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.