The Power of Symbols
by Major Wayne
We cannot escape symbols: McDonalds,
Coca Cola, BP, Google, Vodaphone, KFC to name a few. These are
powerful symbols which
convey to the consumer what they can expect when they
purchase their particular goods or services and also convey or
remind those within the organisation of the organisation's
vision and mission.
Symbols, whether word, phrase, image,
object, action, event
or pattern, are powerful and we act or react in certain
ways whenever we see them. The close association with the
thing they represent gives them an inherent value derived from
what they represent. In fact, so closely is a symbol
associated with the thing it represents, that it is often
synonymous with or equivalent to that thing.
It seems to me The Salvation Army in
Australia lost its way, or is at least floundering in an age
of unrest. Has it become adoptive and adaptive rather than
The answer is quite possibly found in the decline in the use
and understanding of what are Salvation Army symbols. It seems
many are unaware that these symbols have meaning and an
important place in what it means to be a Salvationist.
ln the push to appear relevant to a
secular culture we are witnessing a decline in the importance
of Salvation Army
symbols particularly the Crest, Flag, Covenants, and uniform.
In many of today’s Corps, social centres, and correspondence,
the Crest, made up of six different symbols and a motto which
represent the beliefs and mission of The Salvation Army,
has been replaced by a shield and is nearly lost amidst
a plethora of inclusivity and diversity symbols.
symbolising three important Christian beliefs, is often
no longer central in many halls and buildings or is being
placed amidst other flags, thereby diminishing its symbolic
The Shield, although favoured, appears
to have been stripped of its symbolic meaning, to tell “of a
fight on a spiritual battlefield which must last as long as
life itself, and that God in Christ is a Shield to protect and
save us to the uttermost’ (excerpt from one of The Salvation
Army’s magazines, All The World, June 1917).
In our worship too often the song book
and its songs are no longer used which means we symbolically
no longer sing what we believe as Salvationists, we sing
somebody else’s beliefs and theology.
Without Salvation Army’s symbols there
is a paucity of what it means to be The Salvation Army, and,
without its symbols, the community is endangered. Maintaining
a clear understanding of symbols is critical to teaching sound
faith as well as what it means to belong to The Salvation
Unfortunately, we are seeing the centre with its symbols and
their symbolic meaning falling away and being replaced with
only some form of their presence.
It is like a choice has been made to deconstruct
what it means to be Salvation Army and reconstruct a
new faith identity and mission
authorised by a different theology.
Changing symbols or removing them from
sight, not only changes who we are, it also changes the
message those symbols embody.
We need to seriously debate the reasons for the decline
in the centrality of Salvation Army symbols, not acquiesce
in substitution by stealth of those symbols by new
symbols and a new theology which will betray the work and
witness of a long line of faithful Officers and Soldiers.
Christian as well as The Salvation Army
symbols have, believe it or not, stood the test of time, even
through the darkest days of Christianity and the Army, which I
would say makes them even more relevant than ever.