Lenten Devotional: April 1, 2021

Aaron Farnham

The Desert Evil
by Aaron Farnham

It is August of 2004, I am just arriving at Asbury College after about 6 months with UMVIM in Honduras. As a transfer student from a public community college in Upstate New York being in Kentucky at a Wesleyan Holiness school is a shock, culturally and to my faith. 

I am on the edge of a vast desert, and somewhere along the line, I picked up the idea that if I found myself in a desert experience it was indicative of my need for growth and seeking out God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. On top of mandatory chapel three times a week, I am attending church once on Saturday and twice on Sunday. I start my first of six trips from cover to cover of my Bible. One time I manage to read the whole thing in six months. Nothing superhuman, but time consuming and it doesn’t give any relief from the desert. 

The Spring of 2011 finds me in Dra. Pérez’s systemic theology course, and that’s where it starts to come together for me, that the problem is the basis and context of the faith I had been chasing for nearly seven years. Even then, it was so fuzzy that I couldn’t put my finger on it as I preached the Sunday following the slaughter of nine African Americans at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015 even though the shooter’s stepfather’s family formed a big part of a pastor friend’s congregation just outside of Columbia, South Carolina.

Finally, thanks to a dear friend, last year I read Burying White Privilege by Miguel de la Torre, and he put a name on the issue; White Nationalist Jesus. Since getting back from Honduras, I had been chasing some other god, a god that dehumanizes, degrades and hates. I wasn’t in the desert in which God’s Son made it clear that creation would be liberated from evil, I was unwittingly in the desert evil considered its backyard trying to get in on that barbecue. I can’t get out of the desert by looking for help from the powerful within the desert because Jesus isn’t there. Jesus is down with everyone the powerful of the desert are crushing under their greedy capitalistic desires. The only Jesus worth following is with the attacked, the exploited, the punished, the manipulated, and the hated. Unless I find myself with them, I am not good with Jesus, and I can’t be good with Jesus if I am good with the powerful.

May this be our prayer, Holy Spirit, Advocate, please guide us out of our pursuit of our nation’s imposter savior. Please guide us alongside the marginalized of creation so we can find liberation from evil and be a part of the restoration of the entirety of God’s creation. Amen.