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

Friday, August 29, 2008

In Jesus Name, Amen!

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

The Democrats made their strongest pitch ever toward Evangelicals this past week in Denver, Colorado at their national convention. The first ever “Interfaith Gathering” was the first official function of the convention.

It was to be a time when different representatives from various faith beliefs could gather, in the name of unity, proclaim, and exalt their faith in an atmosphere of tolerance. There was a Jewish Rabbi, Muslim Iman, Buddhists Priest, Methodist Minister, Catholic leader, Pentecostal Preacher, and three more Jewish Rabbis.

The gathering, not to be confused with a “service,” as that title was too Evangelical for the planners of the event, was clearly an attempt to water down the Gospel.

The Jewish Daily reported that this was the first time that “the overt use of sectarian language” which had been used in the past, and alienated Jews and other minority religions was not overly emphasized.

Eric Sapp, a faith consultant working with the Democrats in planning the gathering said, “It just wasn’t Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

Clearly, the Democrats who have laid claim in their efforts to reach out to Evangelicals are talking out of both sides of their mouth. In one breath, they claim to want Evangelicals, especially Latino Pentecostals, to join the new tolerant and open Democrat Party. In the other breath, they were planning all along to discredit the name of Jesus.

Someone needs to tell the Democrats that they cannot play politics with our values and Christian beliefs.

In an interesting admission, the Jewish Daily reported, “Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, led the interfaith audience in a “Hebrew amen,” he prompted one of the event’s lighter moments when he added, “Now I feel more at home.”

“Now I feel more at home?”

It was okay for the other religious leaders of the Interfaith Gathering to feel at home by proclaiming or in some cases, leading the entire interfaith audience to join in some of their religious liturgy.

There were readings from the Torah, the Quran, but no reports of anybody reading from the Holy Bible. No wonder so many who do not proclaim Jesus as Lord felt at home.

President Bush was elected by over 80% of the Evangelical vote in the last election. Democrats fearing the growing influence and importance of religious faith in Evangelical voters, and who are faithful to vote on Election Day, are attempting to mislead these voters by creating a false sense of openness and tolerance for Evangelicals.

The Obama campaign is working overtime to attract the Jewish vote, which ironically in the past has always voted for the Democrats in large numbers. This time, with Barrak Obama running for President, the campaign is afraid that Obama’s alleged support for Israel is not recognizd by Jewish voters as strong enough. For that reason alone, it gave Jewish Rabbis prominent roles throughout the convention program.

The Democrats even had a “Faith Caucus” that explored the role of religion in politics. Several of the presenters at the caucus focused on “common good faith based initiatives” in politics. In a “Unity Breakfast,” Democrats attempted to paint a Party with a keen interest in ensuring that religion would play a role in an Obama Administration.

What is interesting is a proposition propagated by Jim Wallis of Sojourners, that Evangelicals are no longer interested in holding abortion and gay marriage as issues of importance. In other words, Wallis is trying to create a new Evangelical movement that is trying to water down the opposition of Evangelicals for two corner stone issues.

Instead, Wallis and the Democrats who finally have found religion, want the Church to concentrate on new issues, the emphasis on "new issues".

The Jewish Daily, reports, “Democrats say they are hoping to focus on areas of common values in all faiths — fighting poverty, loving one’s neighbor, justice, equality and caring for the earth — rather than their theological differences.”

Wait a minute, as a life long Democrat, I thought the Democrats were always against poverty, and for justice, equality, caring for the earth, and loving one’s neighbor? Have I been mislead all these years?

No wonder we are still fighting poverty, for justice for all people, for equality in human rights, caring about our environment, and respecting one another. It seems the Democrats have finally found the issues that Evangelicals have preached from the pulpit for years.

In all fairness, the Jewish Daily reports that “Jesus name” was used FOUR TIMES” during the Interfaith Gathering. “Oh my God, FOUR TIMES!” I sure hope the other religious leaders were not offended or felt uncomfortable with the use of Jesus name.

I had been invited to pray at this Interfaith Gathering by the CEO of Democratic National Convention Committee, Rev. Leah Daughtry. As you may have read in the newspaper, I was disinvited because I was deemed “too controversial” for the event and the campaign.

I have been wondering about a side conversation Rev. Daughtry, Rev. Apostle Ralph Beecham, President of the Greater Metropolitan Denver Ministerial Alliance and I had regarding invitations to pray in public. Daughtry said that if she was invited, people should know that as a Pentecostal she would pray in Jesus Name.

I told Rev. Daughtry I agreed and if I was asked to pray at an interfaith event, the people who invited me should understand that I would pray in Jesus Name as well. Rev. Apostle Ralph Beecham agreed with both of us. We decided this was a non-negotiable value.

Today, knowing that the Democrats do not want “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” at their conventions, I am wondering if maybe Rev. Daughtry remembered I would end up praying in Jesus Name.

Who knows if I had not been disinvited, maybe the Jewish Daily would be reporting that a Pentecostal preacher from Denver stood up to pray at the Interfaith Gathering and made a whole lot of people uncomfortable because not only did he pray in Jesus Name, he ended up speaking in tongues.

In Jesus Name, Amen!

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

Sunday, August 24, 2008

So Can Obama Score a TD at INVESCO Field?

