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

Friday, September 19, 2008

Slanderous attack of Palin, Pentecostalism, Christianity and God.

Fidel "Butch" Montoya

This Pat Oliphant political cartoon from The Washington Post is the height of news media hypocrisy and irresponsibility as it relates to the private religious beliefs of Sarah Palin, the candidate for vice-president under the Republican ticket.

I am appalled and sickened to think that a major newspaper would publish such garbage and left wing liberal slandering of a religious group of people in the United States who profess to be Pentecostal believers. The media frenzy in trying to discredit and destroy the candidacy of Palin is simply the openness of the evil that has overtaken our country, in this case under the guise of the First Amendment. This cartoon is hogwash!

The General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, George O. Wood has condemned the cartoon as something other religious faiths would not stand for, or allow to be published without voicing their outrage.

"The cartoon is despicable." Millions of Christians today follow the example of first century Christians who prayed in other tongues. The 'Washington Post' would not think of printing a cartoon that mocked members of the Muslim or Jewish faiths. It should be ashamed."

The cartoon is despicable and I for one wonder where the outrage of the Muslim or Jewish faiths are?? If this type of shameless depiction of Muslim or Jewish faiths were to printed in The Washington Post or any other major news paper in the United States....or in fact, in the world, we would not hear the end of the outrage and criticism.

In fact, when newspapers around the world published a cartoon likeness of the Prophet Mohammed, there were world wide riots and death threats toward the cartoonist and newspapers who published the cartoons, and remember, it was just because of the likeness of the Prophet was being printed, not necessarily any political statement that might have appeared with the cartoon.

Here are some interesting findings of a Harris Poll related to who believes in God as the ultimate Creator of life. Keep in mind, I am not implying any opinion of mine own, just reporting the facts as the poll discovered.

"The belief was pronounced along partisan divides: 73 percent of Republican respondents and 75 percent of conservatives believe God is the ultimate Creator. The figure stood at 58 percent among Democrats and 48 percent among liberals."

And some people wonder under what influences do the ideas such as this Oliphant political cartoon are generated?

The Ombudsman for The Washington Post, Deborah Hall, a person who supposedly represents the viewers perspective related to news opinions or bias used in a news story by some "fair and balanced" reporters, told the A/G News and Information Service, "Speaking of overdoing it, a political
cartoon by Pat Oliphant that appeared on washingtonpost.com Wednesday prompted complaints from about 350 readers who said he lampooned their faith. Readers were right to complain,"

Yes, we have the right to complain and need to do it in larger numbers. Here are two Internet links that we need to share with other Believers who need to voice their Holy outrage and sentiments that condemn the "liberal news media" for their callous and despicable attitude" toward Sarah Palin and Pentecostal believers.

Deborah Howell e-mail: HowellDC@washingtonpost.com

Link to letter to the editor:

I also call up the religious leaders of other faiths and beliefs to condemn the cartoons that lampoon the religious beliefs of not only Sarah Palin, but millions of Pentecostal believers. Pentecostal believers are one of the world's largest growing religious sects and the Assemblies of God represents one of the largest Pentecostal church organizations in the world. We are not dealing with a small religious sect or a group of "wacko's or holy rollers."

This outrageous cartoon was posted online in The Washington Post on Wednesday, September . It is evident the political cartoonist does not understand the first thing about Pentecostal beliefs. Instead he leans on his biased and ignorant myths about Pentecostalism. His audacious and lack of understanding is a poor example of a journalist who should at least understand what he is mocking and condemning in his unrighteous bigotry. According to another national poll, the Gallup Poll states, "most Americans believe God is the Creator, but the cartoonist paints Him to be cranky, befuddled, a user of profanity and far from omniscient."

What a shame The Washington Post is compiled to publish such religious bigotry and in the same breath, defend the notion that such mockery, blistering and blasphemous attack against Pentecostals and ultimately, God the Creator is warranted.

This perhaps is the best open example of the attacks that Sarah Palin and her family are experiencing because of their religious beliefs. In a country where the liberal news media defends the right of every person in our country to believe and do as they please, they are always quick to condemn the "intolerance" of Christians.

It seems in their minds it is okay to believe in anything they find palatable, but if we condemn their lifestyle, we are intolerant and quick to condemn a person's right to live as they please. In fact, their hypocrisy is despicable.

I suppose if I mentioned the Biblical truth Pat Oliphant must face for blaspheming the Holy Spirit, and the consequences of such stupidity, I might be called a cold and callous Christian. But the Bible is clear, Luke 12:10, "And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven."

Not just my words....but Biblical truth from the Holy Bible.

Blessings to you and may the Lord give us strength to remain faithful to our beliefs and yearning to speak in whatever language we chose or as the Spirit directs us, to make our supplications known to the Lord Jesus.

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

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What Drugs are doing to Our Families

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

I received a telephone call a few days ago from Pastor Jerry Gonzales of Grand Junction, Colorado with an urgent request for prayer. He asked that I share the prayer request with you and your churches. This is a very urgent prayer request and we believe that only through the intervention of God will make a difference. But first of all, as members of His Church, we must call upon his name in unity.

Yesterday two women came to his office at the church and were very worried and distraught about the drug wars in Mexico. The Washington Post recently had an editorial about "Mexico's War". The newspaper editorial reports there have been numerous murders, missing people kidnapped by drug thugs, rape and crimes against women and children, scores of beheadings, massacres of entire families and assassinations of senior officials.

