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

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bizarre gang of Christian-fundamentalist - La Familia Michoacana?

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

It is interesting to watch the social and debate dynamics change as more conservative Evangelicals begin to lead the national narrative on comprehensive immigration reform. Up until now, the debate was almost devoid of any moral instruction or divine tenet to lead those persons who based much of their beliefs on misguided or ill-conceived political rumor or misrepresentation of the facts.

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on "The Ethical Imperative for Reform of Our Immigration System." It was to be a discussion involving three of our country's top Biblical scholars and theologians before the House panel.

The Biblical scholars were: Richard Land of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, Gerald Kicanas of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Mathew Staver of Liberty University. All respected theologians and scholars who have spent their lives teaching the integral teachings of the Bible.

Several of the Congressmen who opened the session, immediately took to using or better said, taking Bible scriptures out of context as they attempted to debunk the use of the Bible or scripture to defend the Biblical instruction and expectation for Christians to follow when it comes to undocumented immigrants.

Needless to say, you can't preach to the teacher or even lecture some of the most respected conservative Bible scholars when you take words from the Bible out of context. And that is unfortunately what these Congressmen tried to do.

Another most bizarre case of misusing the Biblical teachings is happening in Mexico with La Familia Michoacana, one of the most violent and brutal gangs. This is the gang that has used chopping off heads of anyone who opposes the gang or the leader. La Familia's leader is Nazario Moreno, a.ka, El Mas Loco..the craziest one.

What perhaps is most disturbing and troubling is that Time/CNN has labeled this violent, brutal, and most evil gang we have ever seen, "a bizarre gang of Christian-fundamentalist narco-traffickers known as La Familia Michoacana."

"A bizarre gang of Christian-fundamentalist narco-traffickers known as La Familia Michoacana?" This is not only despicable, outrageous, and naïve for Time/CNN editors and reporters to refer to this gang of evil and violence in these terms, but it also demands that every Evangelical faith leader condemn Time/CNN for referring to this gang as "a bizarre gang of Christian-fundamentalists narco traffickers known as La Familia.!!" (http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1997449,00.html )

As bizarre, El Mas Loco is using the book, Wild at Heart, written by Colorado evangelical John Eldredge. According to the Religion News Service, the book stresses Eldredge's theology "based on a 'muscular' view of Christianity, one that emphasizes an 'authentic masculinity' that has been lost." New recruits to the gang must read Eldredge's book, participate in mandatory prayer sessions and group readings.

El Mas Loco has taken it upon himself to follow the tenets of Christian conversion - forbidding its gang members from using drugs, or selling drugs to friends and neighbors where they live. The commandments of the Bible make it a mandatory practice of loving your neighbor as loving oneself. The Bible speaks about making the family the fundamental social infrastructure and strongest bond Christians can have with one another. The gang, La Familia has accepted these beliefs and adheres to them despite being the worst and most violent gang in Mexico.

An expert on Mexican trafficking organizations, Raul Benitez says, "La Familia uses religion as a way of forcing cohesion among its members. They are building a new kind of disciplined army that we have never seen here before. It makes them more dangerous."

In the same article in the Guardian.co.uk, advancement in the La Familia gang organization is not only dependent on how well you do on the shooting range, but how many prayer meetings one attends as well.

El Mas Loco always carries his own "Bible." According to the local press, he carries a "bible" of his own sayings and insists that his army of traffickers and hit men avoid the narcotics they sell. Using drugs personally or selling them to local people on the street can bring about the worst penalty for disobeying La Familia's rules.

Andrew Brown in his blog tries to explain how La Familia uses Eldredge's book to create a sense of family cohesiveness and the paradox of the gang's violence to intimidate and kill and maim its gang opponents.

"Brown writes, they announced themselves in 2006, rolling five severed heads onto a dance floor, accompanied by a card which read:

'La Familia doesn't kill for money, doesn't kill women, doesn't kill innocent people. It only kills those who deserve to die. Everyone should know this: Divine justice.'

It becomes incumbent upon the Evangelical pastor and minister to understand the scripture and teachings of Jesus Christ toward the 'sojourner', the 'alien,' and the 'stranger in our midst,' or it will continue to be taken out of context.

While others are trying to pervert the truth and commandments of Jesus Christ, it becomes more important that when we use scripture we use it in context of God's love for humanity. We were created in His image, and it becomes difficult to explain or to understand how we can hate or despise one of God's own creation?

It is clear that sometimes the most complex teachings of Christ come down to one's personal relationship and experience with Jesus Christ as Savior and our Friend. The fundamental teachings of the Bible do not have to become something so wrapped up in theology and complex teachings that we can't even share these teachings with our family or neighbor.

