Join Christian Theologians Opposing Nomination of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General
The justice that is central to the work of Attorney General is a value that is shared by people of many faiths. As Christians, we are guided in our understanding of justice by the biblical witness to Jesus Christ. As made clear in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), we are to “seek first the Kingdom,” as the righteous reign of God “on earth, as it is in heaven.” This reign is marked by love, justice and life. In his teachings, Jesus deepens the love of neighbor to the love of enemy. He calls us to move from retaliatory justice to an ethic of restorative justice. He invites those who follow him to an abundant life that crosses borders. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says, "… I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. ... Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25). The Sermon on the Mount directs our care to the flourishing of all people, especially the vulnerable, and is consistent with the values of justice and human flourishing that are vital to our American democracy. While Jesus stood in embodied solidarity with the vulnerable, it is through the law that our country offers protections for its most vulnerable members. Vulnerable populations in our country — victims of police brutality, undocumented workers, LGBTQ persons, women, people of color, and people of non-Christian faiths — are placed at increased risk of further harm when our laws are not upheld. Yet, throughout his career, Senator Sessions has taken positions that compromise the rights of these vulnerable populations. His racist comments reflect prejudice against people of color. His opposition to immigration reform, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights and equal access for persons with disabilities make it unlikely that he shares the Christian vision of justice and protection of the vulnerable that we embrace. Senator Sessions’ racist remarks and unjust policies make it morally unacceptable for him to be America’s top law-enforcement officer. We urge you to reject his nomination. Prayerfully and Respectfully Submitted, Peter Goodwin Heltzel, New York Theological Seminary Jeannine Hill Fletcher, Fordham University Gary Agee, Anderson University (Indiana) Cornel West, Harvard University James A. Forbes, Drum Major Institute Lisa Sharon Harper, Sojourners Jim Wallis, Sojourners James Cone, Union Theological Seminary Katharine Henderson, Auburn Seminary Jacqui Lewis, Middle Collegiate Church Gene Robinson, The Episcopal Church Brian McLaren, Emerging Church Movement Noel Castellanos, Christian Community Development Association Yvette Flunder, City of Refuge United Church of Christ Simone Campbell, NETWORK Lobby Macky Alston, Auburn Seminary Efrain Agosto, New York Theological Seminary Fred Davie, Union Theological Seminary Rosemary P. Carbine, Whittier College J. Kameron Carter, Duke Divinity School Shane Claiborne, The Simple Way Don Compier, Kemper School for the Ministry Kaitlyn Dugan, Princeton Theological Seminary Mary Fulkerson, Duke Divinity School Daniel Hawk, Ashland Theological Seminary Kay Higueroa Smith, Azusa Pacific University George Hunsinger, Princeton Theological Seminary Catherine Keller, Drew Theological School Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Earlham School of Religion Namsoon Kang, Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University Kristen E. Kvam, St. Paul School of Theology Mari Kim, Everett Community College Paul F. Lakeland, Fairfield University Steffen Lösel, Candler School of Theology, Emory University Linda Mercadante, Methodist Theological Seminary in Ohio Stephanie Mitchem, University of South Carolina Silas Morgan, Hamline University K. Christine Pae, Dennis University Marcia Pally, New York University Stephen Ray, Garrett Theological Seminary Kathleen Sands, University of Hawaii Linda Thomas, Lutheran School of Theology (Chicago) Sonia Waters, Princeton Theological Seminary Sharon Welch, Meadville Lombard Theological School Christian T. Collins Winn, Bethel University Wes Granberg-Michaelson, Reformed Church in America Ronald J Sider, Palmer Seminary at Eastern University Elena G. Procario-Foley, Iona College Reggie Williams, McCormick Theological Seminary Charles Campbell, Duke Divinity School Laurel Schneider, Vanderbilt Divinity School Joerg Rieger, Vanderbilt Divinity School Serene Jones, Union Theological Seminary Teri Merrick, Azusa Pacific University Loye Ashton, Tougaloo College Teresa Delgado, Iona College Lester Ruth, Duke Divinity (Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.)
Dear Mr. Trump: Will You Advance a Moral Agenda?
