Army Advertising Campaign Becomes Worldwide Phenomenon

NEWS FEATURE:
South African Salvation Army Advertising Campaign Becomes Worldwide Phenomenon

London, 6 March 2015/IHQ/ – AN innovative Salvation Army campaign in South Africa to raise awareness of domestic abuse has taken social media by storm. Only a few hours after a hard-hitting advert was published, the social media reach had hit more than 16 million people, with no signs of a slow-down.

At the end of February this year, millions of people passed their opinion on the color of a strangely lit dress – quickly known simply as ‘the dress’ or #thedress – with a majority convinced it was white and gold and most of the rest recognizing that it was actually blue and black. Scientists from around the world were called upon to explain the phenomenon and share their expertise on why people see color differently. (Click here for the full story.)

Advertising agency Ireland Davenport took the worldwide interest and used it cleverly to highlight the issue of domestic violence in South Africa, while also publicizing The Salvation Army’s work with abused and trafficked women. They photographed an image of a ‘bruised’ model wearing a copy of #thedress. The Army’s advert, published in the Cape Times newspaper this morning adds the headline ‘Why is it so hard to see black and blue’, along with text saying: ‘The only illusion is if you think it was her choice. One in six women are victims of abuse. Stop abuse against women.’ A phone number for anyone needing support is also included.

The Salvation Army operates two residential care centers in South Africa – in Cape Town and Johannesburg – which provide for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of abused women. The programs help them to recover from their abusers and leave as independent, confident women.

Major Carin Holmes, Public Relations Secretary for The Salvation Army’s Southern Africa Territory, explains: ‘Awareness of the problems of domestic abuse and human trafficking is key for us, and the reaction to this campaign is overwhelming. More than 3,000 Tweets an hour shows the desperateness of the situation – domestic violence and human trafficking needs to be stopped.’

The major also revealed that Ireland Davenport did not charge The Salvation Army for its services.

Reaction to the campaign has become a trending topic on Twitter, with voices including fashion magazine Cosmopolitan, New York’s Adweek and youth-orientated UK news site BBC Newsbeat. TV and radio stations around the world are also running items about the campaign.

Image courtesy of ‘The Salvation Army Southern Africa/Ireland Davenport’

Forgiveness

It may have happened 20, 30 or even 40 years ago. For Richard, it was a sexual encounter with a young boy. For Rachel, an abortion at age 15 has haunted her dreams for years. Seth’s vicious punch to his mother’s face fractured her nose and destroyed their relationship. Althea lives in the shadow of the drunken car crash that snuffed out the lives of a mother and child.

My friends have paid the price society exacted upon them: the label of sex offender, the condemning rhetoric of the abortion debate, the sorrow of an estranged relationship, the prison term for manslaughter. As Christians, my friends have come to Jesus, confessed their sins, sought the forgiveness that Christ promises and tried to make amends. But the question still lingers: How can God forgive me when I can’t forgive myself? Is my sin unpardonable?

Some of us have been spared these kinds of life-shattering actions, permanent stains no amount of scrubbing will remove. We have all sinned (see Romans 3:23), but as the tagline from Law and Order: SVU reminds us, certain sins seem “especially heinous.” Some of our brothers and sisters carry a cross of shame and blame upon their backs that they fear will never be lifted. What can we say to them? What can we say to ourselves when this is our story?

You are not alone. David, a man after God’s own heart, committed adultery and had the woman’s husband killed (2 Samuel 11). An adulterous woman was caught in the act and dragged before Jesus to be stoned (John 8). Peter repeatedly denied Jesus shortly after pledging his undying allegiance (John 18). These were no garden-variety transgressions. Yet David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (Psalms 51:10). Jesus told the adulterous woman, “Neither do I condemn you.” As for Peter, the redemptive exchange on the beach prompted a blessed reconciliation between the traitorous disciple and his Master (John 21).

We all sin. We break God’s heart and we hurt other people. Yet God does not withhold forgiveness even if our sins are great. If that was true for David, the accused woman and Peter, then it is true for us as well.

You are not your sin. I got to know a man who had viciously raped a little girl about twenty years before. At first, I shuddered in disgust at the thought of his crime. However, in time, I discovered a man who was so much more than his sin. He knew what he had done; it had broken him. In the years following his release from prison, his kindness towards others was incredible to witness. Now he lives out of a spirit of forgiveness.

In The Message, Eugene Peterson paraphrases the opening verses of Romans 8: “Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.”