Unfortunately there are many corrupt local police who are on the drug lord's payroll. Even federal law enforcement authorities are also cooperating with the drug cartels. President Felipe Calderon recently added 40,000 army soldiers to fight this war, but even they have failed to put a halt to the state of chaos, violence, fear and the gangs waging this war.

Pastor Gonzales says in his email, "Yesterday I spoke with two very distraught ladies about a very critical situation going on with their loved-ones in Mexico. I spoke with Rosario and her sister Ortancia regarding the kidnapping and beating of their brother and husbands by criminal elements demanding money and/or selling drugs for them. The brother was severely beaten but his life was spared after the gang members were offered his new car.

Entire villages are at the mercy of these thugs. The police and authorities are powerless to do anything and in many places they have abandoned villages and towns in fear for their own lives.

Only an intervention by All-mighty God is the answer. I ask you to pray not only for this situation but for all of Mexico.

This situation is just the tip of the ice berg. I know I am not telling you anything you are not already aware of but my heart was so broken by this family that I am trying to share this with the people of God to come together and intercede for those suffering so greatly."

From a political and strategic point of view, with the worsening conditions in Mexico, we must remember a free and democratic Mexico is best for Mexico and the United States. If Mexican President Felipe Calderón cannot control and resolve the violence and state of urgent need, we may have a very dysfunctional and leftist government, on less than friendly terms with our country, just south of our border. The ramifications of a country out of control would have massive repercussions for both the United States and Mexico.

Here is just one more fact mentioned in The Washington Post editorial which I think will help you understand the urgency and violence that exists in Mexico at this very hour.

"MANY PEOPLE in Washington are rightly alarmed about the rising toll of military and civilian casualties in Afghanistan. They might be surprised to learn that a roughly equal number of people have been killed so far this year in a war raging much closer to home -- in Mexico.

More Mexican soldiers and police officers have died fighting the country's drug gangs in the past two years than the number of U.S. and NATO troops killed battling the Taliban. Civilian casualties have been just as numerous, and as gruesome, By the official count, kidnappings in Mexico now average 65 a month, ranking it well ahead of Afghanistan and Iraq."

One last thought we need to think about and include in our prayer as well. "U.S. money and weapons are fueling this war. Billions of dollars from American drug users flow to the drug syndicates."

The Mexican government's battle against drug gangs is deadlier than most of us realize.

Let us join together in prayer across this nation in unity and in a spirit of urgency, asking for deliverance from the killings and violence for the people of Mexico.

God Bless Mexico and it's people,

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Are Nativism, xenophobia, & quasi-racist elements Exculsive to Republicans?

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

A question was asked if we could really vote for the Republican ticket because of their harsh treatment of the immigration issue in the GOP platform. The question was whether or not Latino evangelicals "can vote for McCain-Palin in spite of the Nativism, xenophobia, and quasi-racist elements embedded in the Republican Party."

Here is an article reviewing where the Democrats have ended up in their platform on immigration. Much to my disgust, it doesn't look much different than the Republican platform. The Democrats were the party of change and creating a climate for comprehensive immigration reform.

I don't see much happening unfortunately when it comes to immigration reform. We will continue to scapegoat the immigrant, the stranger amongst us. Raids will continue to separate families, create fear, suspicion, hate, and more articulation of racism in our society.

Here is an interesting development that received very little media attention and as most of you may know, the immigration reform issue received zero attention from the Obama/Biden team during the DNC. In fact as you will read below, the Democrats have moved to the right on the issue of undocumented immigration.

While we were being promised a new and aggressive attempt to address the issue of immigration, instead we find a party platform that could read as harshly as the GOP's platform. We now see phrases like, "required to obey the law," "get right with the law," "nation of laws," and a conditional "pathway to citizenship,"

The article states that "centralist Democrats, in league with mainstream Latino and immigrant-rights advocacy groups, MISCALCULATED the political power of the anti-immigrant messaging and abandoned the center in the debate, allowing anti-immigration forces to shift it further to the right."

The Democratic Party moved to "enforcement first," but have been pressured to accept "enforcement only" immigration policy. The proponents of the get tough movement have successfully steered the party toward an "enforcement only" policy, making any attempt for meaningful reform more difficult..

In fact, the article states, " The "come out of the shadows and get right with the law" language of the Democratic Party furthers the restrictionist stereotyping of illegal immigrants as criminals and threats to society. Rather than new messaging, the party appears to be ceding to right-wing concepts of criminalization of immigrants and place the onus of the immigration mess on immigrants rather than on the system itself."

I ask myself the question, how did this happen? Too many Democrats who supported HB 4437 and we did nothing to expose or call them on the carpet. Allowing Democrats to co-sponsor the SAVE Act and again keeping the blinders on and politely keeping silent. We have not even held the party leadership who have advocated a more harsh position accountable. Unfortunately before the changes in the platform, it was getting harder to sometimes tell the difference between a Democrat and a Republican....now it seems there may be no difference.

"Acceding to a law-and-order and security framing of the immigration crisis, the Democrats have given the ongoing crackdown greater legitimacy." Imagine if the Democrats were not the party of the people, or maybe that may have changed as well.

