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

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Does Dobson Speak for Me?

by Fidel "Butch" Montoya

One of the biggest concerns about the news media covering religious news and issues of Evangelicals revolves around the central fact of who actually represents the point of view of this large diverse group.

The on going controversy and questions as to whether the Religious Right is dead or is irrelevant to the issues of the 2008 Presidential election continues to generate more questions and interest in the mainstream news media.

This election year we have seen a resurgence of new voices raising concerns and wanting to be heard. Many members of the Evangelical sector of the Church have tired of being aligned with the voices of the Religious Right and in particular of Rev James Dobson.

In Colorado, a diverse and cross cultural interfaith group of religious leaders are tired of being misrepresented by Dobson and his cohorts at Focus in the Family and have formed “We Believe Colorado.” We Believe Colorado has committed to work together on issues of common interest and to represent faith groups not aligned with the dying breed of the Religious Right leadership.

A question continually bought up, “Is why does the cable and network news media think that Rev. James Dobson speaks for the majority of religious and value voters?” That is one question We Believe Colorado can answer. Dobson and company do not speak for the new voices of religious leaders fighting for justice and righteousness and who have no interest in taunting our faith as a wedge issue.

Faithful America, a national grassroots group committed and motivated by their faith to press for solutions to moral issues of our time, studied some interesting statistics and data after Rev. James Dobson’s crew dug up an old 2006 speech by Sen. Barack Obama on his faith.

You can just see it now, all these researchers at Focus on the Family focusing on finding old speeches by Senator Obama. They found at least one speech they could use to attack the senator.

Faithful America also reviewed the news coverage given to Rev. James Dobson’s unwarranted attack on Senator Obama’s 2006 speech. The critique centered on how the news media allowed itself to be hoodwinked by the Dobson speech machine and take as truth whatever Dobson claimed was news worthy.

We Believe Colorado immediately recognized Dobson’s remarks as mere propaganda from the oracles of Colorado Springs.

The question Faithful America asked was, “What religious story dominated the cable networks last week?”

Given two choices, what story do you think would create more news or opportunities to break it down for more interesting quotes and observations – the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life releasing a groundbreaking survey of 35,000 Americans documenting the diversity and tolerance of people of faith and the growing consensus by people of faith around issues like poverty and the environment or Rev Dobson attacking Sen. Obama’s 2006 speech?

The surprising or alarming answer to the question was the news cable talking heads and pundits chose the out dated 2006 speech.

Given the two choices, CNN, MSNBC, and FOX NEWS on Tuesday, June 24, mentioned the Rev. James Dobson’s comments 189 times criticizing the two year old Obama speech.

The new landmark Pew study and survey barely made the news with just 8 mentions.
This situation gives the impression that Obama’s 2006 speech is a priority in our religious community. Allowing the news media to pick our national spokespeople and issues is something we need to challenge.

Rev. James Dobson does not speak for me or many other interfaith religious leaders and it is time the national news media understands that fact.

To ignore ground breaking news from the Pew Institute for comments from an old speech that occurred two years ago is not only irrelevant to the issues of this election, but also irresponsible. It is merely creating a false narrative and distracts from the important issues of people of faith.

To continue to give Rev Dobson the title as national spokesperson for Evangelical religious leaders and believers is misleading the American public and distorts our values and faith priorities. It also sends a false picture of who we represent.

Clearly, Rev. James Dobson does not speak for me, so to the national media news editors/producers, “Get over it, Dobson is old news and his nasty misleading comments have no room in our efforts to use our faith to fight for justice and truth.”

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

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lead or Move Aside

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

The struggle for justice and righteousness for undocumented immigrants is becoming a more difficult proposition. The Bush Administration is pushing more and more enforcement of the antiquated immigration laws on the books.

Undocumented immigrants are now being held in new detention centers while they are being sentenced for up to five months in jail before deportation. This creates a basis to arrest the undocumented immigrant if they return to the USA as “criminals.”

The Homeland Security Department, specifically ICE is beginning to squeeze more and more communities with high “Latino” populations. There are more and more reports of ICE arresting and deporting USA citizens.

