Pastor Monica Willarreal of Salem Lutheran Church offered a statement of conviction that I chose to write down for further reflection at a later time. “Creation is not for sale.” We were part of an ecumenical group who gathered at Bethel United Methodist Church to learn about community organizing. A subject that both fascinates and challenges me. I feel I know a little about this subject academically but have little if any practical experience other than attending a couple of community meetings for that purpose when I was a pastor in Battle Creek, Michigan several years ago. I have observed that one of our liabilities in our Flint Eastside neighborhood is that our neighbors are for the most part disconnected from one another. This state of affairs makes it impossible to foster a spirit whereby each of us feel as though our individual well-being is dependent upon our collective well-being.
We learned at the end of our meeting that presidential candidate Donald Trump would be making a surprise visit to Flint the next day and his handlers had asked Bethel to host a visit from their candidate. The pastor and church council agreed with the understanding that the sole purpose was that which was told to them with the request. To allow their candidate to thank the people of Bethel and the City of Flint for their contributions in dealing with the water crisis. Of course, this agreement was quickly broken as the candidate launched into a monologue about the inadequacies of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. The Bethel pastor, Rev Faith Timmons intervened reminding Mr. Trump of the agreement. Bethel’s decision to host this event was risky with such a controversial candidate known for his refusal to play by the rules and more than willing to do whatever he feels it will take to get the upper hand and get his way. I’m proud of Faith and her leadership team for taking the risk and feel that my prayers and likely the prayers of many were answered that Bethel was not harmed while it was in the international spotlight and that good will come as a result of their courage.
So what would a successful business person like Mr. Trump who has bought, sold and bankrupted numerous business, amassed great wealth and power as a result and claims ownership of much more of creation than the rest of us could even imagine think about Monica’s statement? Did Mr. Trump not pay for those parts of creation that he holds legal title to whether in his name or in the name of legal entities that he hold title to? Is it not the way of our economic system which is an evolution of ancient economic systems of land and property owners who hold title and as a result are able to yield great power over those who own less or nothing and are economically dependent upon the willingness of the landowners to share or more likely to barter for exchange of resource?
Community organizing is about power or perhaps more accurate empowerment or a seizing or shifting of power away from the “creation owners” to those marginalized as a result of a concentration of power into a small, elite group. It is a redistribution of power into the hands of the otherwise powerless. “Creation is not for sale” because the true owner gifts it to the created not to own or even possess. God blesses us with all that we need to flourish. God blesses us with abundance. It is up to us to model God’s generosity not because it is ours to own but because it is ours to share with all of creation. We are not owners. Mr. Trump is not an owner and his power is limited by our own agency. By our own willingness to live in harmony with one another and creation. In our political system we ultimately make impact with our vote but we also have impact with our collective voice. So what do you think? Is creation for sale? Amen.