Secrecy breeds shame. For some, those around them know of their sins. Yet it is still possible to live in a way that says, “That was who I was, but this is who I am now, in Christ.” For others, few, if any, know the truth, and that tortured silence becomes its own stamp of condemnation.

One day, when I was counseling a woman struggling with depression, she blurted out, “I was a witch.” She had practiced witchcraft as a teenager, and although she had become a Christian in the intervening years, she felt she had irreparably damaged her relationship with God. In our work together, I listened to her confession and spoke words of absolution to her. In the light of her confession, the darkness no longer gripped her, and she began to recover from the depression that had bound her for so long.

You can move forward. Psychologist Everett Worthington Jr. provides guidance in his book, Moving Forward: Six Steps to Forgiving Yourself and Breaking Free from the Past. His steps are not easy to accomplish, but he provides thoughtful direction by drawing from personal experience and scholarly research. Beginning with asking for God’s forgiveness, Worthington challenges us to repair relationships, rethink our struggles with God and our own unrealistic expectations, forgive ourselves and rebuild our self-image. To complete our journey to self-forgiveness, Worthington advises us to resolve to live virtuously in the days ahead as we practice cooperating with the Holy Spirit, and to grant ourselves mercy if we fail.

You are broken yet redeemed, fallen yet loved. Worthington expresses it this way: “The hardest struggle—beyond self-forgiveness— is accepting yourself as a flawed individual, (we all are) yet being convinced that you are precious to the Lord. You are valued more highly than you can imagine.” It feels like such a contradiction, but accepting this paradox is life-affirming.

You are forgiven. This is the scriptural truth of 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We may not always be able to see it, feel it or embrace it, but this is true, straight from the word of God. John explains in 1 John 3:19- 20: “By this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before Him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.”

Writing in The Healing Path, Dan Allender provides us with a final word of counsel. “Repentance and forgiveness are the pinnacles of the journey, but a weary traveler cannot continue without a cup of cold water.” God bestows forgiveness in an instant, but it may take a lifetime to accept the enormity of that grace. Don’t give up! Claim the promise of Scripture. Accept the consequences of your actions. Make amends. Reach out to a trusted friend or counselor. Receive a cup of water in the name of Jesus and drink of its mercy. Trust God’s heart for you.

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By Major Joann Shade

Christianity’s Comeback

This year, Christianity may be making a comeback. Just when everyone thought God was dead, faith began to spread again. Though nonbelieving cultural elites in media, academics and entertainment might be the loudest voices in the room, a new Pew Research Study indicates that Christianity is alive and well in the United States. Among it’s findings:

  • 73 percent of adults believe Jesus was born to a virgin.
  • 81 percent believe the baby Jesus was laid in a manger.
  • 75 percent believe wise men guided by a star brought Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
  • 74 percent believe an angel announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds nearby.

The study indicates that 65 percent of Americans believe all four of these elements of the Christmas story, and a mere 14 percent believe none of them. These numbers don’t only represent the Bible Belt: 54 percent of liberals believe in the virgin birth, and among adults with postgraduate degrees 53 percent affirm the virgin birth of Jesus.

Hollywood saw it coming. It seems studio executives finally discovered the Christian community is the largest target audience of all. So, while Christian-themed movies have been hit-or-miss, they now understand the Christian audience is increasing, not decreasing, and the more a movie sticks to the Biblical account, the bigger the box office success.

So, the question becomes: where has Christianity been? Early in the 20th century, the church embraced motion pictures, radio, television. Now, it has embraced the Internet and social media. However, the church still exists in a bubble and does not use those platforms to engage the greater culture. From the web to publishing, record labels, television networks, universities and more, the church has withdrawn from mainstream culture into its cloistered, protective bubble.

The church hasn’t been losing its voice; it’s been giving it away. As a result, Christianity has relinquished influence in modern culture. It’s a tragedy because, since the founding of this country, Christianity has been a powerful engine behind social service outreach, educational institutions, hospitals and more.

While the majority of the population still professes Christian beliefs, will Christianity ever regain its footing? I believe it already has, and there are plenty of signposts:

  • Churches are cropping up in major urban centers around the United States. Whether in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles or Seattle, young pastors with passion for their cities are finding it difficult to locate facilities large enough for the crowds of worshippers.
  • A new generation of talented writers, filmmakers, musicians and other artists are unapologetic about their faith. They are breaking away from traditional, Christianbranded record labels, film distributors and publishers, and are finding success with mainstream audiences.
  • Episodic television programs like Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s series, The Bible, broke audience records in the United States. Their new series A.D., based on the New Testament book of Acts, debuts this spring, and a remake of Ben Hur is in the works.
  • Massive relief operations like Mercy Ships, The Salvation Army and Medical Ministry International are driven by Christian convictions. These organizations are making a dramatic difference in the most desperate places on the planet.