At the House Judiciary Committee where Congressmen Lamar Smith (R - Texas) and Steve King (R - Iowa) tried to portray themselves as theologians and Bible scholars, Representative Luis Gutierrez (D - III.) spoke these simple words of wisdom. "I'm not a theologian. I didn't come here with my Bible. I'm a good Catholic, you know. But I'll tell you, I learned two things: to love God above everything else and to love my neighbor as I love myself."

That is the best example of the scripture we can use to turn people from hate, fear, racism, and bigotry. It is also the best advice one can give El Mas Loco.

But perhaps in using the scripture, we must stand prepared and ready to condemn any article like the one that appeared in TIME/CNN June 28, 2010 where out of pure and simple ignorance, the writers are so naïve as to refer to La Familia, as "a bizarre gang of Christian-fundamentalist narco-traffickers known as La Familia Michoacana."

It is time for Evangelical leaders to stand ready to condemn and demand that TIME/CNN repudiate and correct such stupidity and naïveté understanding of Christianity. This ill-conceived ideology must be censured, rebuked, and denounced by all Evangelical faith leaders.

This is frightening and such misguided understanding of Christianity must be rebuked. We must take action to demand a correction and bring about the understanding that there is no such thing as "a bizarre gang of Christian-fundamentalist narco-traffickers known as La Familia Michoacana."

Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H. S. Power and Light Ministries - Latino Faith Initiative. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA - TV 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 to preach in 1972. He serves on the Executive Council for the Hispanic Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

We Need More Than Speeches

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

The debate over comprehensive immigration reform has continued to heat up throughout this summer ever since the governor of Arizona signed the Ill-conceived SB 1070 into law. The law allows for racial and ethnic profiling as a way to arrest, detain, and deport undocumented immigrants in Arizona. The controversial law has several lawsuits pending against the State of Arizona, including the United States Department of Justice preparing to file suit against Arizona as well.

The proponents of immigration reform have pressured the President and top White House advisors to move forward with a progressive plan to fix our broken immigration system of laws. There have been marches and rallies in D.C., fasts in New York City, Chicago, and other cities, civil disobedience in Denver and countless cities across the USA, and thousands of petitions and letters demanding that President Obama push the agenda of comprehensive immigration reform forward.

The opponents of immigration reform have rallied around SB 1070, threatening to introduce similar laws in the legislative sessions in at least 12 other states. The hate, panic, and fear continue to spread as rumors and lies about undocumented immigrants are fed by the Internet groups bent on creating an atmosphere of hate and fear.

To counter the ridiculous claims of the governor of Arizona that most undocumented immigrants crossing the border are "drug mules," just shows how important it is to press for the truth and not the lies of the hate mongers and those who spew out evil venom of hate, panic, and lies.

There is no end in sight of the hate mongers and racists who continue to spread their lies and false rumors. In his speech the President admitted the lack of political will to push for immigration reform. "So the politics of who is and who is not allowed to enter this country, and on what terms, has always been contentious. And that remains true today. And it's made worse by a failure of those of us in Washington to fix a broken immigration system."

When word leaked out of the White House that the President was going to give a "major speech" on immigration reform, hopes were raised, and there were new expectations of a fresh strategic legislative effort to push both parties into coming together to resolve this national disgrace of a broken immigration system.

The stage was set at American University in D.C. for the President to finally address the nation and call for a new legislative agenda to implement a new system of immigration laws that would do away with a system of grave injustice, family separations, ICE raids, and a confusing array of law enforcement MOU's like 287 (g) that have only allowed local cops to use racial profiling as a means of stopping and detaining undocumented immigrants.

The primary reason police can stop Latino looking individuals are joint law enforcement programs like 287 (g) which allow racial profiling. Police have used broken tail lights, suspicious looking drivers or passengers, and driving while breathing "brown" to pull over Latinos on our nation's highways.

While the President has tried to shame the Republicans into supporting immigration reform, the reality is that there are perhaps as many Democrats who are afraid to push for immigration reform in a mid-term election environment filled with rumors, lies, and hate messages about undocumented immigrants.

The President said, "In sum, the system is broken. And everybody knows it. Unfortunately, reform has been held hostage to political posturing and special-interest wrangling -- and to the pervasive sentiment in Washington that tackling such a thorny and emotional issue is inherently bad politics."

Presente.org - a national pro-immigrant civil rights organization pushing for comprehensive immigration reform criticized the President by saying, "We need more than speeches."

That seemed to be the general consensus from other Latino civil rights organizations across the country. What good is another Presidential speech that does nothing but cast blame on the Republicans and whose own Democratic members continue to waffle on getting out front of this debate and who blatantly refuse to support the President's own legislative agenda on immigration reform?

Polls seem to indicate that most Americans want the President and Congress to do something about fixing our dysfunctional immigration laws that do more harm than good. If one believes that more than a majority of Americans want something done, then where are the courageous leaders and advocates for justice and righteousness?