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

The big party has finally arrived in Denver, Colorado. After months of anticipation, the delegates are in the city and ready to take care of party business…and the business of parties and receptions.

Beyond all the speeches, the marches and protests, Obama and his advisors while making the rounds from party to party, will be working on getting the Hillary Clinton supporters on their side. The social events provide a nice background to pressure Hillary supporters to come on board and work for the Obama candidacy.

Some pundits have said that the party convention is outdated, unnecessary, and just a way to reward the party faithful for all of their work leading up to the convention. That may be true, but this time, it gives the Obama people an opportunity to lobby the delegates who have not sworn their loyalty to Obama.

Meanwhile, we have thousands of protesters that have shown up to march and rally around their issues of concern. We have “end the war protesters”, “anti-abortion proponents”, “gay lobbyists”, “immigration reform marchers”, and the Denver Police as the barrier between chaos and lawlessness.

Already on the first day, posturing back and forth by protesters and the riot trained police, protesters seemed to be testing how far they could push the police. The rest of the week may prove to be very interesting as protesters continue to push their agendas.

At least for now, the message of the protesters is not completely clear, as protest signs and protesters sometimes seemed contradictory and a bit confused on how to react to the large police presence. The City and DNCC officials have worked out a “protest cage” where protesters will be allowed to gather and rally near the Pepsi Center.

The protesters are not pleased with this location and have already gone to the courts asking for relief and wanting a better 1st Amendment location for their rallies. The protesters want to be within sight and sound of the delegates as they go about their business at the Pepsi center. Chances are they will have to accept the current arrangement or who knows, we may see a more aggressive stance by the protesters.

Meanwhile, many other organizations have planned forums, panel discussions, religious events, and rallies for delegates and other convention visitors looking for things to do. It is definitely a good time to network with other national leaders and colleagues, and push agendas and ideas on issues and concerns facing our nation.

After three days of prime time speeches and the nomination of Senator Joe Biden as Vice President at the Pepsi Center, the last night of the convention moves to INVESCO Field @ Mile High Stadium, the home of the Denver Broncos. The football stadium gives Obama a larger audience for his acceptance speech on national networks and cable channels.

From the fifty-yard line, Obama will give his acceptance speech as the party’s nominee for President. Truly an historical event as the first African American is nominated for the office of the U.S. Presidency. Before a potential audience of 75,000 partisans, images of Berlin come to mind. In Berlin, over 200,000 Berliners gathered to see and witness the Obama spectacle. Shouting “Obama, Obama” their voices rang through the air in Berlin, leaving the impression at least that Berliners would vote for him.

While it was an impressive sight and sound, it does not change the fact that Obama cannot separate himself from McCain in the “American polls.” Polls show either McCain or Obama ahead by two or three points. A dead heat at this point.

After what many considered a slam-dunk for the Democrats in November, the issue of party unity seems to have created a divide that is proving not so easy to overcome. After eight years of Bush and Republican policies, surprisingly McCain is running stronger than most pundits expected.

A Wall Street Journal poll shows that 21% of the Democrats that supported Hillary Clinton for president will vote for McCain. 27% of them are still undecided, which is not a good sign. Only 52% of Hillary Democrats will support Obama.

So while the national news media reports on protesters and marches, behind the scenes, Obama advisors are trying desperately to unite the party. Without the Hillary supporters, Obama knows he simply cannot win.

Obama seems to be making rookie mistakes as he moves to consolidate the support of the partys behind him. There are numerous reports that Obama did not even interview Hillary for the position of vice president, or even give her a heads up that he had decided on Senator Joe Biden as his choice. By snubbing Hillary, some Hillary supporters are more determined not to support Obama.

One should not forget that Hillary Clinton received the support of 18 million supporters during the primaries. I do not see how Obama can overlook the fact that 18 million voters essentially voted against him. Not a good start to the movement of uniting the party.

So back to Thursday night at INVESCO Field with 75,000 partisans shouting “Obama, Obama,” they will be hard pressed to deliver the right message of party unity. It will only bring back to memory the celebrity candidacy of Obama, and not someone who needs to show that he has the ability to unite the Democrats.

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Henry Cejudo - an American Olympic Champion

By Fidel “Butch” Montoya

Hooray for the United States. It is the land where Olympic dreams can happen if only you believe in yourself. We love to hear stories of young men and women who worked hard to achieve their dream of being an Olympic Champion.

Just look at the worldwide attention given to Olympic Gold Medal record holder Michael Phelps…and yes, every American was proud of his Olympic accomplishments.

As a nation, we should all salute the Olympic Gold Medal winner in men’s freestyle 55-kilogram wrestling. 21-year-old Henry Cejudo, who was 31st in last year’s world championships, kept faithful to his dream and at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in China, he won his Gold Medal and put on one of the best displays of American patriotism.

In fact, the son of undocumented Mexican immigrants, Cejudo was so proud of his wrestling feat, he wrapped himself in the American flag, burst out crying the moment he realized he had won the match and defeated Japan’s Tomohiro Matsunaga.

Some photographers who saw the picture of Henry Cejudo, crying and wrapped in the American flag, called it as one of the most memorable moments of the Olympics. A classic picture of an American athlete displaying his pride in victory, but much more cognizant of his victory because he knew he was representing his country.