Read the article below and see how the Democrats have shifted to the right on immigration with enforcement being the central key and emphasis.

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

Democrat's shift right on immigration a mistake on many levels

Migra Matters - posted by Duke1676

Those of us who have followed the immigration debate over the last few years couldn't help but notice the rightward shift on immigration recently taken by the Democratic Party and its beltway allies in the quest for electoral victory. With the release of the party platform formulated in Denver, this shift now becomes party orthodoxy.

A recent article published by the Center for International Policy's, Americas Policy Program, a leading liberal international policy think tank, documents not only the origins of this "new framing", but looks at it's ultimate ramifications on the greater issue of reforming immigration policy in any meaningful way.

Having acknowledged that the immigration restrictionists are dominating the immigration debate, the Democratic Party and its allies are desperately seeking to reframe the immigration crisis. Their new language about immigration policy-"nation of laws," "rule of law," and "required legal status"-is popping up everywhere, from the pronouncements of immigrant-rights groups to the Democratic Party platform.

.The party doesn't back away from comprehensive immigration reform that includes legalization for illegal immigrants. As if by rote, it includes the standard language about America being "a nation of immigrants." But the party also strikes a harsher stance than in the past. Trying to please all tendencies, the Democrats say that immigration reform should be "tough, practical, and humane."

Instead of offering an "earned path to citizenship," as it has in the past, the party is now proclaiming that illegal immigrants will be required to obey the law-with the emphasis on the verb "require."

"For the millions living here illegally but otherwise playing by the rules, we must require them to come out of the shadows and get right with the law," states the party's platform. "We support a system that requires undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, pay taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens."

The "get right with the law" framing is also evident in the recent shift of Democratic Party leaders and pro-immigration toward a dual vision of immigration reform. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and other leading Democrats now echo the party line that America can be "both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws."

IRC-Americas Program

As noted in previous examinations of this "new framing," centrist Democrats, in league with mainstream Latino and immigrant-rights advocacy groups, miscalculated the political power of anti-immigrant messaging and abandoned the center in the debate, allowing anti-immigrant forces to shift it further to the right.

Central to the new Democratic framing is the concept of requiring immigrants to "get right with the law" rather than offering them a "pathway to citizenship."

Where did this new language come from?

Apparently from two progressive Beltway institutes close to the Democratic Party: Center for American Progress and America's Voice. These two organizations floated the "required" language in a few polls to determine how the party and immigration advocates should parse the immigration issue.

What's the number one goal of Americans with respect to the issue of illegal immigration? In their report "Winning the Immigration Issue: Requiring Legal Status for Illegal Immigrants," the pollsters state: "Hispanic and non-Hispanic voters agree that the most important goal in dealing with illegal immigration is to require illegal immigrants to become legal."

In addition to the "required" wording, the two other key elements of the Democratic Party messaging, according to the polling results, are:

* "The 'required legal status' proposal finds strong support provided there are conditions: paying taxes, learning English, passing a criminal background check, and going to the back of the citizenship line."

* "Focus on the role of employers. Democrats should favor strong enforcement not only at the border, but also in the workplace. The public believes the main cause of illegal immigration is that employers hire undocumented workers."

"The focus on requiring immigrants to become legal or face deportation if they fail to register gives Democrats a tough, seamless message about getting the immigration system under control and having respect for the rule of law," said the pollsters.

Headed by Stan Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, the pollsters observed: "Historically, the Democratic immigration message focused on providing an 'earned path to citizenship,' but this approach has no more appeal than a deportation agenda. However, the idea of requiring illegal immigrants to become legal generates a sharply different response. Nearly nine in ten voters favor a proposal to 'require illegal immigrants to become legal, obey U.S. laws, pay taxes, or face deportation ...'"

The polling report recommends the following as a concise summary of the party's position-a position largely reflected in the party's platform:

"We must be tough and smart to get our immigration system under control. It is unacceptable to have 12 million people in our country living outside the legal system. We must secure the border but we must also require illegal immigrants to register and become legal, pay their taxes, learn English, and pass criminal background checks. Those who have a criminal record or refuse to register should be sent home."

IRC-Americas Program

This framing, originally formulated by beltway spinmeisters, is now the cornerstone of the current Democratic immigration policy.

But, by capitulating to anti-immigrant forces and not only accepting their framing, but adopting it, Democrats have ultimately set up a scenario whereby even if they were to gain meaningful majorities in both houses of Congress and control of the Whitehouse it would be nearly impossible to put the genie back in the bottle and enact meaningful and humane immigration reform.

But there are risks to moving toward a law-and-order framing of immigration reform. Over the past few years, Democrats have signed on to the "enforcement-first" policy agenda of the Republicans in the belief that this would bolster the chances of achieving comprehensive reform.

What has occurred, however, is that the "enforcement-first" approach to immigration reform has become the "enforcement-only" immigration policy that immigration restrictionists have long advocated. Acceding to a law-and-order and security framing of the immigration crisis, the Democrats have given the ongoing crackdown greater legitimacy. Rather than improving the chances for comprehensive reform that includes legalization, it's likely that the Democrats have by their actions in Congress and their new rhetoric on the campaign trail reinforced a "rule of law" messaging that will make legalization still more difficult to achieve.

