A partisan chronicle, as colorful, brisk, and naively appealing as an old-time Salvation Army parade. McKinley (Corps...


MARCHING TO GLORY: The History of the Salvation Army in the United States of America, 1880-1980

A partisan chronicle, as colorful, brisk, and naively appealing as an old-time Salvation Army parade. McKinley (Corps Sergeant-Major) teaches History at Asbury College in Wilmore, Ky., which is unofficially affiliated with the Army, and he makes no bones about his commitment to this unique battalion of the Church Militant. But he's also a serious historian, honest enough to describe the Army's weaknesses (complacent support of the social order whose victims it rescued, destructive dynastic feuds among the offspring of the astonishing Gen. William Booth, a penchant for ""hallelujah buffoonery""), its defeats (few black officers, dwindling conversions, poor adaptation to the post-WW II urban scene), and its bleak future prospects. McKinley recounts the fortunes of the Army as an institution in rich and sometimes overwhelming detail. He dwells on the trials of the 1880s and 1890s, when the Army was desperately poor and frequently harassed by rowdies and respectable citizens alike. He savors the triumph of the Army ""lasses"" in France in 1917-18, when their ministrations of doughnuts and TLC made them an instant legend. And, unfortunately, he examines every aspect of Army music with loving meticulousness. On the other hand, McKinley spends very little time analyzing the social and psychological make-up of Army converts, or the reasons--other than the corps' phenomenal energy--for its early success. But if he is silent, his data are not, and they suggest that the Army is doomed. Active members of the Army probably number fewer than 100,000 today: the vacuum it once filled in American life is now being filled by the welfare state, community organizations, and the more traditional churches. Marching bands of ""single-minded zealots"" are retreating in the face of greater sophistication, religious and otherwise. Still, the Army has been a vital and (if only by accident) innovative force in the past 100 years--and this book is a fine introduction to it.

Pub Date: April 2, 1980


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1980