Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress,
Thank you for undertaking major initiatives aimed at transforming our nation’s socio-economic structures and redressing centuries of injustice against marginalized communities. Amid your push for a transformative agenda, there have been numerous calls for compromise and bipartisanship so as to heed voices that offer a different vision for the nation. Bipartisanship and compromise are good models of governance in democratic nations and are often necessary strategies; but when they become absolute ideals, they run the risk of empowering the very voices that seek to maintain an oppressive status quo.
Writing in the context of extreme economic inequality, the author of the epistle of James (2:1-7) notes that God chose those who are poor in the eyes of the world and is partial to those who have been discriminated against. This text suggests that justice is about reversing existing structures and practices that favor the wealthy and ensuring that every individual and community can live with dignity and have sufficient resources to flourish.
“…do not sacrifice a transformative agenda on the altar of bipartisanship.”
I urge you to forge ahead with your commitment to justice, with support from across the aisle, but even without it when necessary. Please be attentive to calls for bipartisanship, but do not sacrifice a transformative agenda on the altar of bipartisanship.
As you continue the work of restoring the moral fabric of our nation, please set a high bar for what qualifies as just and moral, and do not let the past four years serve as the measure of what is acceptable. I urge you not to let the morality of your policies and practices be defined by past policies, but by the values of compassion, empathy, and respect for everyone. Pursue your highest ideals, even if you fail at times. Transformative change requires that the measure of what is good is that which is ideal and envisions a different future, not just what is good enough.
Dr. Raj Nadella
Samuel A. Cartledge Associate Professor of New Testament
Columbia Theological Seminary