Friday, 1 April 2016

The Sally Army and Me - BBC One and on iPlayer

It was with some nervousness that we sat down to watch the first instalment of this six part documentary in which Paul O'Grady gets initiated as a volunteer with the Salvation Army in various facets of its work. I don't think we need have been nervous. Although I'm not a natural P O'G fan (to be honest, the radio goes off when he comes on) I thought his personableness came through well, and his own background, crossing paths as it has with the SA at various points, made him a perceptive as well as entertaining subject. 

On top of that we have Jo Moir, who more than holds her own next to the "big star." We all knew she made good television from watching BBC Alba's Bean a' Mhinisteir (Wife to the Minister) a couple of years ago, and she seems even better this time around. Confident, warm and natural, with a winsome clarity of communication that can laugh but stands no nonsense, Jo is a great gift and we should be thankful for her involvement in this series. 


I hope that the other five programmes take us further. Number one perhaps dealt with two of the best-known/practically caricatured elements of SA life - brass bands and the homeless. It will be interesting to see how it goes from here. And not just on the "actvities" level either, but in spiritual content. There appears to be a genuine interest in Paul O'Grady that somehow goes beyond mere professional or feigned curiosity.


As ever, the biggest howls of complaint come from within the Army. This time mostly from those who see the involvement of Paul O'Grady as in some way a slap in the face for people of LGBTQI orientation who would like to be more involved in the life of the movement. This saddens me. To the best of my knowledge, Paul O'Grady is not a Christian - he makes no claim to be. He is making a TV programme about being a volunteer. That situation is unique, and it is one that TSA has entered into knowingly - probably with some trepidation at the highest level (not just nervousness on our sofa!). That situation has precisely nothing to say to the daily life of the Army in its normal activities, where its commitment to Jesus Christ, to the truth of his gospel, and to established standards of Christian behaviour all come into play. 


The most disappointing part of the complaint this time around is the (utterly predictable) single issue prism through which all must be refracted and judged. No one is complaining that Paul O'Grady is not a Christian. Nobody is asking that he affirms the Doctrines of TSA. His non-commitment to Jesus is no issue at all. The only issue that carries weight is that (I understand) he is attracted to people of the same sex and this Isn't Fair.


The Salvation Army is a network of local Christian churches with a wider network of social welfare activities which are supported by government and public funding. At its heart it is a Christian body; you have to be a Christian, and a Christian of a particular type and doctrinal commitment to belong. Not all Christians are welcome, for a variety of reasons. It shares those aspects of its inclusivism and exclusivism with many other Christian bodies, of course. It has allowed an avowed agnostic to make a documentary series; I think this was not a mistake, though I may be proved wrong over the coming weeks! But the real issue is whether Jesus Christ and his gospel will be seen and heard. 


Please pipe down with the perpetual harping on about sex and let's see if the Spirit will work through this documentary! That's what I'm praying for. 


Catch up with the series on iPlayer:

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