Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/customer/www/valuesandvoices.com/public_html/wp-content/themes/salient/nectar/redux-framework/ReduxCore/inc/class.redux_filesystem.php on line 29
Letter 63 | American Values Religious Voices

Letter 63

Phyllis Trible

Baldwin Professor Emerita of Sacred Literature
Union Theological Seminary

March 23, 2017

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

Shock. Disgust. Depression. Devastation.

A vocabulary of deplorable nouns multiplied for my friends and me as news of the Electoral College vote arrived in November. How can we survive in a political climate that threatens to destroy integrity, truthfulness, and good will? How can we endure politicians who denigrate the “other”—women, migrants, refugees, people of color and sexual diversity, the poor, the downtrodden?

Searching scripture, I surprised myself by focusing on the book of Ruth. This biblical tale involves famine, migration (even refugee status), intermarriage, death, and recovery. It features two strong women, Naomi and Ruth, facing patriarchal power. Both Moab and Judah, enemy countries in other stories, graciously receive the arrival of the “other.” No restrictions are imposed; opportunities to work and rebuild life are made available. Foreigners, widows old and young, are respected; and they make their own decisions. In the process, certain men assist but do not overpower these biblical women. Ruth does not forfeit her Moabite identity, even when she remarries a prominent rich Judahite man named Boaz. Moreover, she challenges him to do his duty by her. In turn, he recognizes her as “a woman of worth” (Ruth 3:11).

To you, members of the new administration and Congress, I say: Heed the story of Ruth. Xenophobia, racism, sexism, misogyny, and barriers to immigration deserve no place in our national narrative.

If biblical messages of healing and compassion fail to persuade, a parable of Jesus may help (Matthew 13:1-9; Luke 8:4-8). A sower went out to sow. Some seed fell on the path, only to be trodden by birds. Some seed fell on the rocks and withered without moisture; some fell among thorns and choked. Only the seed that fell on good soil yielded grain. In appropriating this parable, I think of the American values of “liberty and justice for all.” They are “seeds” for life—regardless of race, sex, gender, class, and origin. And I ponder: As these “seeds” fall upon you, will you provide the good soil in which they can flourish? Or will you be like the path, the rocks, or the thorns? Religious voices call all of you to accountability. Fail us not.

Repentance. Righteousness. Justice. Mercy.

Sincerely,

Phyllis Trible

Phyllis Trible
Baldwin Professor Emerita of Sacred Literature
Union Theological Seminary

About the author

Phyllis Trible, Baldwin Professor Emerita of Sacred Literature at Union Theological Seminary, is an internationally known biblical scholar and rhetorical critic. A past president of the Society of Biblical Literature, she is the author of numerous articles and book in the text-based exploration of women and gender in Scripture, including God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality (1978) and Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives (1984).