ICE has no inclination to trying to verify citizenship, only deportation. The government does not care if you are a citizen or not, if you don’t carry the necessary paper work, you are bound to be deported.

The New York Times reported that, “At the same time, in the last year, local police departments from coast to coast have rounded up hundreds of immigrants for nonviolent, often minor, crimes, like fishing without a license in Georgia, with the end result being deportation.”

In Oklahoma, the reports continue to come out that the police continue to target Latino drivers at roadside stops where documents are demanded by the police. Some of the Latino USA citizens are now carrying passports or birth certificates to avoid being jailed.

All across the country, the Latino Evangelical churches are suffering in attendance as more and more of our brothers and sisters are afraid to go to church.

Afraid to go to church because we have seen the tentacles of corrupt ICE officials stalking Latino Christians in camp grounds, churches, homes, jobs, grocery stores, and schools.

It is a very sad time in our country where gasoline prices are at record high prices and continuing to climb with no end in sight.

The war in Iraq almost forgotten in the news media and the American memory of men and women who continue to die in a war with no end.

The American economy whirling out of control with higher prices for food, unemployment getting higher, and a recession causing more havoc with the economy and no one seems to really care.

Yet with all of these problems, many Americans continue to refuse to take the blinders off and continue to blame “Mexicans” for all of our problems.

Meanwhile, because the American economy is sliding downward, it is beginning to seriously affect the worldwide economies of other countries as well. A serious world wide recession on the horizon which I suppose we can blame on “the Mexicans” as well?

For many of the pastors and ministers who have not stopped to realize the consequences of a broken immigration policy and being run amuck by the Bush Administration’s policies, it is time to pray.

Yet, I continue to be amazed at the apathy and uncaring attitude by many Latino Evangelical ministers who refuse to acknowledge that God demands that we “act justly, seek mercy, and walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6)

To “act justly” is seek justice for the lost and unrepresented and not to use our Bible as blinders.

To “seek mercy” is to ensure that we do not allow injustice to create lack of respect for humanity as we pray in our glass stained churches.

To “walk humbly with our God,” means to understand we are not to be arrogant with our titles and knowledge…but to be servants to serve the needs of the people.

But as we continue to ask and beg pastors and ministers to pray for undocumented immigrants in our country who are being abused by unscrupulous businesspeople, a mean-spirited government, racism and bigotry of our neighbors and fellow Christians, we must continue to find more avenues of service beyond prayer.

We can encourage those members of our congregations who meet the requirements to become citizens to do so. We must encourage ALL who have not registered to vote, but who are qualified to do so, to register to vote. And most importantly, vote in greater numbers than Latinos did during the primaries.

Es Tiempo de Votar, It is Time to Vote! It is time for our community to vote and express our indignation at the failed policies of the past, and vote for change that will bring solutions to the broken immigration policy of our country.

WE must not become the political pawns of any party. We must be true to our community’s values and principles of family, life, and justice.

We do not seek the attention of any candidate that does not carry in his heart the values we hold true.

The Latino community must also demand that the politicos in the church and in the political parties to listen carefully to the demands we have for justice, liberty, and righteousness for all.

To our fellow Church “religious leaders” who have forgotten we must speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, lead or move aside.

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

Monday, June 9, 2008

Who is really a human being? Babies, aliens, or chimpanzees?

Francisco Miraval

Who is really a human being? This is certainly one of the biggest questions ever asked throughout history. Philosophers, theologians, anthropologists, artists, and even common people have asked this question time and time again, offering all kinds of answers, from mythology to science to simple laughable ideas.

In this challenging world we now live, the question about who is really a human being has resurfaced in two contexts: law (specifically, human rights) and science, showing that, in spite of millennia of having our best minds (and some not so good ones) analyzing the question, we still lack a satisfactory answer.

During the recent World Science Festival in New York City, several scientists offered different answers about who is a human being: “A species with ways of transmitting information” (Marvin Minsky), “The nervous system of the planet” (Daniel Dennett), “An unique brain structure” (Patricia Churchland), and “An extraordinary form of symbolic cognition” (Ian Tattersall).

Other scientists spoke about the fact that we, humans, are the only known species able to question our own identity and essence, or the only species wanting to transcend time, either though history or religion. For more information, click here.

