Thursday, September 21, 2006

Christianity Today: The Call of Samuel

The Call of Samuel
by Tim Stafford, Christianity Today

"That was Harry Reid," says Samuel Rodriguez, folding his flip phone as he leaves a strip-mall chain restaurant. ...

Rodriguez is a young 36 with longish hair and a neat black goatee. Fast-talking, articulate, utterly bilingual, he exudes confidence. Rodriguez is a "brilliant thinker and an authentic man of God," according to National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) president Ted Haggard. "He is the Karl Rove of Hispanic-Anglo evangelical strategy." ...

Rodriguez should be happy with his new prominence, but he doesn't look entirely happy. "Immigration puts us at odds with our white evangelical brothers," he says. He has spent years building alliances, and now he is unsure whether they will last. Rodriguez knows what happened with civil rights. To this day, many African American Christians distrust white evangelicals even though they share views on school prayer, abortion, and gay marriage. Hispanic evangelicals might similarly resist alliances with those they perceive as blind to their core concerns. That is the last thing Samuel Rodriguez wants. ...

"We need to know from white evangelical leaders," Rodriguez was quoted saying in The Washington Post, "why did they not support comprehensive immigration reform, why they came down in favor exclusively of enforcement without any mention of the compassionate side, without any mention of the Christian moral imperatives?

"So down the road, when the white evangelical community calls us and says, 'We want to partner with you on marriage, we want to partner on family issues,' my first question will be: 'Where were you when 12 million of our brothers and sisters were about to be deported and 12 million families disenfranchised?'"

Samuel Rodriguez favors border control and immigration enforcement. What he sees missing from the debate is the compassion that must accompany our desire to have secure borders. And what hurts him the most is that this lack of compassion comes not from politicians, but from his fellow evangelical Christians. He perceives the debate as becoming anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic. Having read a fair amount in this debate, I feel Rodriguez is quite justified in feeling this way.

These are tough words, but ones that need to be heard. Rodriguez will, no doubt, get heat from some over these words, but he is accustomed to that -- he has received considerable heat from more radical Hispanics who see his reaching out to white evangelical groups as being counterproductive.

A telling comment he made with regard to the new attention from political leaders is that he would really rather line up with evangelical politicians (who share many beliefs with him) for photo ops, than with politicians who don't have much in common with him except their stance on immigration.

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