We all have heard the story by now, of how he grew up in poverty, moving from town to town, as his mother looked for better jobs to take care of her family. Cejudo’s parents separated when he was only four years old and the burden of caring for the family fell to his mother, Nelly Rico. Cejudo says he will give the Gold Medal to his mother, for all the sacrifices she made to raise her six children.

Cejudo says they never had much in terms of material wealth, but his mother worked whatever job she could to provide all of them riches in love for one another. Moreover, when love was not enough, she made tamales so Cejudo could sell on the street and continue with his wrestling in school.

Cejudo was born in Los Angeles to undocumented parents who came to the United States seeking that elusive dream of a better life. There is no question that Henry Cejudo faced all the difficulties of children raised in undocumented families. Our antiqued immigration laws have made life unbearable difficult for so many families who only want a better life.

Cejudo worked hard to compete as a wrestler in high school, and took advantage of the opportunity to move to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado with his older brother Angel. His brother Angel was also a high school sports star.

Cejudo’s success story is one that we can all be proud of and remember as one of the most inspiring moments of the Beijing Olympics. It made me proud to see him wrapped in the American flag, proudly displaying his pride as an American hero.

Cejudo held on tightly to the American flag he wore as a cape and swore he would give to his mother. His mother could not go to China to watch her son compete in the Olympics. She could not obtain a visa to travel to China, so she will wait to celebrate her son’s new Gold Medal, a prize he said belonged to his mother as well.

Henry Cejudo’s story is one all Americans can celebrate and recognize the accomplishments of a young man who overcame obstacles in his life to finally reach his dream of being an Olympic champion.

However, wait one minute. Is it really a story all Americans could rally around? Not if you read some of the comments placed in the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC website.

The headline on their website should give you some idea of the comments, “Anchor Baby wins Gold for the US”.

As we all may know by now, an anchor baby is a child born in the USA of undocumented immigrants. The 14th Amendment to the USA Constitution grants citizenship to children born in the United States even if their parents are not citizens.

Here is a sampling of the nasty and hateful comments:

“An anchor baby is NOT a REAL American because his PARENTS are ILLEGALS!”

“Anyone else notice every time an anchor baby Olympian does good the media is all over it? The team is full of them. I doubt the anchor babies are more athletic than Americans, Mexicans aren't known for being athelic. The sheet number of them of them in our country is probably why we have so many on our olympic team.”

“He's winning in the Olympics while tens of thousands more illegals are robbing, killing and raping as members of gangs across the country. I will gladly take an Olympic loss and save an American's life any day. F the liberal media and what they are doing to destroy our country.”

“When anchor baby law is passed will his medal be taken away?”

“He should not be in America.”

“If anyone spots him in LaOpinion or another Hispanic rag holding a Mexico flag they need to strip his citizenship and gold medal.”

And one last comment from our good friends in the Democratic Party…the Party that says they want the Latino vote because they care for Latinos:

“Immigration reform should reflect a commitment to enforcement, not reward those who blatantly break the rules.” - Rep Dan Boren D-Ok

At least Cejudo had the right words to celebrate his American dream: “I’m living the American dream. The United States is the land of opportunity, and I’m so glad I can represent it.”

Henry Cejudo…you are truly an American Hero and we are proud of you!

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

Friday, August 15, 2008

So Who Is Actually Building the Wall?

By Fidel “Butch” Montoya

So what exactly is the status of the great wall of Homeland Security along the Mexican border? With all of the long-winded rhetoric and debate about the value of a wall along the border, some critics still question whether the wall will actually “secure the border?”

Government estimates show that about half of the undocumented immigrants in our country are immigrants who have over stayed their visas. If that is true, then the wall along the border will do nothing to stop this group of immigrants from entering the country. These immigrants are crossing the border legally at entry checkpoints staffed by U. S. customs and border guards.

The other irony about the wall is that although the border between Mexico and the United States is about 1,952 miles in length, Homeland Security is only building 670 miles of fence along the border. I have often wondered about the other 1,282 miles of unfenced border and how the wall being built is going to keep undocumented workers and families out of the USA.

One other sensitive issue the Bush Administration refuses to address is whether the $1.2 billion dollars in initial costs will actually secure the border. With the high demand of illegal drugs in the USA, the drug dealers will do what they have to so their illicit drugs get to their American customers. That means finding ways around, under, over, or through the new wall so the supply of illegal drugs meets the demand.

Exactly what do politicians mean when they talk about “securing our borders” before we can have Congress enact a comprehensive immigration reform legislative package? Does leaving a gaping hole of some 1,282 miles in open border with Mexico mean we have a secure border? Does leaving the Canadian border unprotected mean we will consider our borders secured?

Estimates by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, show that the cost of maintaining and building the wall over the expected 25-year life span is going to cost the over extended taxpayer $49 billion dollars. Keep in mind that the “over extended taxpayer” means you and me.

Meanwhile while we are spending billions of dollars to “secure our southern border,” the northern border between Canada and the United States remains very venerable for terrorists crossing without any fear of being stopped or even detected.

One of the issues anti immigration politicians simply refuse to acknowledge is the fact that the September 11, 2001 terrorists came across the border into the country from Canada. They used documents that gave them the right to cross over the border without any red flags being raised about their status.

