Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Salvation Army's Fifth Column...

The term Fifth Column holds interest for me.

Seemingly a word, a concept to infer that which is underhand, disloyal, treacherous. A hidden group waiting to rise up. A look into history shows how the concept can be positive rather than insidious. Think of resistance movements that have risen up in the over throw of tyranny.

It intrigues me to think of what for TSA is its Fifth Column, who and where are its loyal subpopulation? I've seen it I think in various guises. From time to time individuals come through Training College; from time to time individual projects develop; from time to time unique expressions of mission emerge. Radical loyal orthodoxy, a sense of the essence of TSA - but within a different form.

For a fifth column to succeed it doesn't necessarily look like the culture it is loyal to. Invariably it looks very different. The French Resistance would have been foolhardy to wear the official badge and uniform of the French army. I wonder about TSA and its fifth column; occupying their place on the margins they may look different; they may not be officers; they may not wear uniform; they may not even be soldiers. They seem to occupy a place of chaos where creativity can emerge. For those willing to look and support, the Fifth Column offers a critical sense of creativity and in that creativity a critical sense of survival.

Ben Elton's Blind Faith wasn't that well a written novel for me, however he concludes his fascinating concept with a quote that we need to remember.
"For no society based on nothing more constructive than fear and brutish ignorance could survive for ever. No people who raised up the least inventive, the least challenging, the least interesting of their number while crushing individual curiosity and endeavour could prosper for long" (2008:320)
I worry when those I respect and gain much from are pushed from their position within the TSAs Fifth Column into either a bland conformity or into giving up entirely.


Anonymous said...

Now you're talking my language. I really appreciate your post, Gordon. I had never heard of a Fifth Column before, but I like it... I may well be part of it.


Andrew Bale said...

Fifth columns operate where ordinary armies can't. They also operate not against allies who are slightly different from them but against enemies. They operate where invading tyrants have taken over or where the legitimate government has become corrupt.

I'm not sure that things in TSA call for a fifth column just yet - if people have things to say, points to make, missions to run, then let them step into the light and go for it. If it wins souls then we'll all be for it. If instead it just seeks to blow up bridges that some of us still walk over then I'm dead against it.

I can't think of a church that gives its members and ministers greater power and autonomy than TSA so why do we need to engage in guerilla warfare?

There's always a thin line between freedom fighters and terrorists.

Love and prayers


Estelle said...

not sure I understand!

Anonymous said...

Liked the ideas in the post - what jumped out was the 'Radical loyal orthodoxy' idea. I think this idea could do with some exploritory work as to what it means. Wayne

Gordon said...

Andrew - dare I say you have fallen foul of looking inward rather than outward; as such perhaps have missed the point I was trying to make. It isn't a point against the institution, it is a point in favour of the essence of TSA albeit in a different form.

Andrew Bale said...

You'll have to clarify further...

I'm all for anything that embraces the essence of TSA whatever form it takes and whatever it looks like but I can't see how that could be described as a fifth column?

Surely the Army would welcome anything like that? I can't think of anything effective that has been quashed in recent years. Officers who have exchanged their radical edge for conformity have no one to blame but themslves. As for those who have left... If their principles meant that much to them and if they really believed they were critical to the effectiveness of TSA they would have stayed and fought their corner.

Nothing could possibly make me conform or resign and neither would I consider going underground. If my destiny is to be a big festering thorn in TSA's side so be it. If defending and practicising authentic Salvationism isolates me from the establishment so be it!

I've broken my covenant once and I've no intention of doing it twice (God help me!)

Your fifth columnists should strut their stuff with pride and to hell with the consequences.

However, if you're saying that they operate subversively in enemy territory - i.e. out there in the world - not immediately visible as TSA then perhaps I understand where you're coming from... the problem is I can't see how that kind of fighting would lead to compromise or resignation.

Help me out I'm still a trifle confused...

Love and prayers


Gordon said...

Andrew - You've clarified the point yourself - both by your last point and perhaps by your exasperation :o).

I think you have also missed the point as to these people's commitment - I described them as a loyal subpopulation. The issue comes when they get lumped because their sense of form is different. The essence is undeniable but is challenged by those more caught up with form.

headphonaught said...

Fantastic thought, Gordon and one that I identify with.

I've heard the phrase "loyal radicals" used by Johnny Baker (in his Roxburgh Journal interview, I think) and your post adds to this metaphor nicely. Brian McLaren speaks of an insurgency of love in "everything must change" which adds to this too.

I see this fifth column as being made up of a curious mix of predominately lay folk... ordinary radicals and insurgents of love who do not fit into any one form but are affecting change on their own or with other likeminded individuals. Instead of creating gaps by blowing things up... they bridge gaps... responding quickly and nimbly... in ways the bigger Army can't.

I disagree with Andrew... the Army has and needs this fifth column more than anything right now... but I welcome his commission... to step up... step out and go for it. This entrepreneurial spirit is needed more than ever!

The Army needs to recognise the loyal radicals... and train/mentor/encourage/support them accordingly. However, if they don't... they will themselves (and already are?)

To date, my experience of this has been mixed... a heady mix of loving support and pure beauracratic hostility. People who get the vision and want to work with you... and others who give you the freedom without support and then willingly take credit for the work undertaken.

Thank you for this post... It has inspired me.

Anonymous said...

Interesting thread....

As someone not connected with 'TSA' (sure saves time..) I think has a wider reach.

When the Church becomes the church (devoid of its true Capital, the Head, God Himself) fifth columnists might be said to be the modern-day Ezekiel's and Isaiah's, as well as other throughout history who correctly discern the voice of God calling us onwards.

Watch out for what happens when such voices are raised above the din of stagnant voices....

Take Lakeland, for example. I've heard everything under the sun about what appears to be an incredible thing, some good, some not, but the number of voices echoing the pharisaic voices is alarming. Where's that fifth column within us, that Spirit of God continually calling us onwards, to continue our struggle in Resistance against all that would hinder (Heb 12).

A good thought...

Keep Rockin'