Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress,
“We have always prided ourselves on being not only America the strong and America the free, but America the beautiful,” said Lyndon B. Johnson, our 36th President, in a May 22, 1964 speech on “the Great Society.” “Today that beauty is in danger. The water we drink, the food we eat, the very air that we breathe, are threatened with pollution…. Green fields and dense forests are disappearing…. Today we must act to prevent an ugly America. For once the battle is lost, once our natural splendor is destroyed, it can never be recaptured.”
“…the destiny of humanity and the rest of creation are intimately linked: we flourish and perish together.”
Long before President Johnson delivered those words, scriptures such as Psalm 104 affirmed the beauty of God’s creation and the immense need to care for God’s handiwork. In addition to providing water, food, and specific habitats for different creatures—like cedars for birds and high mountains for goats (Psalm 104:17-18)—God created the cycles of day and night to set a rhythm of toil and rest for humans and animals alike (Psalm 104:19-23). We see in this Psalm a nonhierarchical and interconnected ecosystem in which a rich biodiversity of life forms is able and enabled to flourish.
The apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:18-27 that creation and humans are all groaning together as they await God’s salvation, thus suggesting that the destiny of humanity and the rest of creation are intimately linked: we flourish and perish together.
The title of Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical captures the ideas of both Psalm 104 and Romans 8. The Latin Laudato si’ means “Praise be to You [God]”; the English subtitle reads: “on care for our common home.”
More than 50 years after President Johnson sounded that alarm, we are racing against time to reverse the ecological damage. I am encouraged that you have appointed a climate envoy to meet this significant challenge. Given the interconnectedness of the ecosystem, I pray that our country under your administration will be consistent in its policy decisions and practices so that we honor God’s created nature with its rich biodiversity and care for our common home.
Tat–siong Benny Liew
Tat-siong Benny Liew, Ph.D.
Class of 1956 Professor in New Testament Studies
College of the Holy Cross