"He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water." Isaiah 49:10

Friday, April 25, 2008

Rev. Jeremiah Wright - Right On!

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

I was wondering how I would feel if a reporter from the news media went back and dug up some old sermons I may have preached several years ago, maybe a speech I gave a year ago and then taken them out of context to try to embarrass me or make me sound like a deranged person.

The reporters in the news media love to use short sentences or what they call “sound bites” out of an interview that maybe took 15 or 20 minutes to complete. The problem with reporters writing their news stories with only 5 or 10 second “sound bites” is that usually they end up taking parts if not all of the interview out of context.

I am sure you have had a conversation with someone who may have said they were interviewed by a reporter and when the story was printed or aired on television or radio, they claim that is not what they said.

But as for the reporter, it is possible the editor may have used only a shorter sound bite from the interview. The problem of editing down the response ends up making the interview mean something entirely different from what they didn’t say or mean.

Obviously in Wright's case, it was just simply a case of some reporters going back and looking for questionable comments from old sermons that very easily could have been taken out of context. They used these comments to create a contradictory impression about Rev. Wright, thus assailing his reputation and profession as a minister.

That is exactly what happened to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and Barack Obama. In an interview that airs tonight (April 25), on PBS, Rev. Wright said, “I felt it was unfair. I felt it was unjust. I felt it was untrue. I felt – for those who were doing that – were doing it for some very devious reasons.”

I agree with Rev. Wright. I believe the reasons for those who tried to destroy the reputation of a pastor of over twenty years of a large reputable church, were devious, unjust, and unfair.

It was not right for a reporter to go back years ago when Rev. Wright may have been preaching about racism in America and said in his sermon, “God d*** America.” No doubt those are harsh words and perhaps words you may not have used.

But coming from an African American pastor preaching about racism, that comment in context with his sermon, may well have been the only way to make his point so the congregation members in his church sat up and paid attention. (And those of us who need to hear these words as well).

I have not read the sermon, but it seems highly reasonable to me that the sin of racism in this land has frustrated and hardened those activists and clergy members who founded the Civil Rights Movement along with Dr. Martin Luther King, and who have fought for freedom from racism and bigotry for years.

The Associated Press reviewed excerpts of the interview that airs tonight on PBS’s Bill Moyers Journal. The AP reporter wrote that Wright told Moyers, “The blowing up of sermons preached 15, seven, six years ago and now becoming a media event, not the full sermon, but the snippets from the sermon ... having made me the target of hatred, yes, that is something very new."

To make Wright a lighting rod in a presidential primary election is immoral and wrong. To take words out of his sermons and then claim the Rev. Wright is un-American, a racist, and as he says, a target of hatred is basically not right.

Wright does not hesitate to claim that he is an activist and accustomed to being “at odds with the establishment.” But I believe he was caught off guard by the responses to his old sermons by the purveyors of doubt and fear.

I believe the people or reporters who took Rev. Wright’s sermons out of context were not only trying to intimidate Wright on what he should preach from the pulpit, but you as well.

It is clear the message to pastors and preachers are to watch what you say, because there are some who will not hesitate to destroy or create a climate of doubt and incredibility about you and your messages from the Gospel.

We should not allow the news media to dictate what is preached from the pulpit as long as it is inspired by God and not taken of out of context from the Bible.

It is unfortunate that Rev. Wright was made a poster child for being honest, for preaching the truth, and for standing up for justice and righteousness in a land of racism and bigotry.

John the Baptist was no doubt mocked as well by the “news reporters” of the day back when John was out eating locusts and honey. But John was not intimidated, when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing.

In Matthew, the Bible says he looked at them and said, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with the repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, we have Abraham as our Father.”

Can you imagine taking that sermon out context? Headline would have read:

Angry Preacher calls top Religious Leaders: Vipers & Hypocrites!! More tonight at 11 p.m. news - HD.

Please click to see excerpt from the PBS Bill Moyers'Journal

Fidel “Butch” Montoya
H. S. Power & Light Ministries – Latino Faith Based Initiative
Denver, Colorado 80212

Friday, April 18, 2008

Be Sure To Eat All Your Vegetables

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

One of the most disheartening stories that I have read was in The New York Times April 18th. It was a story about hunger – “Across Globe, Empty Bellies Bring Rising Anger” was the headline on the story. You need to read it if you can.