The strength and resilience of the church is not surprising. When the Iron Curtain fell we discovered that communism couldn’t silence the church. Despite horrific torture and executions perpetrated by ISIS militants, Christians in that region refuse to recant. So it shouldn’t be shocking that here in the West, for all the criticism and clatter from nonbelievers, Christianity is actually growing. In 2015, it will be obvious that Christianity is back. But truthfully, it never left.

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By Phil Cooke

The Beauty of Thy Peace

After receiving bad news at the hospital, Alex boarded a city bus and became lost in thought. So they think it’s a brain tumor, he brooded. Headaches, dizziness, blurred vision—the prognosis was life-threatening enough to prompt him to examine his life.

The woman he was with had just left him for a neighbor. He himself had left three different women before taking up with her. Alex could not even remember which ones were from which of the four countries he had lived in. He nudged his thoughts along the links in the chain of his memory to the various places he had called home, some here in his own country, others in the country to the north and still others in the country to the south. At every other link, a scam or dangerous liaison had required him to move, the most prudent procedure for survival.

During the longest period he spent in one place he established a legitimate business. However, the backroom activities were illegitimate, and corrupt authorities threatened exposure unless he shared his profits with them. The percentage demanded was too high. It was in that town that he left a grown daughter in a brothel and never heard of her again.

When he crossed into a new country, Alex found an easy way to take advantage of superstitious people. He used his talent for acting to adopt the persona of a spirit medium. He blessed the wooing of a man for a woman; he promised financial prosperity to a job seeker; he gave formulas to the sick for curing incurable diseases. At first Alex resisted performing black magic, but eventually he relented, realizing he could make more money off those who wanted to curse others.

The bus Alex was riding careened around a corner, and he ruminated on his “religion.” I bless their love affairs but my woman leaves me for my neighbor. I promise them prosperity but I’m poorer every day. I offer them healing but now there’s something in my head that will kill me. This religion is no good. The bus stopped in front of the courthouse. Looking out the window, Alex saw a man walking across the plaza wearing a white shirt with an “S” on each lapel and a military-style cap. He recognized the Salvation Army uniform.Suddenly, Alex skipped many links in the chain of his memory, thinking back to his early childhood. Back then, his mother had belonged to The Salvation Army and took him to its Sunday school every week. There he learned Bible stories and discovered that Jesus had died to save humanity from its sins. For the first time in decades his mind was at ease. He had found the answer to the question tangled in the chain of his memory.

He stepped off the bus near his mother’s house and walked briskly to the door, finding her in the kitchen.

“Ma, I’m giving it all up. Tonight I’m going to The Salvation Army and giving myself to God!” His mother said nothing, delighting in the look of happiness on her son’s face. She had been a faithful Methodist for most of her adult life and had never ceased praying for Alex.

Alex knew the sight of the Salvationist interrupting his thoughts was no coincidence. He felt even more strongly that God was intervening in his life when, that very afternoon, the Salvationist he saw knocked on the door. The captain was surprised when Alex opened the door and said, smiling, “Come on in!”

The captain was looking for someone on the corps membership roll who shared Alex’s surname but turned out to be no relation. Then, when Alex explained his epiphany, the captain helped him to accept Christ as his Savior. Then, he arranged to return in the early evening to hold an open-air meeting in front of the house. Alex would deliver his testimony through the loudspeaker to let the whole neighborhood know that the medium was now a

Christian who would only guide people to the Lord Jesus and that God’s Holy Spirit was the only spirit that would inhabit him from now on.

Thus, God used a Salvationist’s uniform and his dedication to visitation, the memory of Sunday school and a mother’s commitment to prayer to reach a man at a crossroads in his life. After one incredible year of personal peace and constant witness to lost souls (and bringing many children to Sunday school and Vacation Bible school), the brain tumor took Alex’s life. The obituary declared that he had been promoted to Glory. At the funeral, Alex’s mother told the captain, “You really did bring him out of a horrible pit.” Three junior soldiers in uniform stood by the casket of the man who had brought them to Christ. As the poem by John Greenleaf Whittier goes:

                                                     
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind;
In purer lives thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

Drop thy still dews of quietness
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of thy peace.

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By Major Larry Repass