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Letter 3 | American Values Religious Voices

Letter 3

Eric D. Barreto

Weyerhaeuser Associate Professor of New Testament
Princeton Theological Seminary

January 22, 2017

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

At their best, our religious traditions can point us to wisdom in moments of great uncertainty, comfort in times of grief, inspiration to act and speak when we would wish to hide in fear. 

At its best, this country has stood for revolutionary ideals:

  • The freedom to speak, protest, and worship;
  • The transformative belief that all of God’s children are created equal;
  • The hope that, as Dr. King showed us, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

It is in this spirit of belief and hope that I write. 

At our best, Americans have been salt and light in the world. But, Mr. President, we know that we are not always at our best. Our collective histories are full of grave errors alongside shining examples of good news and grace. We fail. We fall short of our ideals. We harm others. We mistake prosperity for progress. We tend to misname privilege and call it a blessing. That is, we all are liable to sin, and our sinfulness is never just personal. Our sins reverberate in our neighborhoods, our nation, our world.

But Jesus and his church have taught me this good news: the reconciliation and repair of relationships we have broken do not rest merely on our good intentions or even our hard work. Instead, it is God’s grace that transforms the world. That grace infuses our frail efforts towards justice with the power of new, abundant life. Such transformations have happened before in this country: in the movements for women’s suffrage, for the undoing of Jim Crow, for marriage equality.

And so, I would exhort you to lean on that good news, not as a way to “let go and let God,” but as a deep wisdom we all must learn anew everyday. Rest on the gift of God’s grace and the courage of prophets and protesters to inspire policy making that will make a real difference. Let that good news inspire your words, your actions, even your tweets, to reflect what has been best about our country.  

Sincerely,

Eric D. Barreto

Reverend Doctor Eric D. Barreto
Weyerhaeuser Associate Professor of New Testament
Princeton Theological Seminary

About the author

Eric D. Barreto, Weyerhaeuser Associate Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary, is an ordained Baptist minister. The author of Ethnic Negotiations: The Function of Race and Ethnicity in Acts 16 (Mohr Siebeck, 2010) and the co-author of Exploring the Bible (Fortress Press, 2016), he is also a regular contributor to ONScripture.com, the Huffington Post, WorkingPreacher.org, and EntertheBible.org