Letter 0

From The Advisory Committee

American Values Religious Voices: 100 Days. 100 Letters.

January 13, 2017

Welcome to…

American Values Religious Voices: 100 Days. 100 Letters.

Until the launch of the campaign on January 20, 2017, this letter (Letter 0) marks the spot where, one by one, the letters will appear. Starting on Inauguration Day and continuing for the first 100 days of the new administration, we will send one letter a day to our explicit audience: President Trump, Vice President Pence, Cabinet Officials, and Members of the House and Senate. At the same time, this campaign aims to reach a much wider implicit audience: all those who subscribe to American Values Religious Voices or come to our website to read the letters.

What will the letters contain? We asked our letter writers, scholars from different faith communities across the country, to consider the following questions:

  • What issues animate you at this particular moment in our nation’s history?
  • What passages from your religious tradition have you been thinking about in the wake of the election?
  • How does your religious heritage speak to the matters that concern you most?
  • What message–rooted in the texts you study and teach–would you most like to deliver to our national leaders and to a wider interfaith audience?

What issues will the letters address? The 100 letters address a wide range of topics: from leadership, censorship, immigration, and the environment, to love, justice, humility, and hope. Letters urge us to care for the stranger and the vulnerable; and they warn us not to stand idly by, assuming that someone else will step up. Some letters cite familiar scriptural texts like the Golden Rule, the story of the Good Samaritan, and the Sermon on the Mount. Others quote Kings or the Qur’an, the book of Exodus or the Bhagavadgita, Psalms or the Statue of Liberty, Matthew or Mahatma Gandhi, Ruth or Ronald Reagan.

What questions will the letters ask? Scholars writing letters to our elected officials ask compelling questions like:

  • “What do we tell our daughters?” — Kimberly Russaw, The Russaw Agency
  • “Who exactly is our neighbor?” — Ryan Bonfiglio, Columbia Theological Seminary
  • “Will you be able to discern the wise and prescient voices among the cacophony of advice you receive?”– Corrine Carvalho, University of St. Thomas
  • “What really is your vision for America?” — Mark S. Smith, Princeton Theological Seminary
  • “What would it mean to remember our past experiences and empathize with a new generation of migrants and refugees? – Judith Plaskow, Manhattan College

What do the letters aim to accomplish? At a time when many people long for guidance and inspiration, this project aims to contribute constructively to our national discourse, reaffirming who we are as Americans and modeling how we can learn from one another and work together for the common good.


The American Values Religious Voices Advisory Committee

Andrea L. Weiss

Campaign Coordinator
Associate Professor of Bible
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, New York

Deirdre Good

Interim Associate Dean & Visiting Professor of New Testament
Drew Theological School

Herbert R. Marbury

Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible
Vanderbilt University

Hussein Rashid

Founder, islamicate, L3C

Elsie R. Stern

Vice President for Academic Affairs & Associate Professor of Bible
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Mark S. Smith

Helena Professor of Old Testament Literature and Exegesis
Princeton Theological Seminary

The advisory committee

The Advisory Committee played an important role identifying and contacting potential contributors, serving as a sounding board, assisting with editorial decisions, and promoting the campaign.

From left to right: Andrea L. Weiss,  Mark S. Smith, Deirdre Good, Herbert R. Marbury, Elsie R. Stern and Hussein Rashid.