We hate to come off Pride on such a sour note, but this one couldn’t be ignored: A senior Salvation Army official in Australia told reporters on Saturday that homosexuals should be put to death, as the Bible instructs.
Major Andrew Craibe, the Salvation Army’s Territorial Media Relations Director for the Southern Territory in Victoria, went on Salt and Pepper, a radio show hosted by queer journalists Serena Ryan and Peper Dillon to discuss Aussie pop star Darren Hayes’ recent call for a boycott of the nonprofit for its anti-gay policies and beliefs.
Ryan questioned Craibe about Salvation Story: Salvationist Handbook of Doctrine , the manual used to train Salvation Army “soldiers” and members. Several chapters refer to the sin of homosexuality, including a section that cites Romans 1:18-32, which includes a admonition that homosexuals “deserved to die”:
For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error. . .
They know God’s decree, that those who practise such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practise them.
Incredibly, Craibe didn’t see bothered by the passage or its implications.
Ryan: According to the Salvation Army, [gay people] deserve death. How do you respond to that, as part of your doctrine?
Craibe: Well, that’s a part of our belief system.
Ryan: So we should die.
Craibe: You know, we have an alignment to the Scriptures, but that’s our belief.
Ryan keeps trying to give Craibe an out, to somehow explain that the passage has been taken out of context and his organization would never wish anyone to be put to death. But he just won’t wise up.
Ryan: I accept that you’re out there wanting to help people… I don’t accept that this sexuality that is part of my DNA is a choice. I also don’t accept the support of any religion in a financial sense, and this is what the gay community is up in arms about: that you’re proposing in your religious doctrine and the way that you train — this is part of your training of your soldiers — that because we’re gay, that we must die. If you go to Romans, book 1, 18-32, it’s all there, mate. I mean, how can you stand by that? How is that Christian?
Craibe: Well, well, because that is part of our Christian doctrine –
Ryan: But how is that Christian? Shouldn’t it be about love?
Craibe: Well, the love that we would show is about that: consideration for all human beings to come to know salvation…
Ryan Or die…
Craibe: Well, yes.
Below is the audio of the full interview. It’s not pretty stuff:
The Salvation Army has gotten in hot water before, including allegations that it forces those in need to renounce their homosexuality to get resources, and reports that SA has campaigned against anti-discrimination based on sexual orientation.
On Sunday, Major Bruce Harmer, the Army’s Communications and Public Relations Secretary for New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory issued the following passage from the group’s FAQ:
Do Salvation Army full members believe, as per the Salvationist Handbook of Doctrine, that practising homosexuals should be put to death? Why, or why not?
Salvation Army members do not believe, and would never endorse, a view that homosexual activity should result in any form of physical punishment. The Salvationist Handbook of Doctrine does not state that practising homosexuals should be put to death and, in fact, urges all Salvationists to act with acceptance, love and respect to all people. The Salvation Army teaches that every person is of infinite value, and each life a gift from God to be cherished, nurtured and preserved.
Why include in your handbook the Romans text from The Bible, which indicates that God insists that homosexuals deserve to die?
This is a misunderstanding of the text referred to. The Scripture in question, viewed in its broader context, is not referring to physical death, nor is it specifically targeted at homosexual behaviour. The author is arguing that no human being is without sin, all sin leads to spiritual death (separation from God), and all people therefore need a Saviour.
Isn’t this inherently anti-Christian, to believe people should be put to death?
The Salvation Army Australia Eastern Territory acknowledges that the response in the interview has led to a serious misunderstanding of our teaching and that clarification should have been given during the interview.
The Salvation Army believes in the sanctity of all human life and believes it would be inconsistent with Christian teaching to call for anyone to be put to death. We consider every person to be of infinite value, and each life a gift from God to be cherished, nurtured and preserved.
Do you feel you owe an apology or explanation to all those gay and lesbian volunteers and people your organisation supports?
The Salvation Army sincerely apologises to all members of the GLBT community and to all our clients, employees, volunteers and those who are part of our faith communities for the offence caused by this miscommunication.
The Salvation Army encompasses a diverse community with a wide range of opinions on human sexuality and other subjects.
The leadership of The Salvation Army in the Australia Eastern Territory continues to reflect on Christian and Biblical tradition, and especially on the themes of justice and mercy, to further deepen the understandings of our own members and build a more healthy relationship with the GLBT community. We pledge to continue to offer services to all Australians and to treat each person with dignity, respect and non-discrimination.
Oh don’t give us the non-apology apology, Major Harmer (how’s that for a fitting name?) We practically invented it.
If you choose to believe the Major that the Salvation Army doesn’t hold any animus toward the LGBT community, that’s your choice. Us, we’re gonna donate our old shmatas to Goodwill.