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

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Conception of Justice - Apostle Paul

By Daniel Gonzalez, St. Joseph's University

What is justice? What are its essential characteristics? Is justice juridical in nature? In other words, does it have only a legal sense or meaning? Is it a virtue? Does justice have the sense of being distributive or retributive? Perhaps justice is just a way of characterizing revenge? Perhaps justice is merely a form of exacting revenge on one who has perpetrated some wrongdoing against one’s person? The problems implicit in these questions are at the center of socio-political, religio-ethical, and philosophical discourse. However, the focus of this essay will be Paul’s development of the idea of justice in the Epistle to the Romans as it relates to God and His divine law.

The Apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, approaches the idea of justice both polemically and dialectically with a view towards his central thesis: God’s righteousness revealed. In addition, the apostle Paul diagnosis the problem of evil, within the human polity, and points to its source while presenting a prognosis that emphasizes the need for divine justice. Moreover, the emphasis that man needs to acquiesce to God’s means of meeting justice through faith. Informed by his Judaic sense of justice (“rendering to each what is due”) he begins his discourse.

It should be noted, however, that various ideas emerge and are developed in the Epistle to the Romans that contribute to the overall discourse on God’s justice and/or righteousness, e.g., condemnation and justification, unbelief and belief, works and faith, and law and grace. From these emerge the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.

Paul writes: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” (Romans 1:16-17, NASB)

In these passages of scripture, Paul presents his central thesis: God’s righteousness (dikaiosune) revealed (apokalupto) in the gospel (euaggelion). The gospel, for Paul, isn’t merely the good news of God’s kingdom, but more importantly the fact of Christ Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and the interpretation of these facts. For the apostle Paul, these events disclose God’s dikaiosune, i.e., God’s righteousness or justice. What is more is that the revelation of God’s righteousness can only be grasped, or apprehended, by faith. Righteousness (tsedeq in the Hebrew) is said to be a quality or attribute grounded, or rooted, in God (Deuteronomy 32:4, NASB). Thus, God is said to be just and all that he does is just. Yet, the question remains as to why was it necessary for God to disclose his justice or righteousness in this way? Moreover, what is its contribution to Paul’s discourse on justice? The reason for this are developed further in the Epistle to the Romans.

Paul posits that man’s existential predicament is that he stands in a state of rebellion, lawlessness, depravity, and hopelessness before God and His divine law. The condition stems from a deliberate “suppression” of the self-evident truth about God (Romans 1:18-23, NASB). Man has willfully chosen to rebel (though he knows that in doing so he has brought mortal judgment upon himself) through a willful suppression of the truth leaving God no other recourse but to hand man over to his own passions. The image here portrays God as one who has had enough in dealing with man and hands him over to his own recourse. The situation is what prompts God to “reveal His wrath”. God’s righteousness is here contrasted over and against man’s wickedness. It seems justified that such blatant behavior merits God’s divine judgment and wrath. The religious person, or moralist, may feel a sense of security, propriety, and justness in his own piety and deep sense of virtuosity contrasted with the wickedness of those who rebel. However, Paul argues that this pretense is grounded on false premises.

In Romans chapter two the apostle Paul continues, although polemically, to present various arguments toward a view of demonstrating his central thesis on the relationship between righteousness and faith posited in Romans 1:17. Confronting the notion of personal piety, pride and conformity in one’s religious formalism, he argues that these attitudes are grounded in arrogance and pride and equally merit God’s wrath. Paul’s premise is that for one to make such claims one would have to be faultless with respect to every aspect of the law, i.e., one would have to be perfect. He concludes that one infraction, or transgression, merits judgment and condemnation thus precluding one from making such claims to righteousness. Thus, he asserts that “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE” (Romans 3:10, NASB). ALL [emphasis added] are under sin and merit God’s judgment and condemnation, for all have come short (missed the mark) of fulfilling the requirements of God’s divine law (Romans 3:23 NASB). The situation before us is one of despair. Any claim to personal virtue, piety, or righteousness, based on works is made mute by past transgressions and failure. What is to be done? If Paul’s argument is true, how can one escape God’s wrath and judgment? How does one get a reprieve in light of an accusative and damning argument? What can man appeal to in presenting his case before God? Paul argues that no one can be nor will be justified by their works. He posits that one must place one’s trust in God’s righteousness and His means and method of exacting justice.