Hunger is so bad that actual food riots are breaking out in the streets Port-au-Prince, Haiti and in other countries. The price of the country’s main food staples have risen almost 45% according to the report. With such high food costs, there simply is not enough food in Haiti to feed the people, so that the only recourse left for some people is to battle against the police and even army soldiers demanding that their government feed the hungry masses.

For the life of me, I cannot comprehend the pain and hunger they must feel that is so bad that even the prime minister of the government had to flee the country. And it is not just in Haiti, it is a world wide crisis as never seen in the history of humankind.

In Haiti, the high food prices are creating the scarcity of beans, corn, and rice. These products are so readily available in our country it is hard to conceive people fighting over them. Here at home, even as food prices begin to rise, our pantry is full of food products and plenty of beans, rice, and corn.

Marc Lacy, The New Times reporter spoke to unemployed father with several children and the interview is riveting to read about his personal dilemma and left me feeling very guilty and sad.

The father said he gave each one of his children two spoonfuls of rice apiece and that was their only meal of the day. Two spoonfuls of rice each and the worse part, they went without food the next day!

Lacy reports that the father had not eaten himself feeling the aches and pains of hunger in his belly. But no doubt, the greatest pain this father felt was what he told The Times reporter. “They look at me and say, ‘Papa, I’m hungry,’ and I have to look away. Its humiliating and it makes you angry.” (Stop here and let that sink in…..)

Here in the United States, while we decide to buy “hybrid vehicles” which consume “biofuels,” essentially fuel made from corn and other food products, people in other countries around the world are rioting, dying of hunger, and simply downcast in hopelessness. As we divert more and more food products to fuel, there is no doubt we will continue to contribute to a growing crisis.

While the environment and global warming are real problems as well, we need to be as concerned about world hunger and poverty as well. Unfortunately we have painted ourselves into a corner because both issues are equally important.

As I read news stories on how people are suffering from the hunger pains because there is not enough food to eat, I am grateful for our country. And yes, we cannot forget there are thousands of homeless families and families affected by our troubled economy that go to sleep hungry every night, we better listen to those hunger gurgles as well.

For many of us, when we get hunger flashes, we drive into a fast food restaurant, stop at the grocery store full of food, or open a refrigerator full of fresh food.

But beyond feeling guilty which does nothing to change the worst food crisis in the world, it is time our government hears the cries of the hungry from around the world. Here we still pay farmers not to plant certain foods…and we pay millions in subsidies so that fields will lie idle.

Farm subsidies and food practices must be addressed with sound policy decisions not only from our government, but from the United Nations as well. This is a worldwide dilemma and crisis.

With economic uncertainty creeping slowly across our country, we have already seen food prices starting to rise here. In some countries because of ridiculously high food prices, people are beginning to horde food in their pantries.

While our presidential candidates bicker over whether or not people are “bitter” or whether someone was “under fire” when they landed at an airport years ago is irrelevant. Who cares what a preacher may have preached from his pulpit and if we believe the news reports which have taken many if not all of these sermons out of context, what does it matter?

We have many perplexing issues in our country like comprehensive immigration reform, the recession, and the war in Iraq just to mention three priorities for the next President to work on.

But we must not turn our attention away from a crisis that is going to affect every economy and well being of every nation in the world. Where is the debate on our responsibility as a compassionate world leader?

In The Times there is a picture that accompanies the article of people picking their way across the dump looking for something to eat or to feed their families.

World hunger and poverty are dangerous factors that can explode into a worldwide crisis beyond what we have ever experienced, and if you think it not going to affect you, think again.

The old cliché, “Hijo, finish your vegetables, there are children in China that are starving and would love to finish you food,” is becoming truer and truer everyday and we don’t even realize it.

** Convoy of Hope responding to worldwide food crisis

Worldwide, food prices are escalating to previously unimaginable levels.

Though it's also affected by price increases, Convoy of Hope continues to move forward with ongoing worldwide feeding programs, which feeds more than 12,000 people each day.

For the second year in a row, Convoy of Hope just received International Food Relief Partnership grant from U. S. Agency for International Development for feeding programs in Haiti and El Salvador.

