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Letter 56 | American Values Religious Voices

Letter 56

DAY 56

Julie Faith Parker

Associate Professor of Biblical Studies
The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church
March 16, 2021

Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress,

Thank you.

Along with countless people not only in this nation, but around the globe, I am grateful for your courage, dedication, sacrifice, intellect, experience, creativity, and innovation. The American people look to you to lead and guide us in fostering acts of kindness and legislating offerings of hope for a deeply weary world.

Stories invite us to experience empathy; perhaps this is why Scripture is full of them. So I would like to share with you a little-known story from the Hebrew Bible. In 2 Kings 5:1-14, we meet an anonymous young Israelite girl who has been taken captive by raiders and brought north to Aram. In this foreign land, she becomes a servant for the wife of a military commander named Naaman, who suffers from leprosy. The Israelite slave girl expresses a wish that Naaman might be healed by the Israelite prophet Elisha: “O that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria, then he would cure him of his leprosy!” Naaman speaks to his king and then journeys to Samaria to see Elisha, who conveys that Naaman must immerse himself in the Jordan River seven times. At first Naaman resists; but once he follows through on the prophetic instructions, he is cured.

“…please remember the most vulnerable among us whom we so easily forget.”

In this way, the episode ends happily as hopes for healing—which we understand only too well—are fulfilled. But the characters in the story, along with innumerable Bible readers and commentators, often forget about the brave, resilient, caring Israelite slave girl who speaks up and suggests a way to cure Naaman’s illness.

I implore you to please remember the most vulnerable among us whom we so easily forget. They too have a lot to offer. Listen to their stories and value their advice. Share their testimonies in ways that will lead us to act with compassion for others.

For reasons well-known, the task before you is daunting. Yet, along with my siblings in this nation, I will join with you and do my part. Together may we create a nation that becomes kinder and more just.

Yours in hope,

Julie Faith Parker

Rev. Julie Faith Parker, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biblical Studies
The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church

the author

Julie Faith Parker, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church, is an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. She holds a Ph.D. from Yale University, an S.T.M. from Yale Divinity School, and an M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary. She has authored or edited seven books including Valuable and Vulnerable (Brown University, 2013) and The T&T Clark Handbook of Children in the Bible and the Biblical World (co-edited with Sharon Betsworth, 2019). At two seminaries, she founded programs building relationships between people inside and outside of prisons and has taught inside Sing Sing.