Up to this point Paul has demonstrated that man is incapable of following the letter of the law and fulfilling its requirements. This line of reasoning is central to Paul’s argument in an attempt to establish the supremacy of faith over works and the state of justification that comes by faith. What is more, the Apostle Paul wants to draw our attention to God’s righteousness revealed in the person of Christ Jesus apart from the law. Faith is sine qua non for salvation and justification before God. For Paul, at least, one can only be declared just/righteous through faith in God’s work in the person of Christ Jesus (Romans 3:28, NASB). The question becomes, what about the law? Isn’t there an assurance of blessings for those who follow the law? Are we to take an antinomian position with respect to the law? Are we to discard it and characterize it as pointless, qualify it as no longer valid? More importantly, does faith nullify the law? Paul’s responds by stating that “Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” (Romans 3:31, NASB)

Paul’s argument about the preeminence of faith over the law and the righteousness that comes through faith is polemic, indeed. The law is fundamental to Hebraic society. It is considered to be a revelation from God that governs conduct, sacral worship, protects the disenfranchised, etc… More importantly, it is an explicit declaration in scripture that those who practice the law are righteous before God. If faith has precedence, or it is what God considers fundamental, or necessary, for one to be righteous why give the law? What function does the law have? The underlying premise to Paul’s argument is not that the law should be abolished nor is he soliciting antinomian sensibilities. What Paul demonstrates is that faith precedes works in logical priority and justification is the final result. He demonstrates this by drawing our attention to a particular biblical character in the Hebrew Scriptures: Abraham.

Romans 4:1-25 demonstrates the force of Paul’s argument for justification by faith. What the apostle argues is that what made Abraham righteous, a qualification conferred only by God, was his faith. He (Abraham) saw his physical condition as being beyond what was naturally possible. (Romans 4:19, NASB) thus, Paul asserts, "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." (Romans 4:3, NASB) For Paul, it seems that the premise of faith is for one to comprehend one’s finitude, impotence, and imperfection in light of God’s revelation. Thus, removing the bulwarks that strengthen our own resolve and, in their place, embrace the truth of God’s revelation in Christ Jesus. Yet the question of justice remains. How does faith, justification and what has been stated so far relate to justice?

Romans 5:1 states, "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God". Here is the result of faith. Here is the reward of faith. Peace with God. For the apostle Paul, as long as man continues in his rebellion, feels assured in the conformity of religious formalism, continues to trust in his own endeavors and attempts at defining morality, he stands at odds with God. Justice, for Paul, is the reality of our sin, being paid for in the person of Christ Jesus. Justice, "rendering to each what is due", is realized in the person of Christ Jesus. That is to say, that what was properly due to us, in relation to God and His law, is condemnation and death. However, if we believe God and place our trust in His means of justice, realized on the cross of Christ, in relation to Him and His divine law we are declared righteous. Here is the sense of rendering to each what is due. God is just, in that he remains faithful to his word and promises.

The Epistle to the Romans is at once a treatise on justice and a presentation of salvation, redemption, justification, and faith (Whelan p.437). In his Epistle to the Romans, the apostle Paul diagnosis the problem of evil, within the human polity, and gives a prognosis that emphasizes the need for divine justice and the imperative to acquiesce to God’s means of meeting justice. The picture that emerges in Paul’s epistle is God’s justice, mercy, love, and faithfulness responding to the man’s existential crisis of lawlessness, hopelessness, and sin in the person of Christ Jesus.

By Daniel Gonzalez, St. Joseph's University

Works Cited

Frederick G. Whelan. Justice: Classical and Christian
Political Theory, Vol. 10, No. 3. (Aug., 1982), pp. 435-460.
Stable URL:

Bruce F.F., The Epistle of Paul to the Romans: An
Introduction and Commentary, Michigan: Tyndale Press, 1963

The Holy Bible, New American Standard Bible.
Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1995

Easton, Matthew George. "Entry for Justice". "Easton's
Bible Dictionary”

After Arrest - Children Left Alone on Highway

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

Every day there seems to be another news story of how evil continues to push good to the gutter. Please read the news article below on how a sheriff deputy left children - alone - on the interstate after arresting their mother for being a 'criminal' for not having a driver's license.

Why do we allow such incidents to go unnoticed without an outcry from the good people? When will we stand up together and say 'ENOUGH!'

Our country is better than this gestapo attitude that we must rid our country of the 'unclean and unwanted.'

We truly live a dark and sad point in time in our country's history. How have we allowed these conditions to exist in our country is testament to the silence of the good people and the hateful and mean spirited racists that have fooled the rest of us into thinking that this will keep us safe from 'criminals and terrorists.'

Our country has sunk to the depths of the perpetrators of violence and hate. When will we confront this disease of racism and bigotry? Will we allow our freedom and liberty to be used for the evil works of ICE and other law enforcement agencies bent on destroying the American dream?

