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Letter 53 | American Values Religious Voices

Letter 53

Greg Carey

Professor of New Testament
Lancaster Theological Seminary

March 13, 2017

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

Having won an election in an extremely contentious campaign, you now serve as leaders and representatives for all Americans. I can only imagine the sense of honor and accountability that comes with that reality. This leads me to think about how my own religious tradition, Christianity, might speak to what it means to govern in such a divided culture.

In the Sermon on the Mount, speaking from a deep reservoir of Jewish wisdom, Jesus voices God’s blessing to all sorts of people: “Blessed are the poor…Blessed are the meek…Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:3-6). This attention to those who are crushed by despair, grief, and the absence of justice suggests that a key measure of a leader is what he or she does for the poor and the powerless.

Jesus goes on to offer his interpretation of the law of Moses, starting with the prohibition of murder in the Ten Commandments. Jesus declares: “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21-22).

Jesus teaches that we stand under God’s judgment not just if we kill a human life, but if we insult or belittle another human being. When we demean our brother or sister, we offend the God who created them. Since every person carries the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), to harm a human being physically or emotionally is to mar the divine presence.

Too often our political culture is defined by insults and half-truths. By demonstrating respect for our opponents and detractors, we model a new way of living together in this society, one that favors compassion over violence and honor over humiliation. My prayer is that our elected leaders will foster a robust public conversation in a way that honors all people created in God’s image.

Sincerely,

Greg Carey

Greg Carey, Ph.D.
Professor of New Testament
Lancaster Theological Seminary

 

About the author

Greg Carey, Professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary, is Resident Scholar at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity in Lancaster, PA. He is the author of Apocalyptic Literature in the New Testament, Luke: All Flesh Shall See God’s Salvation and Sinners: Jesus and His Earliest Followers, among other works. A lay member in the United Church of Christ, he represents the UCC in both national and international ecumenical settings, and he blogs regularly for the Huffington Post.