The "come out of the shadows and get right with the law" language of the Democratic Party furthers the restrictionist stereotyping of illegal immigrants as criminals and threats to society. Rather than new messaging, the party appears to be ceding to right-wing concepts of criminalization of immigrants and place the onus of the immigration mess on immigrants rather than on the system itself.

IRC-Americas Program

Ironically, in their quest inoculate themselves from Nativist political backlash, and hopefully craft a "sweet spot" in the immigration debate that could guarantee electoral victory, the Democrats appear to have misread the realities of Nativist political power and perhaps have put themselves on the wrong side of this issue.

A new report released by theProgressive States Network looks at the actual legislative successes of anti-immigrant legislation on the state level, and it's power as a political wedge, and finds that despite all the media hype and bravado of Nativist advocates, anti-immigrant sentiments do not translate into legislative or electoral success.

The report, The Anti-Immigrant Movement that Failed: Positive Integration Policies by State Governments Still Far Outweigh Punitive Policies Aimed at New Immigrants, as its title implies, found that by and large, State governments have overwhelming rejected anti-immigrant measures - this despite all the media attention lavished on certain high-profile local initiatives like those in Hazelton or Farmers Branch.

The Misguided Media Hype over Anti-Immigrant Legislation: Despite much media hype, the supposed wave of anti-immigrant politics has amounted to a few punitive laws in a handful of states, even as most states have quietly been moving forward with positive, integrative approaches to new immigrants in their communities.

The Failed Use of Immigration as a "Wedge" Issue: The current hype around anti-immigrant policies is, unfortunately, about electoral politics. The media largely fell for the tactics of political opportunists who hoped to use the issue of immigration as a "wedge" issue, much as they have used gay marriage and other social issues to undermine progressive coalitions and support rightwing politicians during elections. Yet the result has largely been political failure for rightwing politicians trying to play the anti-immigrant political card.

The Success of Positive Immigration Policy: Many states, including those where most immigrants live, now provide in-state tuition (so-called DREAM Acts) for undocumented immigrants going to public universities. Others are promoting policies to integrate immigrants through English language instruction and assistance in navigating the citizenship process. A number of states are providing health insurance to undocumented children. And instead of trying to punish immigrant workers, states are increasingly working with native and immigrant workers to crack down on bad employers who are violating minimum wage, safety and workers compensation laws.

Highlighting Positive State Legislation for New Immigrants: In this report, we have provided a state-by-state summary of major immigrant-related policies, both punitive and integrative, enacted in the last few years. We divide states based on those policies into six categories, from integrative to punitive, and highlight charts and graphs that demonstrate that positive integrative policies are far more common in the states than negative punitive policies.

Progressive States Network

When the dust settled, the report found that only in those few states that were already dominated by right-wing legislatures were they able to manage to leverage enough support to pass anti-immigrant legislation, and that by far, the greatest number of immigration related bills nation-wide were those favorable to migrant interests.

With most 2008 state legislative sessions at an end, we can take a step back and make a few conclusions about what happened in the states on policies effecting the immigrant population:

. In a few states where the right-wing controlled the legislature, they jammed through some laws creating punitive sanctions against undocumented immigrants.

. However, in states where moderates or progressives had any significant influence, the momentum for anti-immigration legislation stalled and almost all anti-immigrant legislation failed to pass.

. In the largest states where most undocumented immigrants actually live -- California, Illinois, New York, Texas and Florida -- no significant anti-immigrant legislation was enacted this session or last.

. Largely ignored by the media, over the last few years, quite a few states have pioneered programs and laws to positively integrate new immigrants into our communities and address citizens' economic fears in ways that raise wage standards for everyone, immigrant and native worker alike.

. In fact, when you look at what policies states have actually enacted, most undocumented immigrants live in states that have enacted positive programs to integrate new immigrants and rejected punitive approaches to new immigrants.

.The bottom-line is that despite much media hype, the supposed wave of anti-immigrant politics has amounted to a few punitive laws in a handful of states, even as most states have quietly been moving forward with positive, integrative approaches to new immigrants in their communities. Many states, including those where most immigrants live, now provide in-state tuition (so-called DREAM Acts) for undocumented immigrants going to public universities. Others are promoting policies to integrate immigrants through English language instruction and assistance in navigating the citizenship process. A number of states are providing health insurance to undocumented children. And instead of trying to punish immigrant workers, states are increasingly working with native and immigrant workers to crack down on bad employers who are violating minimum wage, safety and workers compensation laws.

One reason bad legislation stalled in all but a handful of states in 2008 is that legislators and the public have increasingly recognized that scapegoating immigrants is not going to solve the economic pressure working families experience. The real problem is a far more pervasive one of employers violating the workplace rights of all workers, both native and immigrant.

.The current hype around anti-immigrant policies is, unfortunately, about electoral politics. It is true that there is a vocal minority of the public that has promoted anti-immigrant policies for years, much as they have on and off throughout American history. This has been especially true in a few states, especially those with little previous historical experience with immigration, that have experienced rapid immigrant population growth in recent years.

