Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress,
James Baldwin writes in The Fire Next Time: “Time catches up with kingdoms and crushes them, gets its teeth into doctrines and rends them … destroys doctrines by proving them to be untrue.” Today I am looking for leaders who can unite a fractured nation and reject the realm of lies and false doctrines poisoning the body politic. It’s easy to believe that we are running out of time as false narratives about who can have authority and who has the freedom to challenge or resist authority chip away at the heart of our democracy.
In the New Testament, the book of Ephesians speaks to the themes of unity and truth-telling. Ephesians 4:1-16 tells leaders to continue Christ’s work of unifying the cosmos by tending to the divisions in their midst. Proclaiming that strangers and aliens are welcome in the household of God, Ephesians insists that leaders must speak the truth in love because we are in the same boat together (4:15, 25). Ephesians tells us that leaders are supplied by Christ to act as ligaments that bind the body politic together during stormy times (4:7-16).
“…reconciliation must go hand in hand with truth telling and unity-preserving structures.”
Today, if we are to make our way back from hate crimes, an insurrection, and the politics of grievance, then reconciliation must go hand in hand with truth telling and unity-preserving structures. This means telling the truth that our multiracial democracy is a recent, beautiful, and fragile thing, held together by organizers from Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and White communities. This means telling the truth that devotion to the filibuster for the sake of comity in the Senate is the height of privilege when democracy itself is at stake. This means Congress must pass and the president must sign legislation to protect access to the ballot for all Americans. We must not dishonor the sacrifices of those who fought to secure, mobilize, and exercise the right to vote in the face of overwhelming forces.
If, try as you may, you can’t heal the deep divisions in our society, I pray that you will hold on to what is fragile and strengthen the structures that bind us together in keeping with the leadership vision of Ephesians.
Love L. Sechrest
Love L. Sechrest, Ph.D.
Vice President for Academic Affairs
Associate Professor of New Testament
Columbia Theological Seminary