Why have our Federal legislators given the managers of ICE the freedom to enact insane rules and policies like 287 (g) and not hold ICE accountable for their actions? How can they justify leaving children on the interstate and not feel any responsibility for their actions?

America - wake up!

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

'And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.' Micah 6: 8


Mom arrested, kids left on I-85
Abandoned by fellow immigrant
News Observer.com
Kristin Collins, Staff Writer

An illegal immigrant arrested on a traffic violation last month was forced to leave her three children on the shoulder of Interstate 85 in the middle of the night -- where they were alone and stranded for eight hours.

An Alamance County sheriff's deputy pulled Maria Chavira Ventura over just before 2 a.m. on June 14, according to arrest records. He took her to jail for driving without a license and displaying a false license plate, and she was eventually put under a federal deportation order.

He left her children, 14, 10 and 6, with a man they barely knew, according to the N.C. Justice Center and Maryland social workers. He was a fellow church member who had been catching a ride with the family.

Lawyers with the Justice Center are investigating the incident. They say the man, fearing deportation if the officer returned, abandoned the children, leaving them to wait for their father to drive from Maryland.

The father, Antonio Perez, said he got a cell phone call from the sobbing children around 2 a.m. They had been headed from their home in Western North Carolina to visit him in Maryland. Perez, who doesn't have a license and had to get his uncle to drive him, arrived at 10:30 a.m. to find his children scared, exhausted, hungry, and distraught over the loss of their mother.

'They were left abandoned there in the middle of the street,' Perez said. 'It was a horrible experience for them, just horrible.'

Perez, an illegal immigrant from Honduras, agreed to give only his middle and last names. His story was confirmed by Justice Center lawyers who interviewed Ventura in jail. The 14-year-old also told the same story in an interview with social workers in Maryland. The Justice Center provided a copy of that interview.

Officials at the Alamance County Sheriff's Department say they handled Ventura's arrest according to their policies. They say children are frequently left with neighbors or family friends, as long as parents approve. If there is no adult available, the department calls social workers, said spokesman Randy Jones.

'We make arrangements all the time, and we have to do it on a case-by-case basis,' Jones said. 'We're not going to let something happen to a child.'

In this case, Jones said, the department has not received a complaint and was unaware until last week that the children ended up alone.

Jones said the man, who had no identification or driver's license, had a cell phone and told the officer that help was on the way. The mother spoke very little English, so the officer had the teenage daughter ask her handcuffed mother whether she approved of them staying with the man, Jones said.

'The girl said something to the mother in Spanish,' Jones said. 'And the officer said the mother looked at him and nodded.'

However, both Ventura and her daughter say the officer never asked permission to leave the children with the man. Dan Rearick, a Justice Center lawyer, interviewed Ventura at the Alamance County jail on July 9.

'She said very clearly that the officer never mentioned her children and she was never told anything about what would happen to them,' Rearick said.

Ventura got no response when she tried to ask the officer, in broken English, about her children, she told Rearick.

The daughter said in an interview with Casa de Maryland, an immigrant advocacy group, that the officer asked only if they had a phone and someone to call.

Jones said the sheriff's department doesn't know what happened to the children after their mother's arrest. He said they don't plan to look into it any further, unless they receive an official complaint. He said that, if the children were left alone, the man bears responsibility for abandoning them.

Asking the parent

Other law enforcement agencies agree that there are no set procedures for handling cases with children involved.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said his officers always ask the parent whether there is a relative or close family friend who can care for the children. If they can't communicate with the parent, they have a 24-hour interpreting service available by phone, Harrison said.

'We just won't let the children go with anybody,' Harrison said. 'We've got to make sure that the parent feels comfortable.'

Lt. Everett Clendenin, spokesman for the N.C. Highway Patrol, said officers wouldn't leave children with a person whose identity or relationship to the children wasn't clear. But he said officers will leave children with non-family members if the parent agrees.

Rearick says Ventura and her family are traumatized but have little recourse.

The two younger children, both U.S. citizens, are with Perez. Perez is hesitant to bring a complaint against the department because of his immigration status.

Perez is not the father of the eldest child, and she is being cared for by relatives in North Carolina. Rearick said the girl does not have legal status and is now afraid to speak about the incident.

'The people who are caring for her say she can't sleep at night,' Rearick said.

Ventura pleaded guilty to the traffic charges, and federal officials are now holding her in a county jail in
Alabama. Barbara Gonzalez, spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said she will soon be deported. Gonzalez said Ventura was using an assumed name and that her true name is Maria Mejia. Gonzalez said federal officials are looking into the circumstances of her arrest.

