Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Emblem of Identity Crisis

It's been a long time since I last blogged as I've been rather caught up lately with writing my PhD thesis.  However, a thought struck me the other day that I haven't been able to shake so I decided it might be worth sharing.

Like many Salvation Army officers, my wardrobe is lined with quite a few white shirts.  The difficult morning choice used to be whether I would wear a long sleeved or short sleeved shirt.  Now I have a new problem - which logo to choose from?

This might seem like a silly thing to dwell on (and it probably is) but I think it's actually quite symbolic of an organisational crisis in identity and mission that I've been talking about for some time now.  To the casual observer, it may be curious for an organisation to have two logos but not overly significant - it's not unheard of for a company to rebrand or change their logo.  However, what is unusual is that the image on the right, the iconic red shield of The Salvation Army, is one of the best known and recognised brands in Australia (it's known worldwide of course).  You don't change your brand if it's the symbol of your success - and yet, on our uniforms at least, we did.

Now, I don't know why that happened but here's a few guesses at contributing factors.  The red shield is widely recognised as the symbol of a charitable organisation, known for their good works in the community, helping the homeless, feeding the hungry, caring for the stranger and the forgotten.  That all sounds pretty good but there are many Salvationists who think that the acclaim of our social services has overshadowed the movement's identity as a Christian church.  In the logo on the left, the letter 'T' in Salvation has been shaped in the image of a cross to explicitly affirm this Christian identity.

Now perhaps I'm reading too much into this, but since when was compassionate service to the poor and marginalised an insufficient symbol of Christianity?  Did someone really suggest that instead of being associated with charitable works in the community, it would be better to start again with a wonky cross in the middle of our organisation's name?  To me, the red shield has always encompassed our historic Christian identity as the driving motivation of a world-changing movement. However, I'm not sure that discarding it didn't send a message about what's important and what's not. These two logos actually represent quite different ideas of who we are and what we do - and they reflect competing ideas about identity and mission in The Salvation Army.  This isn't about corps versus social programs, it's about how big our notion of salvation actually is.


Unknown said...

Shield should be on uniform jackets as well -

Denny said...

I personally prefer the Crest than the Shield! Just a matter of my own opinion!