Yet with so few states actually passing anti-immigrant legislation, the remarkable thing is how much attention the media has given anti-immigrant politicians. The media largely fell for the tactics of political opportunists who hoped to use the issue of immigration as a "wedge" issue, much as they have used gay marriage and other social issues to undermine progressive coalitions and support rightwing politicians during elections. Politicians like Congressman Tom Tancredo championed anti-immigrant proposals at the federal level and conservative state politicians sought to promote similar policies for electoral gain. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty proposed a series of anti-immigrant executive orders earlier this year, a tactic that Javier Morillo-Alicea, President of SEIU Local 26, noted "has everything to do with the presidential race," since Pawlenty was angling for a slot as the Vice-Presidential nominee.

Yet the result has largely been political failure for rightwing politicians trying to play the anti-immigrant political card. In 2006, many analysts raised fears that anti-immigrant fervor would doom progressive candidates. Instead, progressives won big in those elections. In 2007, it was more of the same in elections in Virginia and New York where Democrats gained control of the Virginia Senate and expanded control in Long Island's Suffolk County, despite opponents trying to make political hay off of the immigration issue.

.Yet the media continued to fixate on the handful of states debating anti-immigrant policies, abetted by Lou Dobbs and politicians still hoping to stir up racial divisions in the population. In the end, however, only in state legislatures already dominated by rightwing leadership such as Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, and Utah were significant anti-immigrant policies able to make headway in 2008, just as they only made headway in similar rightwing-controlled legislatures like Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma and Tennessee in previous sessions. Everywhere else, states either stalled anti-immigrant bills or enacted positive policies to better integrate new immigrants, the latter a story almost completely overlooked by the national media.

Progessive States Network

In light of recent past history it would be wise for Democrats to re-evaluate their new found acceptance of the right-wing frames as advocated by those like Stan Greenberg and Americas Voice. Not only do they adversely effect the lives of 12 million undocumented migrants by re-enforcing the de-humanizing stereo-types of immigrant criminality, they will make it all the more difficult to enact real meaningful reform down the road - and there's a good chance that the whole strategy might blow up in Democrats faces when a vital swing vote this coming November later demands more from its leaders than platitudes and slogans ...can you say "Si se puede" Mr Greenberg?

Evangelicals’ Faith Leads Them to Issues of Environment and Social Justice

By Valerie Saturen

Fall 2008: Purple America

“As a movement progresses and matures, it begins to define itself by what it’s for instead of what it’s against.”

The Rev. Gloria White-Hammond is head of the Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of over 180 faith-based, advocacy and humanitarian organizations. White-Hammond is a pediatrician and pastor of Bethel AME Church in Boston.
Photo by Susan Megy

A passion for environmental action and social justice is spreading in what some may consider unexpected places. Had you walked into Northland, A Church Distributed—an evangelical megachurch in Florida—one Saturday morning last August, you would have found parishioners in Kevlar suits sifting through the congregation’s trash. Their mission: to fulfill what they consider the biblical imperative to be good stewards of the Earth. Led by senior pastor Joel C. Hunter, an advocate of the pro-environment, evangelical Creation Care movement, the churchgoers sorted about 30 bins of trash in order to assess the congregation’s environmental impact.

After the church showed the film “The Great Warming,” featuring National Association of Evangelicals spokesman Richard Cizik, they wanted to take action. When they were finished assessing the congregation’s waste, they created a 140-page audit of the church’s solid waste, energy management, landscaping, and water use, which formed the basis of Northland’s strategy for lowering its carbon footprint. Creation Care at Northland didn’t end there. After services another weekend, the church held a Creation Care event with 30 environmentally-friendly vendors and organizations. Then, in February, evangelical leaders hosted an interfaith summit at Northland, training religious leaders to promote sustainability within their own congregations.

Rev. Hunter is one of a growing number of evangelicals creating an alternative to an evangelical political platform long dominated by hot-button issues such as gay marriage and abortion. While maintaining a socially conservative platform, Hunter and others are expanding their agendas to address concerns such as global warming, poverty, education, and peacemaking. His recent book, A New Kind of Conservative, sounds a call for social justice and compassion for the disadvantaged. According to Hunter, younger generations are avoiding the negative tone and single-issue focus of the Christian Right. “As a movement progresses and matures,” he says, “it begins to define itself by what it’s for instead of what it’s against. It starts to think of pro-life in terms of life outside the womb as well as inside the womb.” He likens this shift to the changes a person goes through while growing up. “When you’re in middle school, you define yourself as who you hate and what you hate. But when you grow up, you start to say, ‘Now, what do I like? What do I want to build? What do I want my life to mean?’”

Black and Hispanic evangelicals have played a major role in shifting the agenda. A 2004 poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Inc. for Religion & Ethics Newsweekly and U.S. News & World Report showed that while white evangelicals considered socially conservative moral values their first priority (37%), 41% of black and 34% of Hispanic respondents placed a different moral issue—the economy—first.

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, leader of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), believes Hispanic evangelicals serve as a natural bridge between the “righteousness platform” of white evangelicals and the “justice platform” of the black church. While the approximately 15 million Hispanic evangelicals in America often oppose abortion and gay marriage, many also hold progressive, populist views on issues such as poverty, health care, education, and racial equality.

Immigration is one contentious issue Rodriguez hopes to see depolarized. The NHCLC envisions a “middle path” between upholding the rule of law and exercising compassion toward the approximately 12 million undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. In response to HR 4437, the 2005 bill designed to rein in illegal immigration, NHCLC drafted a proposal calling for comprehensive immigration reform that would include penalties and the payment of back taxes while “bringing immigrants out of the shadows” and providing a path to citizenship.