To learn more about Convoy of Hope in its response to the worldwide food crisis, see


Fidel "Butch" Montoya
H. S. Power & Light Ministries - Latino Faith Initiative
Denver, Colorado 80212

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stop Raiding our Churches

The urgent need for immigration reform and demands that ICE stop their raids is getting closer to home. For about the last two years we have tried to encourage pastors and ministers to speak out against the raids and the lack of respect and dignity ICE has for our people.

Thus far the church has been safe until Saturday, April 12. In Yavapai County in Arizona, the Sheriff's Office responding allegedly to complaints of people fighting and creating a disturbance prompted them to arrest several men at the camp ground.

The rest of the story is simply a tragedy and the arrests should serve as a warning that not even now, a church on retreat can be safe from the local sheriff deputies or ICE agents.

In Yavapai County, the Christian church, Christian Agape from Phoenix was sponsoring a church retreat for a group of men. According to the Phoenix Republic newspaper, it reports members of the group started singing songs and praying around 6:30 a.m. or so in the morning.

When the Sheriff Deputies arrived, they ended up detaining at least 12 men including an 11 year old child. They ended up deporting 7 of the church group back to Mexico; one person was released after he was able to prove he had the proper documents to be in the country legally.

Unfortunately, the 9th person, the pastor, identified as Rev. Manual Maldonado was not released. His status to be in the country at the time was under dispute.

But read slowly again, 7 Christian men were deported to Mexico and the pastor held in jail for praying.

This is not only an outrage; it must be condemned by every faith leader and pastor not only in Arizona, but across this country.

Fortunately, the pastors in Arizona have issued a strongly worded joint interfaith statement condemning law enforcement officers guilty of racial and religious prosecution.

The Alliance of Religious Leaders stated the raid and arrests were prompted by skin color and profiling.

If this incident does not cause people of faith to condemn the arrests of men singing and praying at a church retreat, then as religious leaders we have failed to make the distinction between justice and injustice, or simply put, right and wrong.

The raid was unwarranted, and the arrests against men on a spiritual weekend retreat, is an affront to our religious beliefs and values. Furthermore it is against the rights of those gathered for the retreat under the United States Constitution for the right of assembly and freedom of religion.

We know there may be church members who may be undocumented immigrants. As a practice, I have never heard of any pastor demanding status papers before allowing anyone to worship in our churches.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this will have an alarming effect on church members who may be undocumented. Now, no doubt many will fear getting together for worship, prayer, and praise.

The Phoenix Republic newspaper quotes Rev. Jose Gonzalez, involved in the Latino ministry at the local Baptist church. “He said Hispanic pastors, who previously had a ‘this won’t happen to me, this won’t affect my congregation’ attitude on immigration, now are taking it more seriously.”

This raid and subsequent arrests of men doing no wrong, is something we should condemn as deplorable and unacceptable. The raids no doubt that weekend, even separated Christian men from their families and their right to worship.

Pastors must ask their congregations who still think ICE raids on unsuspecting good people are not a problem, to condemn these raids against men worshipping, praying, and singing to our Lord Jesus Christ whether in churches or in public campgrounds.

Many use to laugh at the idea of ICE raids on church sponsored events, the situation in Arizona proves otherwise.

As Magdalena Schwartz, an assistant pastor at Iglesia Comunidad de Vida church in Mesa quoted in the Arizona Republic said, “"We cannot encourage people to go camping any more," Schwartz said.”For us, it's an evil attack. We cannot pray any more in the public places, or go camping because somebody can call the sheriff. It's intimidation. It makes us scared."

Fidel "Butch" Montoya
H. S. Power & Light - Latino Faith Based Initiative

Friday, April 11, 2008

Reining In Sheriff Joe

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

Several years ago, I held the position of Manager of Safety for the City and County of Denver. In that position I was responsible for the Denver Police Department, the Denver Sheriff Department, and the Denver Fire Department. It was a tremendous opportunity and responsibility, but one that also came with many critics as you can imagine.

Over the years, prior to being appointed to this position, I fancied myself as a "community activist." I found myself on the side of many Latino activists protesting or fighting the local politicos over issues of injustice, poverty and racism, and the drop out rate hovering over the 50% mark, and yes, occasionally protesting against the police for some sort of questionable police action in the Latino community.

So when I was appointed to the position, a position I served for almost 7 years, it immediately placed me in the eyes of some of my community comrades, as an adversary.

