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Letter 42 | American Values Religious Voices

Letter 42

Deirdre Good

Theologian in Residence
Trinity Wall Street

March 2, 2017

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

Today we look to new leaders to exemplify our democratic values and model how to act in the world. Sacred texts from several ancient cultures esteem the virtues of humility and gentleness as essential and effective modes of leadership.

In a Chinese text written over two thousand years ago, the sage of the Tao Te Ching (500-200 BCE) offers some keen advice about leadership: “I have three treasures…The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; and the third is not presuming to act like a leader of the world. Gentle, so able to be bold; Frugal, so able to be lavish; Not presuming to act like a leader of the world, so able to become head of government.”

This text contrasts loud and outgoing qualities—being bold, lavish and self-assertive—with quiet ones—being gentle, frugal, self-effacing. Outgoing qualities by themselves are mere bluster; but when grounded in quiet qualities, they can be deployed far more effectively to benefit the greater good.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul highlights some of these same values when he praises “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Gospel of Matthew shows how Jesus embodied these quiet virtues. Matthew uses Zechariah 9:9 to describe the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem as a meek king, “humble and riding on a donkey” (Matthew 21:5). Likewise, Jesus exercises power through gentleness and humility: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest…for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-30). Who better than Jesus proves the benefits of ruling with benevolence and compassion, instead of acting like a tyrannical despot?

As you occupy our nation’s highest office, which leadership qualities will you demonstrate?

Sincerely,

Deirdre Good

Deirdre Good
Theologian in Residence
Trinity Wall Street

 

About the author

Deirdre Good, Theologian in Residence at Trinity Wall Street, formerly served as Academic Dean at General Theological Seminary and Interim Associate Academic Dean at Drew Theological School. She was Professor of New Testament at General from 1986-2015, and prior to that served as the chair of the religion department at Agnes Scott College, as well as on the religious studies faculty at Valparaiso University. She is a graduate of The University of St Andrews, Cambridge University, Union Theological Seminary, and Harvard University Divinity School, where she completed her doctoral studies. She is the author of many scholarly articles and the author and co-author of numerous books, including Jesus’ Family Values, Jesus the Meek King and Mariam, the Magdalen, and the Mother.