Rodriguez’s concern for social justice stems from his upbringing in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he witnessed economic upheaval and the decline of industry. As the region transformed, he saw rising levels of violence and racial inequality that persisted as the city grew increasingly diverse. In neighboring Allentown, where the high-school graduation rate was only 60.7% in 2005, evangelical pastors are making efforts to become a “firewall” against gang violence and high dropout rates. In collaboration with Allentown mayor Ed Pawlowski, the NHCLC-affiliated Third Day Worship Center launched an initiative to address these problems, creating an after-school mentoring program for at-risk youth. The effort, coinciding with the creation of Allentown’s Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, was part of Generation Fuerza (Generation Strength), an NHCLC campaign to reduce teen pregnancy, dropout rates, and gang involvement. Generation Fuerza advocates will begin meeting with Congress in October to promote this agenda.

Each year about 20 students from the University of Wisconsin in Madison travel to Palatka, Florida, to build affordable housing for Habitat for Humanity. The Crossing (“where faith meets life”), a campus ministry at University of Wisconsin, organizes outreach programs that get young people involved with the “problems and possibilities of our world.” Groups have also traveled to Israel/Palestine, and to Mississippi to help with Hurricane Katrina cleanup.
Photo by Charlene Shepard & Chris Garrison

The social justice approach extends beyond the domestic sphere. Evangelicals for Darfur, a member of the Save Darfur Coalition, includes advocates across the political spectrum, from Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention to Jim Wallis, editor of the progressive Sojourners magazine. In 2006, the group ran full-page ads in 10 major newspapers entitled “Without You, Mr. President, Darfur Doesn’t Have a Prayer,” urging support for international peacekeeping forces and multilateral economic sanctions. In addition to pushing for action, the group solicits donations for relief efforts and promotes education about the genocide.

Other evangelical groups are advocating peace between Israelis and Palestinians. They urge a two-state solution to the conflict, offering an alternative to the approach of more visible leaders such as John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and senior pastor of the Cornerstone megachurch in San Antonio, Texas. Hagee is an influential proponent of Christian Zionism, which takes literally the biblical Book of Revelation and views an apocalyptic war in the Middle East as a necessary precursor to the Second Coming of Christ. As Christian Zionists, Hagee and his organization believe that Israel has a divinely sanctioned right to the West Bank and Gaza, and are actively involved in lobbying Washington to oppose “land for peace” and the creation of a Palestinian state.

Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding was founded in part to counter what the organization calls “a rising tide of Western interpretation of the nation of Israel as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.” Its Executive Director, Leonard Rodgers, believes the key to understanding lies in forming personal ties between American evangelicals and Middle Eastern Christians and Muslims, which the group accomplishes through its Living Stones delegations to the region. The organization is especially committed to forging ties with Middle Eastern Christians, a community Rodgers says few Americans are aware of. “When you introduce them and they build a relationship, they begin to understand the Middle East through the eyes of a Middle Easterner,” he says.

Last November, about 100 leaders signed an open letter by Evangelicals for Social Action, a group devoted to social and economic justice. “In the context of our ongoing support for the security of Israel, we believe that unless the situation between Israel and Palestine improves quickly, the consequences will be devastating,” the letter reads, commending Israeli and Palestinian leadership for supporting a two-state solution. The letter reaffirmed the call for peace contained in a July 2007 open letter to President Bush signed by 39 prominent evangelical leaders.

A key factor in the changing face of evangelicalism is the appearance of a young generation that is more expansive in its social outlook. While they are likely to share the socially conservative approach of their parents, younger evangelicals are being shaped by the dynamic world of globalization, technology, and online social networking.

Ben Lowe, 24, studied environmental biology at Wheaton College and is active in several Creation Care groups on Facebook. Last year, he brought together student leaders from 15 campuses for the January 2007 Wheaton Creation Care Summit and participated in Power Shift 2007, joining tens of thousands of other young adults in Washington, D.C. to confront global warming. He now works for A Rocha, a Christian organization devoted to conservation. Although his peers sometimes express suspicion toward environmentalism, they often change their minds once introduced to the issue in a biblical context. “Once we show from the Bible that being good stewards of the environment is our privilege and responsibility,” says Lowe, “then my peers are usually very enthusiastic and supportive.”

Rowan University graduate Dan Lebo, 22, now attends Palmer Theological Seminary. He received a scholarship to work with Evangelicals for Social Action and helped distribute its call for Middle East peace. “The American political landscape can be a very frustrating place for younger evangelicals,” says Lebo, because the issues they care about fall across the spectrum. “It would be very hard to pigeonhole young evangelicals into any political sphere. However, at the same time we are becoming very politically engaged. We realize how important politics can be to the welfare of our society and our world and are understanding that being apathetic about politics doesn’t help anything or anyone.”
Valerie Saturen wrote this article as part of Purple America, the Fall 2008 issue of YES! Magazine. is a freelance writer living in Tacoma, Washington. Her work focuses on politics, the Middle East, and the environment. She can be reached at vsaturen@yahoo.com.