Being the top law enforcement agent in the city responsible for implementing public safety policies, at times it was difficult trying to please the public or some of the public servants who answered to me and carried guns.

I remember one occasion, where I attended a neighborhood meeting discussing an incident where a police officer stopped and ticketed a high school student who was caught speeding in the high school parking lot. The police officer then turned around and called the INS because he determined the student was an undocumented immigrant. While this issue caught fire, I did not realize how my image would change for some activists and friends until that meeting.

When the incident was brought to my attention, I immediately called for the Police Chief to reverse the action, and ensured the protesters calling my office that in my opinion police procedures were not followed, and I clearly stated that Denver Police would not be agents of the INS.

Of course, some police officers decried the action saying I was harboring “illegal immigrants.” “Illegal immigrants” I thought to myself, what is that? I felt and many of the residents of our city agreed with me, that what had happened was an injustice and should not happen again.

I briefed Mayor Wellington E. Webb about the situation, and he agreed that I was correct in reversing the action taken against this terribly frightened high school student and his family.

Hate radio talk hosts had a field day, blasting my “intervention in police work.” Still, I stood my ground and took the heat from people on the radio who thought I was being sympathetic to "illegal immigrants" over the police. Even some police officers, and believe it or not, some of the “high command of the police department” urged me not to discipline this particular officer because after all he was just doing his job.

Internally we had our discussions, and I made it clear, we were wrong to arrest the high school student and in the future it would be expected that police officers would follow the correct police policy toward undocumented immigrants.

At the community meeting – a rather large community meeting I might add, I took with me every division chief from the police department, and the undersheriff of the sheriff department to the meeting, not to mention a hand full of antacid tablets. I figured I'd be fairly safe surrounded in blue from any unruley protestor.

We sat there and literally took our “verbal beating from the Latino activists," and community members. Even though I assured the community what had happened was contrary to police policy, and that it would not happen again, the angry protests did not stop.

Even today, one of Denver's hate radio talk show hosts will still bring it up and criticize me for something that happened years ago. Only now, I can laugh about it.

In essence, I apologized to the family of the young man over the objections of the police chief and assured the community we would work with them on these kinds of issues. For the record, the chief had the good sense to keep his objections to himself.

As we were leaving the meeting, “a friend, a long time community activist, and someone who worked with me as a fellow city employee” came up to me and made a comment that seared my heart and made me step back from the comment.

She said, “How does it feel for the oppressed to become the oppressor?” Wow, I was shocked and essentially stunned to find that my friends now considered me "the dreaded oppressor".

Along with all the other criticism, my own “gente” were now taking me out to the wood shed. Why is it that our own gente always seem to be our worse critics??

In a Wednesday, April 9 editorial of The New York Times, entitled, "Immigration, Outsourced," the infamous Arizona county Sheriff Joe Arpaio is criticized and rightly so in my estimation for his cruel and abusive police tactics profiling brown people in Arizona.

If you have a broken windshield, or a back tail light that is out, or if you even look suspicious, in Arizona, Sheriff Joe or his little Gestapo army of deputies will stop you and most likely arrest you for driving while being brown.

Even the mayor of Phoenix and several smaller town officials want Sheriff Joe out of their communities. In my opinion, there is little doubt that Sheriff Joe is definitely out of control and with all the police powers he carries in his gun holster; no one seems able to stop him, or question his abusive police tactics.

Incredibly frightening as far as I am concerned when no one seems willing to stand up to the Nazi sheriff of the southwest or his Minuteman followers. I believe when people are so afraid of the sheriff, that many would rather live in fear than confront him, something is terribly wrong with law enforcement.

The whole reason we have people like Sheriff Joe along with his army of 160 deputies and a “3,000 member posse” of minutemen and racists, with about 500 of them armed, locked and loaded and patrolling our streets is because the Bush Administration continues to support this kind of “enforcement first immigration policy". It also lets other local law agencies do his dirty work.

Under a program called 287(g),the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is encouraging “junior agents,” or local deputies and cops to receive very little immigration law training, allowing them to enforce laws so complicated that a good immigration attorney with years of experience will tell you it is very difficult to do. Yet DHS continues to "train" local cops so they can enforce Federal immigration laws.