If we are concerned about border security issues along the northern border, where is the wall? While there are thousands of miles of unsecured Canadian border and no plans to construct a wall, are our borders really secure?

At this point, 333 miles of wall have been completed along the Mexican border. Construction delays, court hearings, disruption of centuries of a way of life, and the lack of a coordinated policy and commitment have delayed the project. Homeland Security plans to complete 670 miles of the wall by the end of the year.

The irony about completing the wall on time is all about the availability of construction workers. According to a 2006 Pew Hispanic Center survey, 1 in 5 undocumented workers were in the construction industry.

The general contractors building the wall know too well that construction workers are in short supply. The group’s spokesperson, Perry Vaughan when asked in an interview with the Brownsville Herald if the border wall could be built on deadline without “illegal workers?” Vaughan admitted, “It’s probably borderline impossible to be honest with you.”

I guess that statement says it all. Homeland Security wants to secure our borders with a new border wall, but it can’t be built without “undocumented workers” actually doing the work.

So the question is, why do the anti immigrant crowd deny the value of undocumented workers in our country, when the facts all show that the wall can’t be built without the very same workers they are trying to keep out?

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

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wedge Issues

By Rev. Romal Tune

During the summer of 2003, my cousin and his girlfriend celebrated the birth of their son Glenn Molex, III. I remember getting the call from his father and hearing the pride in his voice when he told me about the birth. My cousin and his girlfriend live in the inner city and by social definitions, they are poor. But in spite of their financial situation, when they found out that they were going to become parents, they decided to go through with the pregnancy and keep the baby. They do not attend church, and I'm not sure if they have ever been inside a church for anything other than funerals for friends lost to street violence.

Two weeks after my grandmother died I received a call from my mother, who is also now deceased, telling me that there was a drive-by shooting on my cousin's house. He, friends, and other family members were sitting on the porch that night when a car drove up and shots were fired. My cousin's girlfriend was in the house with the baby. She laid him on the couch and ran to see if everyone was okay. When she returned to get the baby, he was dead -- a stray bullet hit him in the head. What's my point in sharing this tragedy?

These were two young people living in poverty who decided to have their child, not because they are Christians, not because of their understanding of the Bible, or not because of any change in legislation related to abortion, but simply because they wanted to raise and love their child. However, that dream was taken away from them because of a drive-by shooting.

Here is where I find myself getting angry with the right-to-life argument. I don't like the idea of abortion. I know women who have made that choice, and they have told me it was the hardest thing for them to do. Some regret it, some don't, but all of them agree that it has stayed with them all of their lives. What I would like to see from those who champion the right-to-life argument is that they spend just as much energy fighting for children to have the right to a better life once they are born. I do not condemn their perspective; I just believe they should go much further and fight for a child's future once he or she is born. In other words, fight for better public schools, for tougher gun laws, mentoring programs, after-school programs to give kids options so that they don't choose gangs, and adopt children who need a loving family.

Similarly, rather than condemning women who choose to have abortions, the question we have to answer is this: Will the church minister to women in the pain of making that decision and help them find healing through a God who still loves them -- a God who is forgiving and who reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, and because of him even in our brokenness we can be made whole? God does not hate people; God hates sin, which is why God sent Jesus, so that sin no longer has the power to separate us from God.

When it comes to abortion and homosexuality, maybe we should look at how our words can hurt people emotionally and distance them spiritually. Is it possible that we can do what a wise man once told me:

When you are doing the work of ministering to people, it is not your job to change anyone, only God can do that, your job is to be a connector. You introduce them to God and let them get to know each other. Our assignment is simply to hold God's people with our hands open, with all of their hopes, dreams, faults, fears, pain, and doubts. You hold them with your hands open, and the moment you try to close your hands and mold them into what you think they should be, you are going too far.

I think he was right. Had I allowed myself to be molded into the image of what others thought I should be, I would not be "becoming" the person that God wants me to be. I would have become what others chose to create, a proverbial golden calf created by those who were too impatient to wait on God.

Rev. Romal Tune is the CEO of Clergy Strategic Alliances, a graduate of Howard University and Duke University School of Divinity
Monday, August 11, 2008

Wedge Issues (Part 1, by Romal Tune)

As we draw closer to the candidate forum at Saddleback Church, I've had several conversations with clergy on the West Coast. Many are wondering if candidates will be asked about abortion and gay marriage. In California there is a ballot initiative on gay marriage, and I'm also hearing that this issue is on the ballot in Florida. No matter how much some people don't want to talk about it, these issues are not going away and they cannot be ignored. I am also among those who have attempted to avoid discussing these two issues, fearing the backlash or getting people off track from talking about other issues on which I work. But perhaps we can engage in a far more healthy discussion about them than we have in the past.

These are the two most divisive issues in the Christian community. I have friends on both sides, and whenever we talk about them I hear a lot of anger toward people on the opposing side. When my liberal friends talk about abortion and gay rights, they talk about ways we can decrease the abortion rate and make it uncommon and rare. When my conservative friends talk about abortion, they talk about sin and the right to life. When my liberal friends talk about gay marriage, they talk about fairness and equality. When my conservative friends talk about gay marriage, they talk about sin.

