Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress,
You are all too aware that we stand at a critically important moment in the life of our country. You have accepted your calling to help move us forward, to embolden our nation to achieve the greater good for our citizens and all who live within our borders. We also know that it is time to face our future with the world. We can do so, burnished with hope in the goodness of creation and humanity fashioned by our Divine Creator (Genesis 1:31) and with courage to do all our work with a standard of justice faithful to that “Judge of all the earth” (Genesis 18:25).
“As a nation, our challenge, too, is to find our way to both real justice and real mercy.”
It was this title for God that Abraham used in their conversation over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. After a vigorous exchange, God and Abraham arrive at a tipping point of ten “righteous” persons, which they agree upon as the minimum number for deciding between divine mercy for the innocent and divine justice for the wicked (Genesis 18:32). However, God goes beyond this either/or choice, exercising mercy for the less than ten innocents and delivering justice for the others. As a nation, our challenge, too, is to find our way to both real justice and real mercy.
President Biden, I reserve a word for you as a fellow Roman Catholic. You are trying your best to serve God and the world. We know we were made by our Creator to serve and to love. We are aware of the Church’s mostly non-infallible teachings, from which we sometimes must and may in good conscience dissent privately in accordance with Church teaching. We know that it is before God that we ultimately stand. We also know that God knows our hearts and our pains, our struggles and our losses. Yet we also know that we are galvanized by God’s exceeding love for us. May you and all who serve in government be galvanized by God’s love and by the powerful good of our deepest aspirations for America.
Mark S. Smith
Mark S. Smith, Ph.D.
Helena Professor of Old Testament Literature and Exegesis, Princeton Theological Seminary Skirball Professor Emeritus of Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, New York University