Until the President is able to put together a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders who are willing to work together to draw up a comprehensive immigration plan that addresses the immediate needs of over 11 million undocumented immigrants in our country, nothing will get done.

Much has been said and debated over the "pathway to citizenship" for the undocumented immigrants who seek citizenship. But on the other hand, not all undocumented immigrants want citizenship, but rather a work visa that allows them to cross the border when there is work to be done and then be able to return home. This visa needs to provide the undocumented or visa permitted workers the right to make a fair wage, expect worker protections, and have the ability to organize if necessary in order to protect their rights as temporary workers in the USA.

Some critics of the past worker programs have claimed that the border has been left open just enough to allow cheap labor to cross the border. The days of cheap labor are over, along with abusive employers who have taken advantage of undocumented immigrant workers in the past.

But the sad part of the Presidential speech is that he was essentially speaking to the choir. Everyone knows we need comprehensive immigration reform. We know the present system is broken and must be fixed.

The President laid out the challenge facing Congress. "Our task then is to make our national laws actually work -- to shape a system that reflects our values as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. And that means being honest about the problem, and getting past the false debates that divide the country rather than bring it together."

While the President calls for a more secure border, he insisted the border is the most secure than anytime in the past twenty years. Yet the President admitted that, "Our borders will not be secure as long as our limited resources are devoted to not only stopping gangs and potential terrorists, but also the hundreds of thousands who attempt to cross each year simply to find work."

Unfortunately we know ICE and the Obama Administration are detaining and deporting more innocent undocumented immigrants than the Bush Administration, and the President has failed to live up to his stated goals of prioritizing criminals and stopping gangs and potential terrorists.

The drug cartels and the large shipments of drugs over the border must have a higher priority than the family that is simply looking for work in the USA.

So the President gave a speech, more likely to appease his supporters. Some pundits have claimed the President hoped the speech would motivate and challenge the Latino voter to get out and support candidates that support his policies. It was an attempt to try and make up for his failure to prioritize immigration reform in his first year and to fire up his supporters to get out and vote.

The President gave a campaign speech, with more promises on why immigration reform is important. In fact, it is more important today than ever before. Instead of giving a Presidential speech with an action plan, he said nothing about ending the ICE raids, and putting a stop to the 287 (g) local enforcement programs abused by local cops that allows racial profiling and ethnic enforcement.

We don't need anymore speeches on why immigration reform is needed now more than ever. It is time the President acted like the President and put a stop to the grave injustice and unrighteousness undocumented families face every day in this country.

Yes, Mr. President, we are a land of immigrants. Together our forefathers built this country and the infrastructure that created jobs and a better life for all who sought a job and an opportunity. Yet, along the way we have had to fight the bigots, the racists, the haters, and those whose only intent was to spew out racial hatred and push immigrants down.

Mr. President, we hoped you would have stood up to those ugly voices of fear, panic and hate. We wished you would have used your Executive Power to put an end to misdirected immigration enforcement programs that are only separating families and deporting good hard working men and women.

If you really want to put an end to the drug cartels, the shipments of drugs and millions of dollars across the border, an end to the weapons we are selling to the drug cartels, then you should have declared war to end the drug cartels that continue to meet the drug demands of those Americans who live not only in the barrios, but the high priced skyscraper apartments of every city in the USA.

Mr. President, we don't need any more speeches. We need a bipartisan plan of attack against the drug and human traffickers. We need you to quiet the voices of hate and panic and move this debate from the gutter to the halls of Congress. Mr. President, be Presidential and do what you can do to end the injustice these families must endure every day.

No one said the job of being President would be easy, but it will take a President with hope and a vision to develop an agenda that both Republicans and Democrats can accept and work together to fix our broken immigration system.

Mr. President, thank you for recommitting your administration to fighting for immigration reform, but that is not good enough. Now it is time to move beyond just words, and take bold action to fix this problem which Lady Liberty reminds the world as a national disgrace.

If you can take a courageous and bold effort to lead the battle to repair the broken immigration system, be assured that many Americans will be behind you fighting the injustice and national disgrace of an immigration system that has spiraled out of control.

Lead and we will follow your leadership. Exemplify your courage to bring down the haters and end the venom of fear, and we will stand with you.

As Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the Latino evangelical National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference proclaimed as he and others left the White House after meeting with the President, "The president reaffirmed his commitment to immigration reform. We reaffirmed our commitment to supporting him, pushing back the Republican wall that has opposed immigration reform. The president is clearly on our side. He is our senior ally."

You gave an inspirational speech at American University, now it is time for bold and courageous leadership. Can you make your speech a national priority and prove that you are indeed our senior ally?
Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H. S. Power and Light Ministries - Latino Faith Initiative. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA - TV 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 to preach in 1972. He serves on the Executive Council for the Hispanic Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.