Faith Matters

After Saddleback Forum, Some Questions Still Unanswered
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Tell Me More, August 22, 2008 · Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain spoke about how faith influences their policies during a recent forum at California's Saddleback Church. But some in faith community may still have serious questions for the candidates. The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, Dan Gilgoff, and Rabbi Brad Hirschfield discuss broader issues of interest to the faith community.


Clergy plan immigration reform prayer vigils

By Antonio Olivo
Chicago Tribune reporter
11:19 PM CDT, September 9, 2008

Religious leaders in Chicago and other cities Tuesday announced plans for a series of Immigration vigils over the next month in hopes of bringing attention to an issue all but ignored during the race for president.

The 18-city "Tour of the Faithful" is set to kick off with a prayer vigil in Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday, with a larger vigil and march scheduled outside the federal Immigration detention center in Broadview, Ill., later this month. Other events are planned in Chicago, Boston; Raleigh, N.C.; and Denver.

Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders are coordinating the vigils as part of a larger effort among religious groups to press both major presidential candidates to push for Immigration reforms before and after the November election, organizers said.

The leaders acknowledged deep divisions over illegal Immigration within their separate congregations. They hope to create a groundswell for change, including a proposed path to legalization for illegal immigrants, which has been stalled in Congress for nearly two years.

"As it pertains to the 2008 elections, Immigration reform is the quintessential elephant in the room," said Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, an evangelical Christian leader in California who advised several Republicans during the primary season.

"The fact of the matter is that, more than ever, particularly in the Hispanic community, we have an incredible amount of angst, trepidation and a spirit of fear," Rodriguez said.

Central to the group's message will be the biblical tenet of welcoming the stranger, said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Washington-based Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

"We read in the Bible more frequently than any other commandment that we should love the stranger as ourselves," Saperstein said, citing several passages from the Book of Leviticus.

Although the group hopes to persuade more people to consider the issue from that perspective, they acknowledged that others believe in stricter enforcement.

Latino Evangelicals Shunned by GOP - Still Might Vote for McCain

By Sarah Posner

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which represents 15 million Latino evangelicals, attended the Republican National Convention last week and told me that despite the overwhelming whiteness of the convention, and the party's hostility to immigrants, he predicts that McCain-Palin will get the majority of Latino evangelical votes. (In polls, Obama has a substantial lead among Latino Catholics, a much larger and less conservative group.)

Palin, said Rodriguez, "is a win for Hispanic evangelicals. You have a woman, who happens to be evangelical, and Pentecostal, the fastest growing Hispanic faith demographic in America." And despite the GOP's stance on immigration, Rodriguez predicts that Latino evangelicals will be drawn to the ticket because of conservative wedge issues like gay marriage and abortion. So much for the culture wars being over.

Rodriguez doesn't consider himself a culture warrior, though, and he emphasized his own distance from the religious right. He is interested in expanding the evangelical political agenda to address the environment, immigration, and poverty, and disdains the notion of his organization becoming a tool of either party. Even so, Rodriguez said he thought the gay marriage ban on the ballot in Florida would draw Latino evangelicals to the polls and result in a gain for McCain-Palin. In Florida, Latino evangelicals make up 7 percent of the population, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Religious Landscape Survey.

Latino evangelicals under 30 favor Obama, said Rodriguez. "Hispanic evangelicals overall," he added, "will have to decide whether they can vote for McCain-Palin in spite of the Nativism, xenophobia, and quasi-racist elements embedded in the Republican Party."

Is that a difficult choice, really?

Why Our Schools Need to Run Like Businesses

by Israel Ortega

Would it make sense to give a Burger King the power to decide whether or not a McDonald's may open next door? How about if we allowed the New York Mets to pay their players based solely on how many years they've been in the Big Leagues? As strange as it sounds, the current educational establishment employs similar faulty business practices. And the results have been disastrous.

For close to four decades, the federal government has been slowly expanding its grip on our nation’s education system. That has reduced local authority and autonomy. Although billions have been poured into the system, the federal government lacks the authority to manage the diverse needs of the thousands of American public schools, which teach an estimated 50 million children.

This is especially noteworthy considering a recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center that concludes that Hispanic students account for nearly one out of every five public-school students enrolled in the United States. The study goes on to state that by 2050 there will be more school-age Hispanic children than school-age non-Hispanic white children.

Another recent study, by America's Promise Alliance and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, pegs the graduation rate for New York City Public Schools in 2003-2004 at a paltry 45.2 percent. Think of that: nearly half the students in the New York City public-school system will fail to receive a basic high-school diploma. Yet studies reveal that lacking a high-school diploma effectively shuts an individual off from high-paying jobs.

Those results are simply unacceptable. We ought to call this situation what it is: a crisis.

For some, the answer is more money and more bureaucracy. Many contend that the public-school system is deteriorating because federal mandates aren’t being fully funded and teachers aren't being well compensated for their work.

What detractors curiously forget to mention is that thousands of dollars are allotted for per-pupil expenditures each year. New York City alone spends $13,755 per student on education. The result of that investment is the aforementioned 45.2 percent graduation rate.

Meanwhile, the average salary for a public school teacher in New York in 2004 was almost $59,000 per year. And thanks to the powerful teachers' union, many school boards automatically increase the salary of a public-school teacher without considering the achievement level of the students. Even more troubling, many public schools resist policies that would give families options to chose among a variety of public schools, through reforms like charter schools and school vouchers.

