Several months ago, I wrote the blog listed below. It never made it to our website for reasons unknown. In light of the recent shooting in El Paso, I feel that it is important to raise up the content of this article once again. I am particularly concerned over the rhetoric that has been used regarding Hispanic people.
Many pastors avoid wandering into areas that may be perceived as “political” for fear of dividing a congregation or causing a dissention. My own experience would concur that taking a political stance is risky business. My reasoning of avoiding discussing politics, however, is based on another factor. I typically avoid taking a position on policy issues because such matters are “above my pay grade” or “out of my lane” as some would say.
As a clergy person, I also understand that one of my roles is to be a voice for the voiceless, meaning that there are people who struggle with justice issues who are not being heard. People who have been subjected to profiling or labeling, based upon skin color or religious affiliation, often feel that their cry of injustice does not get heard. People that are poor or in deep need often feel as though no one cares. For these reasons and more, I feel obligated to speak against what is clearly wrong and stand up for what is clearly right . . . even if it comes with a risk.
I have grown increasingly concerned over the rhetoric of some of our nation’s leaders that seem to be dismissive and disrespectful. In particular, am very concerned over the comments that are being used in reference to undocumented immigrants. I recognize that there needs to be a constructive way of dealing with illegal immigration, however, the wording and labels that are being attached to those seeking asylum is wrong. I would caution our political leaders from utilizing exaggerated methods in describing groups of people in order to appeal to their base.
As a person of Hispanic descent, I am particular sensitive towards comments directed at Mexican people. For decades within our country, persons of Hispanic decent have had to endure endless false perceptions. To highlight an example, it serves no purpose to carelessly describe Mexican nationals and Central Americans, as “criminals, drug dealers, and rapists.” Of even greater concern to me is that these immigrants have been described as “animals” by some of our leaders. Regardless of whether these remarks were made intentionally, unintentionally, or misdirected, this type of labeling is alarming because such language is often used to de-humanize and/or criminalize the undesirables. Such wording can create fear in the hearts of people resulting in a permission to ostracize other people, or worse, prompting violence against other persons. Historical studies should cause us to pause when it comes to falsely labeling other people.
For years, I have advocated that Christians (and all religious communities) stand up against injustice when it is seen or where it is practiced. If there are people that are being oppressed, then Christians need to work on how to bring an end to oppression, not ignore it. If there are people being insulted by false labels and name calling, then we as Christians should be a louder voice of righteousness, not turn the other way. If there are those within our community or nation who feel as though they do not have a voice because no one will listen to them, then we as Christians should serve as a voice for the voiceless, not remain silent. These are the matters that all religious communities should contend with in their ministries. We must not bury our heads in the sand. We must call out wrong when we see it, even if it involves some of our leaders. Remember, we are the “hands and feet” of Christ in today’s world. Our challenge is to act in such a way.