Onward, Christian Soldiers | Bleader

Onward, Christian Soldiers

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Chicago Daily Inter Ocean, September 29, 1880. The Salvation Army was brand new to American shores in 1880. They were an English import, and back home they were widely seen as particularly annoying God-botherers and temperance nuts. A second English militant organization called The Skeleton Army emerged whose sole purpose was to violently torment the Salvationists.

In America, the S.A. began rehabilitating their image at the turn of the century by doing awesome relief work after the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and the San Francisco Quake of '06. (Before that, they were working to help boozers, prostitutes and drug addicts get their shit together—scarcely reputable activities for a spiritual organization.)

But the U.S. branch of the Army was still pretty far out well into the 20th century. They used to get arrested a lot for speaking without a permit: Their ideology forbade them from trucking with corrupt earthly authorities like town clerks with rubber stamps. The case law generated by those arrests actually played a significant part in expanding the legal meanings of the First Amendment.

So take heart, peculiar sectarians: Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.

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