Journey Toward Hope
First Sunday of Lent
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Recently, I was reading a book by Kevin Kruse called, “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America.” It is about how a large segment of Christian theology became co-opted by industry. I was somewhat baffled to see that it was a Congregational pastor named Rev. John W. Fifield who partnered with corporate America to remove the social gospel of the New Deal and replace it with the gospel of rugged individualism and corporate enterprise. Fifield would start an organization called the Spiritual Mobilization, and it would be heavily funded by the oil industry and manufacturers. From the 1930s to the 1950s, they would move Christianity in America from being service and community oriented to being isolated, self-serving, and individualistic. I believe that the scripture before us serves as a corrective to this kind of theology. It serves as a warning against selfishness and individualism. Further, I believe that we see the truth of this scripture as pointing toward reconciliation and hope.
The truth of the scripture is that when given over to our own desire we will break with the will of God. In essence, just because “you can” doesn’t mean “you should.” Eve and Adam had a choice. Both had freedom, and both chose to be selfish and shortsighted. They chose their own agenda over God’s assignment. Fifield deceptively swapped the two. He disguised greed as godliness.
Now is the time to undue this theological malpractice. The planet is turning on us because of our own selfish desires and outside motivations. People who are dying from toxic genocide are often ignored because of our own selfish desires and the dominance of industries that place profits over public health. Sadly, it is children who suffer the most from breathing in the poison spewed from toxic facilities. In essence, we have failed to stand up and fight for the least of these because we have failed to see them.
Lent is a time of reflection and repentance. It is a time when we own our truth and seek to reconcile our faults. It is a time when we see our selfishness and do something about it. Repentance isn’t just about being sorrowful. It’s also about making amends. This is the time when we seek to repair the damage that was done. Today, we have an opportunity to not only correct the things that we have done, but we can also correct the damage done by others. If we can’t correct the damage, we can at least actively fight against its continuance. People are rising up in masses to change the policies that are the offspring of selfishness and shortsightedness. They are rising-up in masses to dismantle corrupt systems that choose to forget about those on the margins. During this Lenten Season, my hope and prayer is that your repentance will not just be an acknowledgement of truth, but that it will be a time of reconciliation and action. In this, hope lives.
The Rev. Michael Malcom is the Executive Director of Alabama Interfaith Power and Light and a UCC minister