Homosexuality is not an issue that I fully understand, nor is it one that I have spent time working on with congregations engaged in social justice. But whenever it comes up in discussions around politics, I have given up on engaging in conversations that use the sin argument. I have seen the tears of parents, family members, and friends of people who are gay when they tell the story of how their loved one was treated by the church or heard a sermon condemning them to hell and expressing hatred, including stories of suicide because people felt they had nowhere to turn.

But when I read the Bible and even more so, the Epistles, what I find missing from the conversation is the fact that these are letters to churches. The writers were telling Christians how they should behave in contrast to how those in the world were behaving. Simply put, it's difficult for us to demand that the world conform to biblical standards because they would fail. The only way we are able to live by biblical principles is because we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. The other issue with condemning people for their sins is the reality that God is not done with them (or us) yet. Yes, I believe that we should address sin, but we should do it out of love -- so that people give their lives to Christ -- and not out of judgment or to evoke fear. I find that some of my friends spend more energy talking about sin than they do about love or the fruit of the Spirit.

If we support legislation solely on the premise that certain behaviors are sin, doing so will not do anything to affect a person's relationship with God. My understanding is that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. God has not given us the power to change anyone; it's hard enough trying to change ourselves. The power is in God's hands. Perhaps our assignment is to be connectors, introducing people to God and then letting them have their own conversation.

Poverty and Personal Responsibility (Part 1, by Romal Tune)

During this election cycle, we have heard candidates talk about ways in which we can work to end poverty. John Edwards has a new initiative to cut poverty in half in 10 years. These and other initiatives are certainly admirable ideas and much-needed programs that could help millions of men, women, and children.

In additions to programs and needed policy changes from our elected officials, we are also hearing about personal responsibility. And yes, inasmuch as we should look to our elected officials to address the needs of a growing “underclass,” those in need must also do something to change their circumstances. However, as we work to address the needs of the poor through policy, programs, and personal responsibility, we must also take into account that something is missing from this dialogue.

As someone who grew up poor in a single-parent household, I went without dinner more nights that I can even count. At times having to choose between using my bus fare for lunch and walking home, sometimes the decision to eat forced me to humble myself and stand on the corner asking strangers for change so that I could get home. I know from experience that there is more to the task of eliminating poverty than programs, policy, and personal responsibility.

For those of us who either grew up poor or work in poor communities, you have likely come to realize that the psychological impact of poverty is just as damaging as the circumstance itself. Perhaps the most difficult task, when trying to get people to engage in the work of their own liberation, is convincing them to believe that they are worthy of a better life. Yes, there are those in poor communities who, given a fair chance, will rise above their circumstances and pursue a better life. But we cannot ignore the reality that there are others whose spirits have been broken and feel like the darkness of poverty is their destiny. There are those who have been told so many times that they will never amount to anything, will never achieve anything, and even deserve to be where they are, that they now believe it is true. These are the men, women, and children for whom it will take more than good policy to get them out of poverty. These are the men, women, and children who can no longer be inspired by words that seem foreign to them, because it has been words that have done them the most harm.

There is a saying that "hurt people, hurt people." In other words, many living in poverty are simply doing what they were taught by their parents. They are using the skills and words handed down to them by people who were hurting, and they are now instilling the same beliefs in their children. They have not seen examples of how to do things in a different way, they do not know how to encourage their children because they were not encouraged as a child, and they do not know how to live as a community or family where people meet the needs of others so that everyone can succeed, because from early in their lives they have been left alone and had to fend for themselves.

[to be continued...]

Rev. Romal Tune is the CEO of Clergy Strategic Alliances, a graduate of Howard University and Duke University School of Divinity, and a member of the Red Letter Christians.

Poverty and Personal Responsibility (Part 2, by Romal Tune)

So how do we help people who have been hurt so much psychologically and emotionally that they don't believe in themselves and don't believe they deserve better? How do we help children who have never heard a parent say, "I love you, you are special, talented, and will do great things one day"? Or those who watched their parents harm themselves through substance abuse or alcoholism? Is there hope for these men, women, and children? If we believe in God and the power of God to give us beauty for ashes, then the answer is yes!

For many people living in poverty, their change will not come through programs and policies, but it will come through personal responsibility. What I mean is that it will come through our personal responsibility to walk alongside them and show them through our actions that we are not going to give up on them. It will require that those of us who no longer live in poverty or have never known poverty develop substantive relationships with people who are poor. We must go out and meet people where they are and show them how we got out, show them through our interaction with them that they are loved. Invite them into our homes so that they can be exposed to a better life, see what healthy relationships look like, and hear us talk to our children using words of empowerment. When people see living, breathing examples of what God can do, that's when they believe God can do it.

And yes, I understand that this notion of stepping out of our comfort zones to have deeper personal relationships with people whom we don't know and perhaps don't understand, is not very appealing or makes us uncomfortable. But is this not what Jesus did? Every person he encountered was a stranger before that moment. In fact, we were strangers when he found us. But as it was when Jesus walked the earth, reaching out to those in need of change, touching people who had never felt a compassionate hand, so it is today.

Yes, in our own power and limited ability we cannot do this, and I would daresay that some may not want to do it, but with God all things are possible. If we humble ourselves and say, "God, I cannot move this mountain, I need you to move it for me, increase my faith," then and only then can we truly eliminate poverty by liberating the poor from the psychological bondage of their circumstances.

