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Letter 68 | American Values Religious Voices

Letter 68

Gregory E. Sterling

The Reverend Henry L. Slack Dean
and Lillian Claus Professor of New Testament
Yale Divinity School

March 28, 2017

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

One of the most important stories in the New Testament is the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). The parable is carefully structured with two different sets of parallel statements that contrast how individuals treat the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned. The story pivots on the surprising identification of these groups with Christ: “just as you did it to one of the least of these…you did it to me” (25:40).

This powerful parable in Matthew inspired the famous story of Martin of Tours who met a naked person at a gate and gave half of his robe to the man, only to have a dream the next night in which Christ appeared to him in the same half garment. These stories challenge Christians today to treat strangers—be they immigrants, the homeless, the other—as if every individual was Christ.

Several years ago I visited a university in Puebla, Mexico. My host took me to a mountain village of 300 people. When I had lunch with the six women who ran the village, I asked, “Where are the men?” “Near Chicago,” they replied. I inquired if they resented having to do everything themselves. They let me know in no uncertain terms that they did. I asked what options young men had. They explained that young men in their village could work in the fields for $10 per day (provided there was work), attend a university (although they could only remember one who had been able to do so), or go north. As I sat and listened, I knew that I would not have worked in the fields.

I hope we as Americans will remain a country that welcomes strangers and views people from their vantage point, not just our own. While I speak with a Christian voice, this is a moral voice shared by people of many faiths and those without faith. People around the world are watching us. Too many rightly are critical of the lack of moral leadership in the way that we treat other human beings. Restore our image as a people of high morality who value all those who dwell on this earth.

Sincerely,

Gregory E. Sterling

Gregory E. Sterling
The Reverend Henry L. Slack Dean
and Lillian Claus Professor of New Testament
Yale Divinity School

 

About the author

Gregory E. Sterling, The Reverend Henry L. Slack Dean of Yale Divinity School, also holds the position of The Lillian Claus Professor of New Testament. He is an expert in ancient Judaism and Early Christianity. A New Testament scholar with a specialty in Hellenistic Judaism and Philo of Alexandria, he spent 23 years at the University of Notre Dame before moving to Yale.