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Letter 28 | American Values Religious Voices

Letter 28

Mark S. Smith

Helena Professor of Old Testament Literature and Exegesis
Princeton Theological Seminary

February 16, 2017

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

For centuries, America has enjoyed a powerful vision of a great people and society bound together. Yet today our country faces a lack of confidence in our American vision, largely because we have forgotten that, as we recite in the Pledge of Allegiance, we are joined as “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Many of us take pride in how our American vision goes back to the covenant of the Bible. We find the essence of the Bible’s own vision of being “one nation under God” beautifully expressed by the prophet Malachi when he asks Israel about its actions in trying times (2:10):

Do we all not have one parent?
Did not one God create us?
Why then does each of us deal treacherously with one another,
Desecrating the covenant of our ancestors?

The prophet reminds us that we all share the same divine parent: the one God of Israel and the world who bestows upon us our God-given dignity. We are all linked together by our shared humanity, which comes from being created by this one parent-god.

What’s more, the prophet tells us that we are all bound together in God’s covenant, a sacred relationship that involves mutual responsibilities and expectations. We are asked to make this covenant-relationship real through kind and generous dealings with one another day in and day out. If we care about America, we need to care about each other; we need to respect and help one another. If we care about America, we need to care about justice for all.

The Bible warns us: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). Mr. President, what really is your vision for America? How will you fulfill your pledge to serve our “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”?

Sincerely, and with hope,

Mark S. Smith

Mark S. Smith
Helena Professor of Old Testament Literature and Exegesis
Princeton Theological Seminary

 

About the author

Mark S. Smith, Helena Professor of Old Testament Literature and Exegesis at Princeton Theological Seminary, is the author of over one hundred articles and sixteen books, including Where the Gods Are: Spatial Dimensions of Anthropomorphism in the Biblical World (Yale University Press, 2016). His work focuses on divinity in the Hebrew Bible and related ancient literature.