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Feb12ThuThree ways to embrace the uniform. February 12, 2015 by Captain Scott Strissel
Let's face it—the uniform is not going to win any fashion awards. It won't be on a runway in Paris or featured in a high-end boutique anytime soon. The older generation is more likely to argue for wearing a uniform than the younger generation. I'm not here to argue for or against uniform wear (an audible sigh is heard all around the Army world), but I do recognize the need for such a uniform in our Army.
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
The uniform is recognizable. Sure, it might be a marketable feature to donors and the public, but it should also be a symbol of hope to people who see it. Many soldiers and officers can bear witness to the fact that people often come up to us and say things such as, “You don't know me, but The Salvation Army saved my life….” The uniform is recognized by those the Army has helped, as well as those who want to help. We may have to sacrifice some comforts in order to wear it. By putting on the uniform, we are taking off some of our personal identity and individuality and becoming part of something greater than ourselves. Or perhaps our identity and individuality make the Army greater than before. We do this together. We wear the uniform for a purpose. We share in this mission and fight not as solitary soldiers, but as a unified Army—so be recognizable!
I'm not saying that Jesus donned one of our finest polyester navy blue uniforms, but we can embrace the uniform by understanding what it represents. Remember that the “S” stands for “saved to save” (or “saved to serve”). Who have we been saved by? Christ. He gave us salvation and showed us what holiness looks like. We have been saved for a holy purpose—to show others a new life in Christ and help them navigate life's murky, sin-sick waters. We can glorify God through the ways we conduct daily lives while wearing the uniform. Can we practise “Christlikeness” out of uniform? Of course, and we should. But we can also use this semi-comfortable contraption to bear witness to a transformed life. Wearing the uniform isn't always easy, but neither is living a holy life. If you are a soldier and you are committed to the cause of the Army, then consistent uniform wear is probably a given.
Barring airport delays caused by being mistaken for an airline pilot, the uniform can be a unique witnessing tool. People are curious about it. If anything, it's a wonderful conversation starter. Witnessing is so much more than the old method of handing out tracts, cold-calling people or yelling “Jesus saves!” on a street corner. People want to be engaged on a personal level. If we have hidden motives, we are disingenuous in our witness. Wearing the uniform will either scare people away or cause them to ask questions. And, who knows? Perhaps you can develop a relationship with someone because of it.
While wearing the uniform, we can't hide the fact that we are soldiers and Christians. We all know of areas in which Christianity has been tarnished by inconsistent witnesses and downright hypocritical people—and we can't afford to be that kind of witness while in uniform. Seriously, if you don't think you can be a consistent witness whether in or out of a uniform, don't wear the uniform. I don't mean to be harsh, but either wear it with conviction or don't wear it all. Embrace the symbolism behind the uniform or walk away from it.
The Future of the Uniform?
I don't know what the future holds for the uniform, but if what we have seen in the last 20-30 years indicates anything, the Salvation Army uniform can and will change. This doesn't mean that it will disappear, but it might mean that certain adjustments will be made (ahem, bonnets and high collars). Will skirts and pantyhose be next? I don't know. Can I say that I always enjoy wearing full uniform? Of course not! Will I stop wearing my uniform as long as I am a soldier and an officer? No. Would I welcome some adjustments or modifications to the uniform in the future? You bet I would!
Captain Scott Strissel lives in Brainerd, Minnesota. He is an active blogger and contributor for the purpose of encouraging and challenging the Salvation Army world. Read his blog at pastorsponderings.org.