Alamance County participates in a federal program, called 287(g) for a section of law, that allows jailers to check immigration status and begin deportation proceedings on those they arrest. Many sheriffs, including Alamance Sheriff Terry Johnson, tout the program as a way to stop violent repeat criminals.

Advocates say the program has led to an increasing number of arrests of Hispanic immigrants for traffic violations. State law prohibits those without legal status from getting driver's licenses or registering cars, so many illegal immigrants are arrested on charges similar to Ventura's.

'This is another example of the real results of 287(g) -- arresting people for minor traffic offenses rather than taking criminals off the street,' Rearick said. 'Any program that leaves three little kids alone on the side of the highway is creating more problems than it solves.'

Jones, the Alamance sheriff's spokesman, said arresting the woman was standard procedure, since she wasn't allowed to continue driving and couldn't prove her identity.

'I can't find anything wrong with what the officer did,' Jones said.

(Staff writer Zoe Elizabeth Buck contributed to this report.)

kristin.collins@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4881
Staff writer Zoe Elizabeth Buck contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2008, The News & Observer Publishing Company

A subsidiary of The McClatchy Company

Sunday, July 20, 2008

CSA Partners with Rev. Sam Rodriguez and NHCLC

Clergy Strategic Alliances, LLC (CSA) is proud to announce our partnership with the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Together we will prepare people of faith in Hispanic and African American communities to implement our 10 Week plan for issue education and Getting Out The Vote (GOTV). This plan will be available to churches in English and Spanish.

Our partnership will span beyond the 2008 election cycle as we work together on issues important to both communities; improving public education, decreasing the high school drop out rate, ending gang violence and saving our children from gang culture, job creation, and healthcare, to name a few.

Our Partnership

"The Kingdom of God thrives via Covenant Partnerships exemplifying the Apostolic Mandate as Christ commissioned his Apostles in teams of two. For too long the African American and Hispanic Christian communities have co-existed in similar arenas confronting social ills and injustices. In the biblical narrative depicted in the book of Acts, Peter and John together meet the crippled man at the Gate called Beautiful. I wholeheartedly believe the African American and Hispanic churches embody the spirit of these two Apostles as we speak prophetically to the crippled hopes, dreams, families, economies and faith in our communities and empower them with what we have; Christ, compassion and conviction.

As a result, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, America 's largest Hispanic faith organization, is proud to partner with one of America 's Preeminent Christian Leaders and advocate for Social Justice, Rev. Romal Tune. Romal leads the way articulating a message of societal transformation and Kingdom engagement with a commitment to excellence second to none. We believe this partnership will transform the relationship between Brown and Black and in the end; God's name will be glorified as we tackle the ills in our communities together and declare that the crippled standing before the gate will walk again."

The NHCLC serves and facilitates a representative voice for a growing number of the 18,000 Hispanic churches and 75 denominations in addition to faith-based organizations, institutes, networks, congregations, and active laity. Hispanic born-again Christians make up 37 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population and 88% of all U.S. Hispanic Protestants, 43% of all U.S. Hispanic Mainline Protestants, and 26% of all U.S. Hispanic Roman Catholics. www.nhclc.org

"As we contextualize the narrative of 21st Century Christianity, we find embedded in the spiritual genome of a generation , the prophetic impetus of a righteousness and justice platform. This generation will rise and reconcile anointed ministry with a commitment for social justice all in the Name of Christ. Rev. Romal Tune, via the "Our Vote" manual provides the guide and technical acumen for the incorporation our Christian Justice ethos within the framework of today's political reality. This guide is prophetic, practical, relevant and revolutionary. The inheritors of a Kingdom culture DNA can incorporate this guide as the primer for social activism that once again vociferously exclaims "For the Spirit of the Lord hath anointed me to bring Good News to the Poor!"

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Latino Pentecostal voter filled With Power

by Fidel "Butch" Montoya

This coming election has to be one of the most analyzed by pundits and religious scholars as they look at the margins for potential voters and as to what “religious groups” might make a difference.

William McKenzie, the Dallas News editorial columnist has joined the fray with a column about a recent revival held the last night at the Reunion Arena. The arena will no longer play home to professional basketball.

On the last night, Reunion Arena played host to a revival meeting for a large group of Latino worshipers. The crowd was estimated at 13,500, with half of those in attendance being Latino Pentecostals.

McKenzie believes the Latino Pentecostal is worth watching this election as a potential “margin voter” that could play a significant role for either Obama or McCain. As most already know, Latino Pentecostals believe strongly in divine healing, miracles, and speaking in tongues.

