language throughout the years, but the gist has remained the same. All soldiers must sign the Articles of War. So, what constitutes a solder? What we call church members, they called soldiers. Pastors and staff were officers. Salvation Army churches were referred to as Citadels or Barracks. A Corps is a unit in the Salvation Army whose purposes are to preach the gospel and help the community.
Prayer was referred to as knee drill, referring to the imagery of kneeling before the Lord and using the importance of regular drills in the military as a metaphor for the place of prayer in the Christian life. What we call altars the Salvation Army called mercy seats or the penitent form. You just have to love how the one shown above has the words, "Here bring thy wounded heart" on the back. A quick search on Bing shows a few other popular phrases, such as "He can break every fetter," "I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat," or simply "Jesus saves."
Tithes and Shouting
Paying your tithes or giving an offering was known as firing a cartridge. In our time, the term cartridge could probably be better replaced with the term bullet. To give an offering or pay one's tithes is to fire a shot at our enemy, the powers of darkness. To shout out praises to the Lord was referred to as firing a volley at the enemy.
Finally, when a Christian passes away, they are promoted to glory. That is the ultimate promotion for any Salvation Army soldier or officer. Death was not feared by soldiers, despite the fact that lead directly into the unknown. They knew that it merely meant an end of their work in this plane of existence. It is said that when the infamous H.M.S. Titanic sank Salvation Army officers were giving up their lifeboat seats to others. Their reasoning for this action? They knew they were ready to meet God, but others might not be.
Stay tuned for some more articles about the Salvation Army lingo! If you found this article remotely interesting, I would love it if you could leave a comment below. If I left out some lingo (I know I did) please let me know so I can include it in a later article. Thanks!
The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Eph 6:12). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Salvation Army Wikia, http://thesalvationarmy.wikia.com/wiki/Terminology
Salvation Army Glossary of Terms, http://www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/2E8B895B1BBA4A0680256D4F00416D6B
Below are three of my favorite books about the Salvation Army, especially William and Catherine. I strongly recommend them.
Sara McCaslin is an engineer, a computer scientist, and a freelance writer.