I know this is possible because it is my story. Had it not been for men and women who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, people who refused to leave when I tried to force them out of my life, had it not been for them I would either still be living in poverty, selling drugs, in a gang, or dead. But thanks be to God for those men and women who refused to give up on me simply because they realized that in their own lives, God refused to give up on them. Yes, we need better policy, new programs, and personal responsibility, but perhaps what we need most is to stand alongside the people who need us most.

Rev. Romal Tune is the CEO of Clergy Strategic Alliances, a graduate of Howard University and Duke University School of Divinity

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Law Approves Racial Profiling in Denver

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

The residents of Denver, Colorado have always taken great pride in being a community of tolerance and ability to respect the rights of all people. Compared to the rest of the state, Denver has always been perceived as more liberal and because of it demographics, mindful of the issues of justice and civil rights.

In a city where Latinos sent about 34% of the population, and African Americans about 18%, we should be able to work together to ensure that unjust laws are not passed in our city. Certainly, the minority represent the majority in our city.

On primary Tuesday, Denver voters were asked to approve a new city ordinance requiring police to impound any vehicle where the driver does not have a valid driver's license or where the driver "is suspected of being an illegal alien". There is also a large "impoundment fee" which may prohibit many unlicensed drivers from even getting their vehicle our of the car pound.

The vague language in the initiative will encourage discrimination and harassment based on skin color, spoken language, and appearance. This measure will only divide our community by creating fear and confusion in communities of color, but it will also thrust the undocumented immigrant community further into the shadows of our society.

The ordinance passed with 54% voting yes to implement the ordinance, and 46% voting no.

Currently under Colorado statute, law enforcement officers already have the discretion to impound any vehicle when the driver does not have a valid driver's license or proper insurance on the vehicle. The new ordinance is merely a duplication of state laws and yet another way to legislate a mean spirited effort that ultimately will only increase racial profiling of Latinos in our city.

You may have heard the expression, "driving while Black" used by African Americans when describing racial profiling. Here in Denver, the new expression will be "driving while brown."

As far as I am concerned, this measure will further erode the standard of justice and morality in our community. Denver has a long history and tradition of different ethnic groups contributing to our city, unfortunately on Primary Tuesday; we started to change that perception.

A unique coalition came together to fight the initiative and to educate Denver voters on reasons why this divisive measure would only create more harm than good.

The coalition was comprised of interfaith religious leaders, city officials, Mayor John Hickenlooper, immigrant rights organizations, and labor. Even with this broad based coalition, the measure still passed.

The Colorado Minutemen and CAIR, an affiliate of FAIR supported this immoral initiative. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently added FAIR to its list of hate groups operating in the United States.

Our efforts to ensure that justice would be the primary consideration is what separates us from these mean-spirited hate groups, whose goal is to bring their hate philosophy to our city and create a climate of fear, suspicion, and hate.

The next step in preventing this measure from being fully implemented will mean a turn to the courts. There are serious questions as to its legality, which will only ensure that the new law will be challenged.

Our hopes are now that the court will find reason to prevent this measure from being enforced and look at the passage as a temporary setback. Having lost the election, there simply is no way that people of justice and righteousness can stand idle while an unjust law is on the books.

The passage of this initiative is further proof that we cannot pass immigration reform laws in a piece meal fashion. More and more cities and states around the country are passing immigration laws creating more confusion. The passage of this initiative only points to the necessity that the Federal Government must pass new and comprehensive immigration laws that will fix an outdated and broken immigration system.

The alliances that were forged during this campaign must continue to be vigilant and continue to fight injustice and values that only degrade the standard of immorality in our city.

I wonder how many people meant to go to the polls and vote no, but did not make the time to vote against hate and injustice. No question Dr. Martin Luther King was correct when he stated, "we will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people."

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

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hispanic Evangelicals and the 2008 Presidential Elections

By Rev. Samuel Rodriguez

As a member of the fast growing Brown Evangelical community, we find ourselves between the proverbial rock and the hard place. Surely, we resonate with the Vietnam War Hero, Republican presumptive nominee Sen. John McCain, on issues such as marriage, life, and immigration. However, what do we say to our children and grandchildren when they ask whom we voted for in the election that embodied the prophetic possibility of permanently knocking the legs off and crippling the behemoth of racism in our nation via the candidacy of Sen. Obama?

Let us contextualize the narrative a bit. Brown Evangelicals currently stand at the nexus of a righteousness and justice platform. Historically, white evangelicals thrived by the continual impetus of a two item platform agenda, life and marriage. On the other side, progressive evangelicals and particularly black Christians coalesced around the social-economic issues such as health care, education, and poverty alleviation. Suddenly, Hispanic Christians, particularly Hispanic Evangelicals arrive with a commitment to reconcile both sides with a platform that incorporates the aforementioned issues within a framework of righteousness and justice.

So what do we do? On one hand, do we support the candidate that invested, in comparison to all the other, more political capital in supporting comprehensive immigration reform and deterring the deportation of 12 million of our brethren? Yet, how do we support McCain when his party stands responsible for a xenophobic and nativist strategy rekindling the racist elements within our society?

Or do we support Obama who stands on the polar opposite end with Hispanic Christians on issues such as sanctity of life and traditional marriage advocacy , yet resonates with us on health care, education, poverty alleviation, immigration and other justice concerns?

