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Letter 19 | American Values Religious Voices

Letter 19

Carmen Nanko-Fernández

Professor of Hispanic Theology and Ministry
Director, Hispanic Theology and Ministry Program
Catholic Theological Union

February 7, 2017

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

On the National Mall in the Hirschhorn Sculpture Garden stands El Profeta, sculpted in the 1930s by Spanish artist Pablo Gargallo. This prophet resembles those unnerving figures throughout human history and across religious traditions who make us profoundly uncomfortable with their exhortations and calls for accountability.

With mouth wide open and hand upraised, in this prophet’s presence we feel the thunderous roar for justice, hear the cries that disturb our peace: the wail of parents who lose their kids to violence, the rage of laborers demanding their fair and due wage, the shouts of teachers for the resources they need for their underserved kids, and students begging for relief from onerous life-long debt.

The frailness of the prophet’s body belies the strength possessed in the vulnerable frame, a hint of the power of those too often underestimated or dismissed because of age, illness, disability, poverty. From the depths of these bodies emanates expectations of healthcare, access, and equal protections under the law for all, because in honoring these claims on society we are all cared for, we are all protected.

The most distinctive features of El Profeta are its disproportionately large feet, reminding us that prophets speak truth rooted in commitments to real communities. Prophets are planted firmly as guardians of the land, seekers of the heavens, protectors of water. They work the earth—farmers, miners, migrant laborers, environmental activists. They are embedded in place: the young DREAMERS, the grandparents of Selma, those who insist that Black Lives Matter, that immigrants are not illegal, and that alt-white is not all right. They honor the country they love and seek the peace, some through their military or public service, and others through the risky business of conscientious objection and social protest. These prophets are at home in cyberspace, on social media, in our streets, our schools, our houses of worship, our barrios. They are rooted and invested in the well-being of this nation.

Gargallo’s Profeta summons us to heed our obligations to each other, to navigate the tensions of building a just society, and to resist everything that demeans the dignity of life and creation.

Sincerely,

Carmen Nanko-Fernández

Carmen Nanko-Fernández
Professor of Hispanic Theology and Ministry
Director, Hispanic Theology and Ministry Program
Catholic Theological Union at Chicago

 

About the author

Carmen Nanko-Fernández, Professor of Hispanic Theology and Ministry at Catholic Theological Union at Chicago, is a Latin@́ Catholic theologian and Director of the Hispanic Theology and Ministry Program (HTMP). Her publications include the book Theologizing en Espanglish: Context, Community and Ministry.