The biblical account of the exodus of the Israelites from the bondage of the Egyptians provides a most interesting survival technique that may be appropriate for modern-day America.
The clue is found in the book of Exodus, verse 39 of chapter 12: “They baked unleavened bread from the dough that they had brought out of Egypt so suddenly that they did not have time to get their food ready or to prepare leavened dough.”
In the early 1970s, the late Dr. Ernest G. Campbell, pastor at the time of Riverside Church in New York, delivered a sermon titled “A Time for Traveling Light,” based on this event. (Campbell was a graduate of “ultra-conservative” Bob Jones University and had moved to the pastorate of the “liberal” formerly Baptist congregation from a Presbyterian pulpit.)
Cataloguing the social and political upheaval in America at the time, Campbell proposed a similar strategy for escaping the turmoil of the decade. It was a time, he concluded, for America’s institutions and citizens to learn how to travel light. In order to escape the debilitating ravages of war, civil strife, poverty, crime, and even religious battles, all must learn to travel with less.
The protections and secrecy of actions and deeds of the government and its officials must be shared with the electorate in exchange for openness and honesty.
Law enforcement must unload some of its unchallenged authority with civilians in exchange for accountability. Corporate executives must share with employees the decision-making process in exchange for productivity and profit.
Even in religious faiths, there must be fewer beliefs but more belief. “You can’t take everything with you during an exodus,” Campbell explained. “You must learn to travel light.”
In retrospect, America and Americans did that. Remember when we all, including the White House, rolled back the thermostats to 68 degrees during the of the oil embargo? Civil rights laws were finally enacted. Police review boards were established. Many political and corporate leaders were prosecuted for glaring violations of justice and accountability. And even the empires of a few religious charlatans were laid waste by financial accountability.
Yet, we find ourselves in the beginning of this 21st century with a much-too-familiar social and political landscape. War, corporate and legal greed, tax loopholes, political malfeasance, white-collar crime, a shrinking middle class and burgeoning upper class are all evidence of excess, which inevitably leads to corruption and social upheaval.
Morality, the buzz word in politics today, is being prostituted by special interest groups.
For example, I find it most immoral to allow a tax credit for Humvees and a certain class of SUVs while opposing an increase in the minimum wage.
It may be legal, but again I find it immoral when laws and financial shenanigans allow one person to make millions of dollars at the expense of the jobs and retirement of honest, trusting, hardworking employees and citizens.
When property values become more important than the life and dignity of human beings, someone’s moral barometer is out of sync.
When we demand a copy of the Ten Commandments be placed front and center in our judicial buildings but deny justice to the poor and/or disenfranchised, morality has been replaced by ego and/or political ambition.
When elected officials can cut funding to the poorest and grant tax incentives and entitlements to the wealthiest, somebody’s morality has been sacrificed at the altar of mammon.
Never has America been more powerful, but never have Americans been more afraid. It may be time for America and Americans to take drastic actions in escaping the mounting national debt to support an immoral war, and the escalating paranoia in search of security.
We may not have time for the yeast of convenience and security to flavor our existence, but our survival is at stake.
We must discard the inessentials of “shock and awe,” as it certainly has neither impressed nor silenced the adversary or brought us peace.
We must unload the environmentally destructive machines and vistas of the few for the integrity, and even survival, of the many.
We must discard the entitlements that reward the few but penalize the many.
We must sort out and take only the essentials.
After all, bread is essential, even without yeast. All else can be abandoned until we are free from the current malaise.
Jack Brymer of Birmingham, Ala., recently retired from SamfordUniversity after a 30-year career as a Baptist journalist. This column appeared previously in the Anniston Star.