If the current public system were a business, it would have failed long ago. But unlike a business, money is not the only thing at stake. And the future of our children is an investment worth doing right.

Israel Ortega is a Senior Media Services Associate at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Where is my Cadillac Escalade?

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

The immigration debate in our country continues to fan the flames of hate and racism, while our elected leaders fail to address the issue of immigration reform.

In many communities across our country, few try to distinguish between “undocumented immigrants” and Latino citizens. In many cases, racial profiling has reached a point in our country where many white residents feel it is proper and necessary, in order to protect the community.

As in the Civil Rights struggle in the Deep South, today law enforcement plays a dominant role in the enforcement of local ordinances and laws against undocumented immigrants. For some sheriff departments, it appears they have a blank check in terms of how they take care of the problem.

In the Deep South, no one dare question the police about how they took care of the police riots, marches, and civil disobedience during the Civil Rights Movement.

An interesting case and point, we have another sheriff in Johnston County in North Carolina who has taken the initiative to become the local hero by not only enforcing the local immigration laws, but in the use of his caustic and hateful language toward undocumented immigrants.

For some reason, law enforcement sheriffs and police chiefs feel they have complete freedom to express the hate and bigotry of the community at large, and that no one will hold them accountable for their actions.

In Johnston County, The News & Observer reports that because there are no recognized community leaders in the Latino community, Sheriff Steve Bizzell does not have to worry about being accountable for his actions or his words. The newspaper says he is well known for his incendiary words against “drunken Mexicans.”

Days ago, in an interview with The News & Observer, Sheriff Bizzell apparently forgot he was a professional leader in law enforcement. However, before we get to that part of the story, keep in mind, Sheriff Bizzell is homegrown in North Carolina and comes from the "bubba and red neck ancestry" of the area, or as many refer to it here, the true American culture.

He is so “steeped in traditional American culture” as The News & Observer refers to his backward ways, Sheriff Bizzell will not eat spaghetti, much less a taco. Apparently, these two foods do not represent "American culture."

Like many other communities of the South, Johnston County has seen the Hispanic population increase over time. Today, Latinos are 11% of the county community, and that has the county’s residents worried about becoming the minority.

Immigrants have come to Johnston County seeking jobs,and as in other cases across America, a better way of life for their families. In many respects, Sheriff Bizzell will acknowledge the contributions made by the immigrants who live in the county. but then immediately frowns on them living in his county.

Nevertheless, there is an ugly side to Sheriff Bizzell as well. Just as so many other Americans feel it is okay to express their hate and distain openly, Sheriff Bizzell has become the official leader of expressing hate and intolerance.

In the interview with The News & Observer, he referred to Mexicans as “drunks,” “breeding like rabbits,” “rape, rob, and murder American citizens,” and “fail to pay taxes and drain social services.”

Sheriff Bizzell believes they are spreading a culture of drunkenness and violence. He resents the fact that Latinos have changed the face of his small county, bringing crime and a life style, which frightens the “regular citizens.”

Bizzell says, “Everywhere I go, people say, ‘Sheriff what are we going to do about all these Mexicans?”

Even the mayor of Four Oaks, Linwood Parker, says, “Everyone in this county sleeps a little better because he is here.” Just knowing Sheriff Bizzell is on the job dealing with all those Mexicans brings a sense of security to a community uncertain about its future.

The small area of Johnston County protected by Sheriff Bizzell, literally represents what is happening across our country.

We are all aware of the unlawful antics of Arizona Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio and his posse of over 300-armed Minutemen. In Arizona even the outspoken Mayor Phil Gordon of Phoenix does not want Sheriff Arpaio in their city enforcing broken tail lights, cracked windshields, and driving while Brown.

Therefore, the good Sheriff Bizzell is not a new revelation of a leader in a position of trust, who often publicly degrades and offends the Latino community.

Why so many people feel it is okay to expose the “ugly American attitude”, publicly announce their hate, and disrespect for undocumented immigrants and sometimes failing to even acknowledge the difference of anyone Brown and who looks like a Mexican.

While Sheriff Bizzell will admit that immigrants are good workers, and have contributed to the well-being of the community, they are "trashy" “rude,” “unfriendly,” and Bizzell says, “All they do is work and make love, I think. Look at all those kids right there.”

Sheriff Bizzell represents a community that does not understand their new neighbors, “workers who work in the fields from sunrise to sunset,” “who have legions of children dependent on welfare”, and “don’t pay taxes.”

The white community hates the fact that the immigrants speak Spanish and they can’t understand what they say, but also believe they are the rudest people they have ever seen as one resident complains, “Like at Wal-Mart, they stand right in the middle of the aisle and they won’t move for anything.”

A lack of understanding, long held values of bigotry, strong emotional ties to racism, and a heritage of white entitlement are some of the under current issues facing this community.

However, as long as they have Sheriff Bizzell to say what they want to say publicly, nothing will change.

The good news, Sheriff Bizzell did apologize a few days after the interview in The News & Observer. However as long as feelings of hate, suspicion, and fear from local residents continue to come to center stage, perhaps even apologies will mean nothing.

Sheriff Bizzell says, “There’s a lot of jealousy.” They’ll say, ‘Mexicans moved into our neighborhood, and they’re driving a Cadillac Escalade. Lord, we worked all our lives and we never had one of those.”

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