By Fidel "Butch" Montoya
The long awaited decision by National Association of Evangelicals to endorse a resolution supporting comprehensive immigration reform was seen as a major break through among Latino evangelicals and other Church leaders.
While not endorsing any particular political policy, the N.A.E. outlined their support based on Biblical principles.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference referred to the resolution as a “tipping point.” The NHCLC represents some 15 million Latino Evangelicals, and counts over 25,000 churches as part of its membership. The NHCLC has worked behind the scenes for several years trying to convince the N.A.E. to support immigration reform.
"Today’s resolution conveys a collective message on behalf of the evangelical community that at the end of the day immigration reform is a matter of justice firmly grounded on biblical truth. Moreover, this resolution embodies the spirit of a message declaring that comprehensive immigration reform stems neither from the agenda of the donkey nor from the agenda of the elephant but rather from the agenda of the Lamb,” declared Rev. Rodriguez.
The N.A.E. resolution was seen by many interfaith leaders as an important step toward putting together a large interfaith based coalition pressuring Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year.
In the past, white evangelicals generally sat on the sidelines silently opposing any attempt to bring the undocumented immigrants out of the shadows or protested openly against undocumented immigrants in our country. They turned a deaf ear to the sound Biblical guidance that brings an added dimension to a badly needed civil debate.
As quickly as the news spread concerning the N.A.E.’s adoption of the immigration reform resolution, immediately some members of the N.A.E. responded by doing all they could to distance themselves from supporting immigration reform and claiming they had not endorsed the controversial resolution.
It reminded me of the movie Titanic as panicked passengers were literally jumping overboard to escape the danger of going down with the sinking ship. Not that the N.A.E.’s adoption of the resolution in any way reflects a sinking ship, but the Christian faithful running away from endorsing the resolution demonstrated confusion and chaos aboard the good ship N.A.E. about loving and taking care of the stranger in our land.
We had large denominational leaders stuttering as they sought to justify their lack of support of the resolution. Almost as quickly as most N.A.E. members were quoting Biblical principles for supporting the resolution, other N.A.E. members apparently forgot to recall those Biblical truths before taking a political stand versus a Christian one against the resolution.
Many N.A.E. members quickly denounced the resolution as nothing more than a means to provide “amnesty” to illegal immigrants. Clearly many white evangelicals have not dropped their opposition to providing a reasonable process for immigrants to assimilate into our society and seek citizenship if they desire to do so.
NumbersUSA, a notoriously anti-immigrant organization, with a goal to push undocumented immigrants out of our county, has an article in their newsletter trumpeting the fact that many N.A.E. members were backing away from the N.A.E. resolution on immigration reform.
The article color some evangelical ministers and churches with stripes of yellow, making it clear these members do not support the N.A.E. resolution on immigration reform even though they claim membership of the mighty Evangelical N.A.E.
The anti-immigrant N.A.E. members are using their denominational Websites to convey their side of the story as they continue to deny the Biblical proclamations that instruct us to love the stranger, the alien, the forgotten in our communities.
The fact that these Biblical principles are “The Word,” the “rightwing Christian politicians,” pontificating their word, might as well stand behind their bully pulpits to denounce the teachings of the Holy Scriptures that serve as moral and Christian guide for many born-again Christians. .
Many of those N.A.E. members posted their opposition on their denominational websites, trying to calm down the racist furor among some of their membership that the resolution caused.
"The Churches of Christ in Christian Union does not support the N.A.E. resolution on illegal immigration. We are a member of N.A.E., but our support on the resolution was never requested. The Churches of Christ in Christian Union support legal, regulated, and fair immigration”. -- Dr. Thomas H. Heniz, General Superintendent, the Churches of Christ in Christian Union.
Another N.A.E. member denomination in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, posted this disclaimer on their website:
“Statement on Amnesty forms the Executive Director in behalf of our Leadership Team and the General Association of General Baptists. Our denomination has been misidentified in recent email correspondence regarding amnesty for illegal immigrants. Neither I, our Leadership Team, nor the denominations we serve have been involved in the cause for amnesty for illegal aliens”. -- Dr. Ron Black, Executive Director, General Association of General Baptists.
Even our friendly Christmas bell ringers have found no room in the inn for undocumented immigrants. As members of the N.A.E., The Salvation Army does not support the resolution and make it quite clear that they will not support “amnesty” for the estimated 12-20 million undocumented immigrants in our country.
“The Salvation Army chose not to adopt the resolution nor will it become our stance on immigration reform”. Salvation Army official statement
It is a sad commentary by one of the biggest faith-based organizations, which claims to be compassionate and willing to help the poor and disadvantaged, unless of course, you are an undocumented immigrant. It is clearly racial profiling and morally reprehensible for The Salvation Army to disavow the Biblical principles and not adopt the Christ-centered examples of ministering to the alien, the poor and the homeless.
It seems like we might have to take a half a loaf of support from the N.A.E. when it comes to moving the urgent need for immigration reform forward. The reality is that we have too many families living in the shadows of our communities, our economy, and our church stipples.
Too many immigrant families are being separated everyday as long as Christians of the Right refuse to accept an immigration policy which would keep families together without fear of home or work place raids that lead to separation of families and deportation to a country some left years ago.
Truth be told, without a strong commitment from the “Christian community,” immigrants will continue to live in fear, confusion and a society where hate crimes against Latinos will continue to escalate. The consequences are serious bodily injury and even death to the innocent immigrant walking the streets of gold in America.
It is time for faith leaders across this country to encourage and pressure President Obama to act on providing immigration reform so that those individuals and families living near the margins of the American Dream can actually and realistically live that dream.
However, it more critical for faith leaders, who do support comprehensive immigration reform, to pressure their own to follow the Biblical principles of caring and loving our neighbor, instead of allowing the evil one to use politics to create disharmony and division among the followers of Christ.
Too many “born again Christians” are confusing the Word with plain old dirty politics. Dancing around their idol of racism, how quickly they have forgotten that the Love of Christ is for everyone, legal or undocumented. We can’t pick and choose who we love when we are commanded by Christ to love our neighbor as ourselves.
I, for one, am pleased that the N.A.E. worked closely with their Latino evangelical allies and members and finally passed a comprehensive immigration reform resolution. Rev. Samuel Rodriguez also deserves recognition for his untiring efforts and ministry to the families that we are encouraged in the Bible to love and care for.
By the way, this Christmas holiday while shopping at the mall, if you run into “a soldier of the Salvation Army,” waving their red kettle and the ringing bells asking for a small donation, instead of reaching into your purse or wallet, save that money and give to your church or favorite other Christian charity. Give your donation to an organization that does not look at the color or nationality of the poor, the hungry, and the forgotten.
The Salvation Army - or any other Church - shouldn’t preach to us about caring and loving the deprived and then walk away from the reality of the needs of undocumented immigrants. Keep your money out of the red kettle and instead support another organization that does not question or qualify their calling to the poor and needy based on immigrant status.
Beware of wolves in sheep clothing, - those selective ministries requesting a green card before they are willing to provide the necessary Christian ministry and family services to immigrant families yearning for a helping hand; that both support and sincerely appreciate your ministry.
Remember, Christ loved us all and never once required a picture ID or green card.
This column first appeared at:
Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed as a Minister in 1972.