Latino Pentecostals count themselves with the larger group of Latino Evangelicals, but not all Latino Evangelicals are Pentecostals, as not all agree on the proposition of speaking in tongues. Still, there are more issues, which this group of believers have in common, and will unite if their conservative values are threatened.

Most Latino Pentecostals have remained away from the political mainstream throughout the years partly because politics seemed corrupt or worldly. Nevertheless, as with all things, change is in the air. There is a growing awareness, particularly among younger Pentecostal families that involvement in the political arena is not only necessary, but also consistent with Biblical teaching of opposing “unjust laws” and public policies that do not treat all persons with dignity, justice, and respect.

Pentecostals in general are potentially election “swing voters” that can make a difference for McCain or Obama if they look carefully at this “old marginalized voter” making a move to be counted as a group of voters worth listening to.

In a New York Times survey, it found Pentecostals in some swing states having the influence to changing the outcome in the election. For example, in West Virginia, Pentecostals are 14% percent of West Virginians. That could make or break it during an election where every vote is going to count for the candidate that works this side of the church.

McKenzie writes, “John Green, who studies religious voting patterns for the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, says Pentecostals' political views are in flux.

They still emphasize traditional families and the sanctity of human life. However, young Pentecostals are looking at a broader range of issues, like reducing poverty.

That's been the message I've heard in talking to Pentecostal pastors. They describe younger Pentecostals as being both pro-life and pro-women's rights. Or, as Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference told me, they combine a social conservatism with an economic populism.”

Pentecostals who hold to strong conservative values would probably find a McCain a candidate to their liking. McKenzie makes the case that if McCain can show he is not what I call “the ugly Republican,” on immigration; he can claim a stronger share of the Latino Pentecostal vote.

While not all Latino Pentecostals agree on what steps need be taken on immigration reform, most if not all Latinos deplore and despise being depicted and treated by white Evangelical believers as “criminals or aliens”. With most white Evangelical voters being Republican, the “white church” has a tough road to hoe if it wants to change the belief that Latinos are not welcome and are fellow believers in the same Jesus Christ preached from each others pulpit on Sunday morning.

On the other hand, Obama has not really shown any interest in the Latino Pentecostal voter either. While they could hold the key to success or failure in some of the swing states, it does not appear Obama has taken steps to appeal to Latino Pentecostals.

Right now Latinos in general say they favor Obama over McCain. That will be the case until they look a little closer at Obama’s position on some of the values held dear to Latinos. I believe Obama is venerable on that score…too liberal for a very conservative group of voters.

Pentecostals who are only now realizing they hold their future in their own hands depending on who they cast their votes for President, it would be wise for both candidates to work and listen to this marginalized voter.

McKenzie ends his column by saying, “Pentecostals, especially the Latino Pentecostals who can fill up arenas like Reunion, are going to be a fascinating niche vote to follow.”

Pentecostals are always waiting for the “Spirit to move them, and empower them with power from on high,” and it would not hurt Obama or McCain to pray for a little help from the Pentecostal power waiting to be revealed.

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

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Troubling Statistics for Hispanic Teens

by Israel Ortega

With the recent rise in gasoline prices, we're all trying to cut corners to make our dollar last longer. For families with teens, this may mean less allowance money, coupled with lessons on better financial stewardship. While they're at it, they may want to emphasize the importance of making good life decisions.

In case we needed further reason, recent findings from the government reveal troubling statistics for our teens -- specifically, Hispanic teens.

The findings come from a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDCP talked to about 14,000 students in grades 9-12, in public and private schools in all 50 states (including North Carolina).

The survey found that Hispanic high-school students are at a higher risk than their African American and white teen counterparts to use drugs and attempt suicide. Research also indicates that African American and white teens report having engaged in less sexual activity in the last few years. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Hispanic teens.

In addition, Hispanic teens were more likely than African American and white teens to drink alcohol on school property, sell illegal drugs, ride with a driver under the influence, and use cocaine and ecstasy.

Clearly this is not a list where we want to see our teens leading.

And so the natural question is what to do? For some, the answer is for greater governmental involvement, perhaps in the form of creating yet another program or service. Or perhaps it means asking for more federal monies for a drug rehabilitation center or pregnancy counseling in our local cities and towns.

Such advice is no doubt well intended. But no amount of money can equal a parent sitting down with his or her daughter and talking to them about the dangers of drug use and risky sexual behavior. In every one of our teens is a future doctor, lawyer, CEO and elected official, and steering them towards a road of success is our obligation.

Israel Ortega is a Senior Media Services Associate at The Heritage Foundation.

First appeared in La Prensa and at the Heritage Foundation web site.