Letter 51

Jennifer T. Kaalund

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
Iona College

March 11, 2017

Dear President Trump, Vice President Pence, Members of the Trump Administration and 115th Congress,

Beginnings are a time of reflection. In the New Testament, the Gospels provide reflections of a people troubled by their uncertain future. They look back on earlier events and project a hopeful future informed by values and principles of the past.

The gospel of Luke presents such a beginning in Jesus’s inaugural sermon. Jesus most clearly articulates his mission statement when, reciting Isaiah 61:1-2 in the synagogue, he declares: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). Thus, Jesus’s first public declaration expresses concern for justice, specifically for the poor and the oppressed.

In antiquity and today, the poor are not simply those disadvantaged economically, but also those who lack honor, prestige, and power. Jesus came, was anointed, and eventually died for such individuals. And yet, the gospel of Luke does not simply offer a narrative that champions the underdog, it also provides a cautionary tale to the rich and the proud. Luke reminds us that the Lord’s favor is preserved for those who are devoted to justice and who respond to the call to work on the behalf of marginalized and vulnerable people. This message is rooted in the Hebrew Bible’s principles of love, mercy, and righteousness.

As we boldly proclaim who we are as a country, let us reflect on our past. The poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, an emblem of freedom and hospitality, reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.” This iconic American monument reminds us that this country welcomes the outcast and downtrodden.

As you begin the task of leading our country, take to heart the principles advocated by Jesus and later embraced by our nation. Make sure these ancient values guide your purpose and inform our continued struggle to see justice and liberty for all realized in our country and our world.

Sincerely,

Jennifer T. Kaalund

Jennifer T. Kaalund, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
Iona College

 

About the author

Jennifer T. Kaalund, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Iona College, received her Ph.D. from Drew University in New Testament and Early Christianity. Her research interests include Christian Scriptures, African American history and culture, the Bible in popular culture, and the study of early Christianity in its Roman imperial context, with a focus on womanist hermeneutics and postcolonial and cultural studies.