Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress,
It has been an interminable four years for many who believe not only in democracy, but in the humanity and full citizenship of women, people of color, and those in the LGBTQ community. How do we move forward, when it feels as if those beliefs were under constant attack? Can we heal as a nation, when work still progresses to deny votes to groups whose citizenship—whose very humanity—has been contested too many times in this “land of the free”? Certainly, our government and national leaders must play a critical role in reasserting democratic norms, decency, and compassion. However, we also need communal processes for our citizenry that can lead us toward a hopeful future.
When I sat down to think of what parts of the biblical tradition might have something to offer us at this moment, the word that came into my mind was “covenant.” In the Hebrew Bible, the Israelites enter into binding covenants with the creator God who has special concern for the marginalized. In perhaps the most dramatic example, the people stand at Mount Sinai after their deliverance from Egyptian slavery and commit to a relationship with God and with each other (Exodus 19-20). God tells this covenant community that they must make justice for the poor, widows, orphans, and the stranger, remembering that “you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there” (Deuteronomy 24:17-18).
“In this country, the times demand our own covenant renewal.”
In this country, the times demand our own covenant renewal. As communities, we must find ways to reaffirm what Cornell West calls our American civil religion: “that complex web of religious ideals of deliverance and salvation and political ideals of freedom, democracy and equality.” Collectively, we need to remember that all people are created equal and that every citizen must have the same rights to freedom, security, and political participation.
I pray that our citizens and you, our elected officials, will come together in the next four years for “Sinai moments” in which we reaffirm democracy and our communal bonds. During those moments, I hope we can register the humanity in each face within our diverse communities. Remembering the gifts many of us have received, may we go forward, prepared to work for justice.
Dr. Anna Miller
Associate Professor of Theology