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Letter 31 | American Values Religious Voices

Letter 31

Yii-Jan Lin

Assistant Professor of New Testament
Yale Divinity School

Febuary 19, 2017

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

In his farewell speech to the nation in 1989, President Ronald Reagan spoke of his vision for America, describing the country as a “shining city…with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

Anyone in the audience schooled in the Bible would have known that President Reagan was invoking imagery from the New Testament, the book of Revelation in particular. Revelation 21 presents the New Jerusalem, the ultimate utopian city, full of power—“the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (v. 24)—and wealth—“the city is pure gold” (v. 18). There are walls and gates, but the gates are never shut, so that people of every kind can “bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations” (v. 26). This New Jerusalem was inspired in part by Rome, an empire that, despite its cruelty, disregarded boundaries and differences of religion in citizenship for the sake of its enduring glory.

Mr. President, I do not believe in walls and gates. I do not need a city of gold. I prefer Jesus’ boundary-less wandering and good news for the poor, sick, and forgotten. However, if you want America to represent power and wealth, look no further than Revelation and Ronald Reagan—the iconic Republican president of the last century—for a fantastic vision of glory and fame with open gates and doors. Both the writer of Revelation and Reagan knew that inviting others in and playing host to the nations of the earth meant greater wealth and power, not less.

Sincerely,

Yii-Jan Lin

Yii-Jan Lin
Assistant Professor of New Testament
Yale Divinity School

 

About the author

Yii-Jan Lin, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Yale Divinity School, teaches in the field of New Testament studies and specializes in critical race theory, gender and sexuality, and immigration. Her book, The Erotic Life of Manuscripts (Oxford, 2016), examines how metaphors of race, family, evolution, and genetic inheritance have shaped the goals and assumptions of New Testament textual criticism from the eighteenth century to the present. Her current research focuses on apocalypticism and the use of Revelation in the political discourse surrounding American immigration, both in utopian visions of America and dystopian fear of “outsiders.”