The Lion King, The Salvation Army & Identity

By Captain Callum McKenna and Lieutenant Sam Tomlin

There is a scene in the Lion King where Rafiki finds Simba, who has ran away from his destiny to be King and is wandering around without too much direction. Rafiki confronts Simba with a question about who he is. Simba replies, ‘I thought I knew, but now I’m not so sure.’ According to Rafiki, the main reason for this is confusion about his identity. The moment where Simba recaptures his purpose and desire to become the rightful king is when he sees a vision of his father who tells him that he has forgotten who he is.

As the parents of five children under five between us, we’re used to spotting the profound in Kid’s TV and this short clip, we think, captures something deep for The Salvation Army today. Something else we have in common is that we are officers in The Salvation Army in the UK Territory, with a deep love of the Army and its history and a conviction to serve faithfully in its ranks in the present. We also have serious worries about the future of the Army as it faces the challenges of postmodern culture in the UK. These worries aren’t new and neither are questions about the Army’s identity; Commissioner Samuel Logan Brengle wrote, in 1930, that these particular questions are ‘as old as the Army itself’. Contemporary articles calling for greater passion for Christ and a renewed disposition for risk taking join in Brengle’s tradition. Despite some of the most incredible, faithful followers of Christ we have met still leading within the Army, ever-decreasing membership within the UK territory (and similar stories across the Western world), officer burnout/resignation and record lows of cadets indicate there are serious questions that need to be considered. We don’t claim to have all the answers, or even all of the questions, but will attempt in this blog to outline some of the reasons we think might be at the heart of losing much of our historical and spiritual zeal.