The Salvation Army puts on the appearance of a charity whose purpose is to help people in need, but it is a church, and it uses charity to promote its doctrines. I don’t give money to it, but it has a store and collection box near my home where I’ve often dropped off stuff I no longer need. After a mailing I got, I’m having second thoughts even about that.
“He who believes in me will live.” The implication, supported by the SA’s doctrines, is that he who disagrees will die. The doctrine says that “all men have become sinners, totally depraved, and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God.” Got that? The Salvation Army thinks you’re a totally depraved person.
Christians are “regenerated” from their previous depravity and get a ticket to heaven for believing in Jesus: “We believe that repentance toward God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and regeneration by the Holy Spirit are necessary to salvation.” Being a good person is neither necessary nor sufficient. If you’re a Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist, your fate is the “endless punishment of the wicked.”
Don’t put too much blame on the bell ringers, most of whom aren’t church members and probably don’t know anything about its doctrines. The Salvation Army is very good at looking like a conventional charity rather than a narrow-minded church. Even public schools and municipal institutions, whose administrators are well aware they can’t support churches, are sometimes duped into supporting it. Only occasionally, as with this mailing, does the mask slip and reveal the monstrous face of a deity saying “Believe or die!”
Typical evangelical religions use the bribe of Heaven and the threat of Hell to get people to believe. The Salvation Army adds a bribe which isn’t funny money, which could be to their credit if they were honest about their aims. But every cent or shirt which you give them goes toward promoting a doctrine that considers humans evil by the mere fact that we exist and threatens everyone who doesn’t agree. In its implications, it’s a doctrine of hatred for all non-Christians. It’s important to choose charities intelligently, and I’m not going to support one that tells people I’m “totally depraved.”
Update: I’ve done some looking into the doctrine of regeneration by the Holy Spirit to see if they really mean that they’re the only ones who aren’t depraved. Yes, that is what they mean. Numerous web pages that I’ve checked confirm that the people who believe in this doctrine hold that regeneration puts an end to their depravity. Here’s one example:
To put the matter of regeneration in another way; regeneration is the impartation of a new nature, God’s own nature to the one who is born again (2 Peter 1:4). Every human being is born into this world with a perverted nature; his whole intellectual, affectional and volitional nature perverted by sin. … It is the Holy Spirit who creates in us this new nature, or imparts this new nature to us. No amount of preaching, no matter how orthodox it may be, no amount of mere study of the Word will regenerate unless the Holy Spirit works. It is He and He alone who makes a man a new creature.
“Regenerated” people claim to be a “new creature” with a “new nature,” and thus can damn the rest of us without damning themselves. This isn’t a Christian view that I was previously familiar with; my understanding is that standard Christianity says that everyone is a sinner, even Christians, and I haven’t run into many Christians who claim to have an essentially different nature from the rest of us. I’ve come upon a number of Christian pages that reject the Salvation Army’s doctrine of innate and universal depravity. (“Sin” and “depravity” are different at least in degree.)