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Dear President Trump:

The Daily Lectionary readings are about paying attention.

In the Old Testament reading, God chastises a “foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but do not see, who have ears, but do not hear.” They do not fear God and fail to defend the rights of the needy — while becoming “great and rich” and growing “fat and sleek” themselves. A time of reckoning will come. (Jeremiah 5:21,27-29) By contrast, the psalmist pays close attention to God’s ways: “I remember the days of old, I think about all your deeds, I meditate on the works of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.” (Psalm 143:5-6)

Mr. President, what will happen if we as a nation don’t pay attention?

  • We are fast-losing our ability for civil discourse. Communities will become increasingly polarized, unable to communicate. In the public arena, we will no longer have the capacity to craft win-win policies that draw the best from both conservative and progressive values and voices. We will be unable to find solutions to the critical issues of our day.
  • The gap between the rich and the poor will have grown so unconscionably wide that we will experience unprecedented levels of civil unrest and crime. The application of hard power at home and abroad will result in living in a police state.
  • We will lose our last best chance to mitigate the most disastrous consequences of climate change. (Frankly, as one who owns so many properties in coastal regions, I would think this would be of great concern to you.)

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I find your proposed budget deeply troubling. It trusts too much in hard power, while squeezing out programs that offer compassion, build human security, care for creation, and feed the human spirit with hope.

The late U.S. labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez has said, “History will judge societies and governments — and their institutions — not by how big they are or how well they serve the rich and the powerful, but by how effectively they respond to the needs of the poor and the helpless.”

How will we be judged as a nation? Will we pay attention? Will we see clearly and listen attentively? As president, will you lead by serving the interests of the rich and powerful? Or those of the poor and vulnerable?

Sincerely,

J.Daryl Byler

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