Letter 87

Gay L. Byron

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Professor of New Testament
Howard University School of Divinity

April 16, 2017

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

On January 20, 2017 while you were assuming your new leadership positions, I was commemorating what would have been my biological father’s 100th birthday. I remembered the life of the man who first taught me to read the Bible, who first demonstrated the importance of civic engagement and advocacy, and who modeled what it means to keep the faith despite the circumstances.

I write this letter in memory not only of my father, but also the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 11:1-40; 12:1-3) who endured slavery and various manifestations of Jim Crow, who built the White House you now claim as home, who educated their children by making a way out of no way, who lived in sub-standard housing and labored in inequitable employment situations, who—despite all of this—dreamed dreams, overturned unjust laws, and lived to tell their stories.

I likewise write this letter because I am troubled by the example we are setting for our children. This experiment called “democracy” is looking like a farce. If “we the people” sit back and allow this unprecedented display of governance to unfold as if “business as usual,” then we just may witness the premature death of our nation and its great potential as “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

The resurrection stories and the miracle of the empty tomb bear witness to the fact that death is not the final word, that light triumphs over darkness, and that life extends beyond the grave. The Gospels record different versions of the story: some were weeping and afraid when Jesus was crucified and buried (Matthew 28:4; Mark 16:8), while others did not lose heart (Matthew 28:5-8; Mark 16:9-10). They garnered courage and resolve to move forward, take action, and proclaim “the good news to the whole creation” (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:15).

On this Easter, I hope you will find time to reflect on the mystery of the cross, the meaning of the resurrection, and the enduring power of God’s grace and mercy. May you be encouraged to take stock of your early actions and ponder the words of Psalm 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart…See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (vv. 23-24). Keep the faith.

Sincerely,

Gay L. Byron

Gay L. Byron
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Professor of New Testament
Howard University School of Divinity

 

About the author

Gay L. Byron, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, D.C., is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and active in teaching and preaching in a variety of religious and educational contexts. She is the author of Symbolic Blackness and Ethnic Difference in Early Christian Literature (Routledge Press) and co-editor of Womanist Interpretations of the Bible: Expanding the Discourse (SBL Press).