However, in spite of all those outstanding scientific contributions, the question about who (or what) is human being is still open.

In fact, at this very same time, the European Court of Human Rights, in Strasbourg, France, is trying to decide whether Matthew Hiasl Pan, 26 and resident in Vienna, Austria, is a human person with legal rights.

Why the court is still undecided about the humanity of Matthew? Because Matthew is a chimpanzee living at an animal sanctuary.

Paula Stibbe, the activist who began the legal action in favor of Matthew, said there are obvious differences between humans and chimpanzees. However, at the same time, the definition of who is a human being is still, at best, ambiguous and always changing. And, taking into account that the DNA of humans is 96 percent similar to the DNA of chimpanzees, Matthew should be classified as a human person. For details, click here.

It is unclear if Matthew really wants to be classified as a human person, knowing that, if he is, he will then have to obey the law and, for example, to pay taxes and use the seat belt.

Stibbe said that if her request to have Matthew recognized as a human is successful, then the next step will be to include dogs and dolphins in the same category as chimpanzees.

My question, then, is this: If dogs and dolphins are accepted as being “human,” what other animals will soon also be included and where the list is going to stop?

While in Europe they are defending the “human” rights of a chimpanzee, in Denver, Colorado for Equal Rights is also proposing a new definition of human being, to include in this case “any human being from the moment of fertilization,” because not always unborn babies are classified as “human.”

The Amendment 48, entitled "Definition of a Person," was recently approved for a statewide vote when the Secretary of State validated 103,000 signatures on petitions for the ballot initiative, that is, 27,000 more than required. The issue will be decided by popular vote next November.

(If you have doubts about the humanity of babies, please read Psalm 139:13-16)

“We at Colorado for Equal Rights are incredibly thankful for our many volunteers who worked so hard for each signature we delivered to the secretary of state's office and the churches who stood behind us and supported us,” said Kristi Burton, 20, who organized the petition drive.

“This victory is the voice of the people, and all credit goes to our Creator,” she added. For more information, click here.

I would like to know what American human babies still inside their mothers’ womb will say if they knew that, in many respects, they have less rights than an European chimpanzee.

However, even if unborn babies and chimpanzees eventually succeed in being recognized as humans, they still have to face serious competition from yet another group who also wants rights: aliens.

I am not talking here about those aliens who cross the border to come here, but aliens who cross inter-stellar space to come here. Extraterrestrial aliens, that is.

According to Jeff Peckman, a Denver entrepreneur, aliens, those who supposedly come in spaceships, should also have their own rights. So, he is promoting an initiative to create a “commission for extraterrestrial creatures,” so Denver residents will be ready in case of an “alien invasion.” (See details here.)

So far, Peckman said nothing about asking immigration papers to those aliens.

These examples clearly show how fragmented and distorted our current understanding of who is a human being is. We don’t even know if our primate cousins are just cousins or perhaps our brothers.

We don’t know if human babies are human enough to be recognized as humans. And we don’t know if we have some yet-unknown cousins out there, ready to visit us to reclaim their rights.

All the problems about immigration, about saving traditional marriage, about education, about foreign relations, are in reality a fight about who we really are. It should not be a surprise to anybody that, if you deny the humanity of human babies and accept the humanity of chimpanzees, then you distort who we humans really are, and, therefore, accept behaviors unbecoming to humans.

The Apostle Paul already wrote about these same issues in Romans 1:21-25:

21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Having distorted who God is, we have also distorted who we really are. And who are we? David already wrote about that many centuries ago in Psalm 8:4-6:

4. “What is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings (=Elohim)
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:

No immigration debate will be solved, no traditional marriage will be saved, no anti-family legislation will be repealed until first we understand who we are. A distorted image of God and, therefore, a distorted image of ourselves (see Genesis 1:26), will also distort all our laws, all our rights, and all the attempted solutions for our problems.

Francisco Miraval is the founder and director of Project Vision 21, LLC, a bilingual news and information service based in Aurora, Colorado. He is also the director of the Hispanic Group of the US Christian Chamber of Commerce and a member of the NHCLC board.