Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress,
I write this letter as we approach the end of this administration’s first 100 days. My mind turns to a fundamental conviction shared by many religious traditions and people of goodwill, namely, the importance of truth. Some follow Jesus’ invitation that “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Others heed the Ten Commandments and the admonition against bearing false witness against one’s neighbor (Exodus 20:16). But all agree that truth is an essential foundation for social life.
There is much talk today about the “Big Lie”—the false belief that the 2020 election was illegitimate—and its effects on our national life. But that’s not the Big Lie. The Big Lie in American life is that those who don’t look like us, talk like us, think like us, pray like us, or love like us are not worthy. Not equal. Not human. It’s the lie that those who are not like us don’t belong and aren’t truly American—especially those with darker skin.
“…restore a respect for truth in our political discourse.”
This is the lie that unites the rise in virulent anti-Semitism; the disparate impact of the Covid pandemic upon communities of color; the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others; the manifold increase in anti-Asian violence; the tragic inhumanity at our southern border; the spate of restrictive voter legislation; and the insurrection at the nation’s capitol. These are not isolated realities. They are rooted in the Big Lie that those who are not white and Christian are not equally human.
That lie jeopardizes the survival of our democracy. We cannot enjoy social peace in a culture of lies, falsehoods, and evasions of truth.
Truth matters. This conviction was powerfully articulated by Pope John Paul II who declared: “Truth is the basis, foundation, and mother of justice” (“Address to the Roman Rota,” 1980). Without a respect for truth and dedication to the truth of the equal sacred dignity and worth of every human being, life together is endangered, compromised, even impossible.
As you lead our country, I implore you to restore a respect for truth in our political discourse. Only a renewed dedication to truth can lead us beyond our current impasses and heal the soul of a wounded and divided nation.
Bryan N. Massingale
Rev. Bryan N. Massingale, S.T.D.
James and Nancy Buckman Professor of Theological and Social Ethics