Pursuing a more perfect union is serious work for any human being. We want to pray for you because we know this is an especially difficult task today. In the prophetic tradition, we want to exhort and challenge you because you cannot do this work alone. Our sacred text honored by Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike declares we must do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God. America’s Constitution begins “We the people…” because it points toward a form of government that requires a broad and engaged coalition of citizens in order to thrive. We want to pray and point towards these essential goals. Mr. Trump, we hope it is your desire to be successful. Success is measured by how we welcome the stranger, care for the sick, care for the poor, and care for the hungry in practice and in policy. In order to be successful in the eyesight of God, leaders must repent when they are wrong, and they must be committed to promote that which is rooted in justice and good will. As clergy dedicated to the care of souls, we know you can neither succeed in a way that pleases God nor fulfill the duties of your office unless you repent. All of us, even persons who hold powerful positions, are called to repent when we violate the deep principles of love, justice, and mercy towards all, especially the least of these. Since your election, our communities have been fractured by harassment and intimidation. People of color and religious minorities are afraid. Poor working people who you appealed to in your campaign are disappointed that you have attacked their union leaders while appointing Wall Street elites who use them to your Cabinet. We are deeply concerned by the policy vision that your Cabinet selections suggest. After inviting Steve Bannon’s white nationalism into the Oval Office, you nominated Jeff Sessions to head the Justice Department—a man who did not receive Senate approval for a federal judgeship in 1986 because of his long history of racial discrimination in Alabama. If he maintains his past positions on civil rights and voting rights, he could overturn and undermine years of victories and protections secured and signed in the blood of the martyrs. Equally insulting to African-Americans is your nomination of Ben Carson, a black man with no experience in government or housing, to head HUD. But race can never be separated from class in America. We are equally concerned about Andy Puzder’s resistance to the movement for a living wage, which impacts over 60 million Americans and 54% of all African-Americans. We are concerned about Tom Price’s expressed commitment to repeal the ACA and take away healthcare from people with preexisting conditions, veterans, and nearly 30 million Americans. We are troubled that you have chosen several people to lead federal agencies that they have publicly attacked in the past. Both this nation and the rest of the world desperately need your heart to grow into a source of courage, so you might work with all people of goodwill to uphold the most sacred moral principles of our faith and constitutional values, which are: 1. Protecting and expanding voting rights and ending voter suppression and unconstitutional gerrymandering. We must also pursue women’s rights, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, labor rights, religious freedom rights, all with a commitment to the fundamental principle of equal protection under the law. 2. Pro-labor, anti-poverty, anti-racist policies that build up economic democracy through employment, living wages, the alleviation of disparate unemployment, a just transition away from fossil fuels, labor rights, affordable housing, direct cash transfers and other support for all families struggling to get by, and fair policies for immigrants; and by critiquing policies around warmongering that undermine our moral standing and ability to address domestic issues; 3. Equality in education by ensuring every child receives a high quality, well-funded, constitutionally diverse public education, as well as access to community colleges and universities and by securing equitable funding for minority colleges and universities; 4. Healthcare for all by expanding Medicaid in every state, ensuring access to Medicare and Social Security, moving decisively towards a universal, transparent, and equitable healthcare system, and by providing environmental protection and protecting women’s health; 5. Fairness in the criminal justice system by addressing the continuing inequalities in the system for black, brown and poor white people and fighting the proliferation of guns; We do not believe that these are left or right issues. They are right or wrong issues. And while we know no human being is perfect, we wish to speak with you about these moral issues because far too much is at stake for you to succumb to your worst demons while in public office. Our faith calls us to love all people but this love can never refuse to tell the truth and stand against hate, systemic racism, and economic inequality. We cannot simply congratulate you on your victory and say, “Peace, peace” when there is no peace. We are bound by our vows to tell the truth in love and stand together for justice, love and truth. As this tumultuous year draws to a close, we will hold a National Watch Night service on December 31st at the historic Metropolitan AME Church in Washington, DC. We will gather to remember the enslaved people who came together to celebrate the possibility of a more perfect union of the eve of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Like them, we will also enlist free women and men to fight for freedom and justice for all people in 2017 and beyond.
We Pledge To Resist Deportation And Discrimination Through Sanctuary
Calling upon the ancient traditions of our faiths, which recognized houses of worship as a refuge for the runaway slave, the conscientious objector, and the Central American refugee fleeing the civil wars of the 1980s, Sanctuary is once again growing among communities of faith that are standing in solidarity with immigrants and marginalized communities facing immoral and unjust deportation and discrimination policies. We find ourselves entering a new phase of U.S. history wherein the politics of fear has stoked an atmosphere of racism and xenophobia across the country. The new Administration has pledged to criminalize, detain and deport undocumented people at new levels that will tear families and communities apart. As people of faith and people of conscience, we will take civil initiative out of our moral obligation to embody principles of human rights and dignity, and resist any harmful and unjust policy proposals that further undermine due process and lead to racial profiling and discrimination. By signing this pledge, we are dedicating ourselves to educate and activate our congregations, to amplify and respond to the voices of immigrant leaders, and to speak out against the discrimination of any and all marginalized people. We are ready to open the doors of our sacred spaces and accompany those facing deportation and discrimination. We support those answering the call to provide sanctuary at schools, hospitals, college campuses, community centers and family homes. We will work with partner organizations to create sacred space of sanctuary wherever it is needed.