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Dear President Trump:

In your speech before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday evening you called for a gigantic building program – “new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways” and “a great wall along our southern border.”  You also called for rebuilding the nation’s health care and educational systems.

But it is difficult to build when a nation is divided.

Given these deep divisions, what if, instead of immediately building a wall or dismantling the Affordable Care Act, what if the nation embraced the spirit of Lent for the next 40 days?  Lent is a time of repentance, fasting, self-examination, reflection and preparation for the new thing that God is about to do. Jews and Muslims have similar seasons in their faith traditions.

The Daily Lectionary readings today emphasize waiting and preparation.  The psalmist waits for the Lord to teach him the Lord’s ways and to lead him on a level path (Psalm 27:11,14). Moses reminds God’s people that God was faithful to deliver them from slavery in due time (Deut. 7:7-8). Similarly, Paul tells Titus that God’s word is revealed in due time (Titus 1:3). In the Gospel reading, John the Baptist waits for “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

You have much experience with building, Mr. President. You know well the importance of a good foundation.  The foundation that this nation needs requires healing of profound rifts, and justice that addresses historical harms.  You said as much with this eloquent line in your address to Congress: “True love for our people requires us to find common ground, to advance the common good, and to cooperate on behalf of every American child who deserves a brighter future.”

I sense that you are eager to build. So, begin by building bridges between Republicans and Democrats. Begin by building trust where it has been destroyed.

Sadly, I fear that there will be no “new chapter of American Greatness”, there will be no “new national pride”, there will be no “new surge of optimism”, and there will be no “Renewal of the American Spirit” unless it rises from a foundation of healing and justice.

Sincerely,

J. Daryl Byler

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