Correspondingly, the 47 million strong Hispanic populous and particularly the entire Hispanic faith community may very well determine the outcome of the 2008 election via the swing states of New Mexico, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Arizona and Colorado. The question is not whom do we vote for? The true question is, which Isaac do we place on the altar?

In order to address the question, The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference hosted the "Hispanic Evangelicals and the 2008 Presidential Elections Summit" this past weekend in Costa Mesa, Ca. Both McCain and Obama sent representatives to this unprecedented gathering. Dr. Jesse Miranda stated that for the first time in American history, Hispanic Evangelicals stand committed to contextualizing the narrative of political social activism within the framework of the Presidential elections.

Accordingly, the summit participants, including the denominational leaders of America's largest Hispanic Christian denominations, from the Assemblies of God, Baptists, Pentecostals and others a long with mega church pastors, organizational leaders, scholars and members of the evangelical Hispanic media, discussed which candidate best addresses the concerns in the Hispanic Evangelical electorate and which one best reflects the core values of such constituency.

Dr. Juan Hernandez, McCain's National Hispanic Outreach Director explained to the group that McCain should be the candidate of choice simply on three key areas: Immigration reform, sanctity of life and traditional marriage. Hernandez in essence stated that McCain's commitment to Immigration Reform a lone should prompt all Hispanics to make him the candidate of choice. The only problem with Dr. Hernandez's assertions is that according to research presented by Dr. Gaston Espinosa from Claremont McKenna College a few minutes earlier, Immigration does not even appear in the top 5 concerns for Hispanic Americans voters. On the life issue, McCain does have more traction. The leaders unanimously voted and determined that a commitment to a life platform stands as the deal breaking issue for Hispanic evangelicals.

After Joshua Dubois, Faith Outreach Coordinator for the Obama Campaign, addressed the gathering via Speakerphone, Dr. Shaun Casey, who flew in on the final day of the gathering addressed the summit on behalf of Sen. Obama. Shaun was recently appointed as the National Evangelical Outreach Director for Obama 08. Dr. Casey articulated the position of Sen. Obama as it pertains to the other half of the Evangelical platform, justice issues. In addition, Shaun expressed the Senators’ commitment to reducing abortion while addressing the causes of abortion such as poverty and the lack of a high school education. Undoubtedly, Casey's presentation provoked many questions and exchanges with various summit attendees.

Conclusion? Obama is one issue away from capturing the Hispanic Evangelical vote", stated Bishop Steve Perea of Christian Worship Centers, a multi ethnic mega church Pastor and participant. If he can move a bit center right on abortion, than the Democratic nominee may capture a constituency that voted 68% for George W. Bush in 2004.

Even America's largest Hispanic Evangelical organization stands divided on the Presidential candidates as NHCLC Vice President for Social Justice, Rev. Wilfredo
De Jesus, Senior Pastor of the 4500 member strong New Life Covenant Church in Chicago, just joined the Obama Campaign and serves as spokesperson for Matthew 25, a progressive evangelical Political Action Committee committed to Obama's election, while Rev. Mark Gonzalez, NHCLC V.P. for Governmental Affairs, serves on McCain's faith advisory board.

At the end of the day, here's the question. Will abortion trump immigration? Will Latinos ignore the xenophobic and nativist rhetoric allowed by the Republican Committee and vote for McCain? In other words, will Hispanics vote for McCain in spite of his party or will they vote for Obama in spite of his abortion stance? The answer may very well determine who occupies Pennsylvania Avenue come January 2009.

By Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Hispanicevangelicals. com

Friday, August 8, 2008

Thrown Under the Bus by Obama

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

In 2008, religion and faith are to be defining differences between the Republicans and the Democrats. It seems that finally candidates have found religion and now want to share the good news with every voter in whatever forum they can find.

The Democrats and the Obama campaign have been promoting their Interfaith Gathering on the Sunday before the convention begins. The Gathering is the first time a national political convention has started with a religious service. The service was Obama’s way of showing that religious themes and political themes can co-exist and still give people the freedom to worship their God.

About a week ago, I received an invitation to participate with three other faith leaders from across the country in the invocation for the Interfaith Gathering. I was surprised to receive such an honor and opportunity to share my faith with delegates and party leaders who may be in trusted with the responsibility to lead our nation.

I was personally thrilled to help lead this group of national leaders in prayer.

The CEO of the DNC, Rev Leah Daughtry asked me not to share this news with others because a news release was being prepared by her office. To be honest, I had already shared the wonderful news with some friends and family. All were very pleased and shared their good wishes for me.

As I waited to provide more information about my ministry and God’s calling to share the good news, Obama operatives Sky Gallegos and Artie Blanco encouraged me to participate and join the campaign in promoting Obama for president. I was very pleased to be a small part of the political process here in Colorado.

I was impressed with their leadership and enthusiasm for the campaign, and looked forward to finding tasks I could perform for the campaign.

However, almost literally as I got into my car after the meeting, my cell phone rang as I drove down 18th Avenue. It was Rev. Leah Daughtry on the line.

She was calling with some bad news. The Obama campaign staff had finished “vetting” my background. Daughtry said they found some “troubling controversy” while I served as manager of safety TEN years ago. Daughtry claimed she did not know specifically what the trouble was, but I was asked to withdraw my participation from the Invocation.

