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Opposition and acceptance of The Salvation Army

It should not be thought that Salvationists have always been an accepted part of Australia's social fabric. Violent opposition from "skeleton armies" was often launched against the Army. This War Cry report from Brisbane, reveals the dangers facing pioneer Salvationists in some instances:

"Almost every night some of our soldiers are getting hurt. One night during the week, as we were all having our usual open-air meeting, a crowd of 200 roughs gathered around, and threw lumps of road metal. One piece struck the Captain on the mouth and split one of his teeth, and loosened two others; yet, with all, we were able to sing, 'Hallelujah!'

"Another night a sister got struck on the head, almost forcing her to the ground. In the face of all, there are certain officials of the law who stand by and enjoy the brutal sport."

The odious manner in which the Army has at times been held reveals itself in the legal attention the Army received in that era. Numerous Salvationists ended up behind bars with charges ranging from being a public nuisance to disturbing the peace. From 1881 to 1907, across the country, more than 100 Salvationists were fined or jailed for holding street-meetings and marches.

Between the publicans, the State and the churches, there was a number of confused approaches towards the Army. The confusion, and the fact the larrikins saw Salvationists as fair game for roughhouse fare, spilled over into the "barracks", or buildings, of Salvationists.

The occasional damage to private property - often halls rented by Salvos - was another hardship to be overcome. Stones, rotten eggs, road metal, dead cats, red ochre, flour... Salvos had to be prepared for diligent laundering as well as bruises, bandages and banter.

Modern-day visitors to a Salvation Army worship service may well wonder why violence was flung at The Salvation Army. Why did publicans pay men large sums of money to persecute Salvationists, or pay for brass instruments for rival, "skeleton" brass bands?

Why did civic and church leaders condemn Salvationists for what they saw as unscriptural doctrine, unhealthy excitement, and dangerous practices such as "wild dances and wilder cries which border on profanity" for charismatic church services, described as "the midnight meeting of both sexes"?

The answers to these questions lie in a much more staid social environment than the one people experience today. The separation of the sexes (and the enforced non-participation of female believers by many denominations), the Army's denunciation of existing social conditions, loss of publicans' business, the desire to enforce existing social classes... these may be answers to the above questions.

In summary, it is fair to say that the exuberance and vigour of the pioneering Salvationists took the community by surprise.

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