I’m grateful to my friend Stephen Poxon (author and writer) for contributing this guest post about William Booth. You can find his books here.
William Booth: Founder of The Salvation Army, Christian evangelist, reformer, friend of royalty, champion of the marginalised, wit, entrepreneur, and master of the soundbite.
So far, so good, but we must remember that Booth was preaching his message and espousing his spiritual and moral philosophy before any of the advantages of modern communications technology could be exploited. His was an era of voice projection and oratory that went largely unaided except by, maybe, primitive devices for amplification.
All the more remarkable, therefore, is the fact that so many of William Booth’s quotations have survived into the present age. Granted, many were recorded by stenographers and biographers, but General Booth’s feat is still special, especially as much of his (prophetic?) wisdom retains a fresh touch.
Such as, for example, his utterance that there might come a time when the fires of scorching faith that burned within his bones would somehow become
“Religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell”.
Forgive the pun, but this is hot stuff; not for the faint-hearted (but then, faint-heartedness was a concept Booth never understood).
Was the old man right, though?
Take a look around. See for yourself a market-place swarming with pseudo-Christian philosophies (touchy-feely-feel-good mantras of consolation paraded in the name of some churches) and you might concede, he made a reasonable point! Denominations, I mean, that sometimes appear not to know their convictions from their desperate strivings to be ultra-relevant, and which, consequently (inevitably) dilute their ancient mandate to the point of it being nothing in particular and of little use to anyone.
And as for the penultimate utterance in Booth’s list of concerns, who can forget Alastair Campbell’s famous interruption of Tony Blair, reminding the then Prime Minister that “We don’t do God”?
How about this absolute corker:
“Don’t instil, or allow anybody else to instil into the hearts of your girls the idea that marriage is the chief end of life. If you do, don’t be surprised if they get engaged to the first empty, useless fool they come across.”
He wasn’t holding back, was he! Anyone voicing such opinions nowadays would be faced with any number of charges before they could say political correctness. Yet, allowing the dust to settle, we might just find ourselves agreeing with the outspoken warrior, albeit only grudgingly, on behalf of our children and grandchildren. Is it even possible we might only, eventually, accuse him of speaking downright common sense?
Try this one: “The greatness of the man’s power is the measure of his surrender”.
Notwithstanding the gender bias of the statement, how much does a contemporary age rail against notions of surrender, obedience, deference or conformity; in civil and legal matters, relationships, education, religion, societal structures, international political diplomacy, and the workplace (and so on)? Are we, can we honestly claim, the better for such prevailing tendencies and the tacit approval of creeping anarchy in the name of entitlement?
Read. Ponder. Agree. Disagree.