Talk about being caught off guard, I was stunned to hear that something that happened years ago was preventing me from participating in a prayer.

I was asked to dis invite myself from the Gathering. As I listened to Daughtry trying to explain why I was being dumped, I thought politics were not supposed to be a part of this “unique religious service.”

I thought to myself, a candidate for Office of the President was dumping a Latino Evangelical faith leader because they doubted my integrity and ethical standards. What about other leaders like Governor Richardson, Mayor Webb, Secretary Pena, and Michelle Obama? All have been involved in controversial issues and problems, and yet they are not being “dis invited” to the convention or events related to the DNC.

I was angry and resentful that the Obama people would so easily dump a Latino Evangelical supporter who represented the Latino faith community. Nevertheless, the more I listened to Daughtry, it dawned on me that perhaps the need that Obama says is a priority to reach out to Latino Evangelicals did not really matter after all.

Politics, plain old dirty politics was the reason I was thrown under the bus. I thought my record of commitment over the last twenty years to our city, to the people of faith that were looking for answers to their problems was sufficient to prove that I am sincere in my efforts to serve the Lord.

My friends, beware of the Obama political machine. Obama and his political sidekicks do not care who they dump, or who they literally mock or defame. One has to just remember how easily Obama threw his long time friend and pastor over board when the heat got too hot.

I felt my character and integrity were being questioned and belittled. It was as if I had no ethical standards as a faith leader, and that really bothered me. I was also embarrassed to be dumped by Obama.

In the end, I was just another political pawn of the Obama campaign and not the Latino religious leader I hoped they would respect.

I must confess, I do not have much respect for Obama because of this mean spirited incident, but I am grateful there is another candidate who does not support abortion, or gay marriage, but who is closer to our Latino values.

I just hope when I go work for McCain, he does not dump me as easily as Obama did.

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

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Finally, MALDEF says "Whoa to Sheriff Arpaio"

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

Several weeks ago, I lamented the fact that Arizona Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio had a free hand in his personal and racist campaign against undocumented immigrants.

Some critics of the sheriff have even complained that his deputies have sat outside of grocery stories, shopping malls, and even churches frequented by undocumented immigrants to harass or stop and arrest them for simple traffic infractions like broken tail lights, or because the good sheriff and his deputies “thought they looked suspicious.”

In other words, if your skin color was brown, even if you were a U. S. citizen, you were fair game of the ruthless law enforcement thugs of Maricopa County.

Mayor Phil Gordon of Phoenix, an out spoken critic of Arpaio, called upon the U. S. Department of Justice to investigate the tactics and unlawful campaign of Sheriff Arpaio, his deputies, and his personal army of Minutemen he deputized as his personal “posse” to assist his department. Arpaio even allows many of the Minutemen to carry guns and rifles as members of his “Minuteman posse.”

It seemed like no one wanted to take on Arpaio or his racist policies against undocumented immigrants.

That was the case until MALDEF; the Mexican American Legal Defense Educational Fund filed a class action lawsuit against Sheriff Arpaio for racial profiling and civil rights violations.

According to the lawsuit, “It seeks to stop Arpaio, who styles himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” and his deputies from engaging in unconstitutional searches and seizures of U.S. citizens based on their Latino heritage or appearance.”

Under an agreement with ICE,( Immigration Customs Enforcement) an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, Sheriff Arpaio was obligated to follow the “287(g) agreement for enforcing federal immigration laws.

The “287(g) agreement" with ICE, provides local law enforcement agencies special training and grants them the authority to enforce complex immigration laws.

The lawsuit states, "Sheriff Arpaio agreed to follow 'ICE guidelines (that) state officers can only use 287(g) authority when people are taken into custody as a result of violating state or local criminal law. Police cannot randomly ask for a person’s immigration status or conduct immigration raids,' and that officers may only use their authority when dealing with someone who is suspected of a state crime that is more than a traffic offense.”

The problem was that the Arpaio, his deputies and Minuteman posse were breaking “federal laws” by stopping suspected undocumented immigrants for violating simple traffic violations or raiding homes, or shopping malls.

Generally, the people arrested by the sheriff’s personal campaign against immigrants meant that even people, who had the proper documents, were forced to remain in jail until they could provide the necessary paperwork.

It was literally a flash back to Nazi Germany when the elite SS troopers would stop Jews and ask, “your papers, please.”

Kristina Campbell, MALDEF Staff Attorney said that in addition to basically “flouting the U. S. Constitution, He has drained resources from other crime fighting and investigation units, and his discriminatory practices have undermined trust – a critical component of effective law enforcement – in the Latino community.”

The ACLU of Arizona and the ACLU Immigrants Rights Project have joined MALDEF in filing the lawsuit, Melendres v. Arpaio, before the U.S. District Court for Arizona.

Finally, Sheriff Arpaio from Maricopa County is under scrutiny for violating the civil rights of undocumented immigrants and for breaking federal immigration laws as well.

Imagine that, Sheriff Arpaio, the lawbreaker. MALDEF is out to put a stop to the ruthless campaign of injustice by Sheriff Arpaio and preventing the Sheriff from violating federal laws while pretending to be enforcing federal immigration laws against "criminals".

MALDEF deserves our appreciation for their efforts to finally put a stop to “America’s toughest sheriff.”

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