Almost like giving a gun to a small child and expecting him to know how to use it properly.

The New York Times editorial says it is time to rein in Sheriff Joe, and as a former public law enforcement official, I could not agree more. When will the rest of you agree as well?

Fidel "Butch" Montoya
H. S. Power & Light - Latino Faith Based Initiative
Denver, Colorado 80212

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Still Small Voice that says, "Write it Down"

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

Three years ago when we started to warn the pastors and churches about immigration issues, I know that many of them laughed at us. Many refused to understand the seriousness we were going to face. Many simply refused to accept the information.

Today, there are still many pastors who simply will not accept the fact that times are going to be very difficult for the faithful. The Latino Evangelical Church still needs to prepare for more attacks of the evil one....and we need to pray.

I have been sending out notices about prayer ONCE a month for ONE hour on Wednesdays. Thus far only ONE other pastor has opened the doors of his church for prayer.

Some pastors are too busy with their own agendas. Too busy with their own ministries not to understand their ministries will be affected. Too busy to stop and think about joining together in prayer. Praying with one another strengthens the fellowship between pastors. It strengthens the body of believers.

Last week, no one showed up to pray. I prayed alone.

It may be true that pastors are too busy. But unless we make time to pray together, when the times of hardship come....and trust me, they will, we will not know how to pray for each other.

Like everything else, we must train and discipline ourselves. WE do that by praying with each other. The Lord called for his disciples to pray with him....on the eve of his arrest. While “he prayed more earnestly,” we are told “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to ground.” – When the Lord looked for his disciples, his one question to them was, “Why are you sleeping?”

Are our churches sleeping through the biggest crisis of our time? Are we still more concerned with the ministry within the four walls of our churches? Can’t we understand the new laws that passing in state legislatures will make life so much more difficult for our people?

All across America we are seeing the effect of hate, suspicion, and fear upon our communities. The communities of Latino immigrants are being uprooted and they are running away in fear from the ICE agents.

Oh, that we would simply heed the words of the Lord. Oh, that we might fall on our knees in humbleness seeking His face and wisdom. The Holy Spirit is ready to minister to our needs, to help and guide us through the difficult times we face.

Instead we are stubborn and think WE know better. WE don't need to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit. WE think we know the way. In all reality, this is the time that WE must rely upon the wisdom, strength, and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

We need to find a better way and God is waiting for us to stop playing church and to get serious about the problems facing not only our ministries, but the problems facing our people.

As I read the newspapers from across the country, the problems are the same everywhere. Laws are being passed to make life more difficult. Along the way, it is not just the migrant or undocumented immigrant being affected, but Latino citizens of the USA as well.

Latino Evangelical pastors...born and raised in the USA are being pressured, harassed and intimidated by ICE agents. They are attempting to shut down the one most important leader in our communities, the Pastor.

If they can intimidate the pastor from standing up for the undocumented immigrant, from preaching justice from the pulpit, from assisting families that need support, ICE agents will win this battle and churches might as well hang signs that say, “Closed.”

It is past time of trying to get more pastors to understand that our country is changing for the worse and Godly people must speak out.

It is time our pastors join together in prayer on a regular basis. It is time for the pastors from across the country to understand that united in prayer, we can call upon the power of the Holy Spirit to fight for us.

My brother and my sister....there is nothing like the power of prayer. Why can't we understand that? Many preach that doctrine every Sunday, but yet we have not learned to put it into practice ourselves.

Let us learn to pray without ceasing. In Micah Chapter 6, verses 6 -9, we ask what offerings we should bring as we bow down before the Lord.

Should we bring a brunt offering of calves a year old?

Would the Lord be pleased with a thousand rams?

How about ten thousand rivers of oil?

Should I offer my first born for my transgressions?

How about the fruit of my body for the sins of my soul?

The Prophet answers those questions by telling us, HE has shown us what is good.

And what does the Lord require of you? "To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God....and Listen...for the Lord is calling to the city...."

Why can’t we act justly? Love mercy? Walk humbly with our God? Listen to His voice?

I believe in order to hear His voice, we must join together in prayer all across this country in great need of revival. If we write it down in our hearts, He will direct our work for His Honor and Glory.

Fidel “Butch” Montoya
H. S. Power & Light - Latino Faith Based Initiative
Denver, Colorado 80212