Latino Redimido

“[A white theologian] claimed that we needed to reject the words [Christian and Evangelical] and the baggage that comes with those words. A Native American theologian responded that doing away with those words would prove to be convenient for the majority culture. Not only would the words be wiped away, but the responsibility for the negative history of those communities could also be wiped away. Sin would be be accounted for.” p.125

Soon-Chan Rah, Prophetic Lament

As a Latino who experienced poverty and fatherlessness but who is now educated and has some privilege, I’m struck by the feeling that I’m still a stranger at some tables. I fear that I’m still seen as the “token” minority in the circle. I fear that because I look different and might not sound as eloquent that I may not have a place at the table. I fear that my voice isn’t as important.

I refuse to be a victim of these fears and possible realities. But I also refuse to deny these possible realities.

I have been ashamed to Mexican-American for many years. I wonder why there aren’t more educated Latino pastors in my circles/settings. I wonder why I don’t have more latino pastor mentors. I wonder why I’m constantly make up the 1 or 2 latinos at the table, and still feeling like I’m just the token vato.

But I refuse to be a victim of these fears and realities. And I refuse to be bitter/resentful/angry towards those who might perpetuate the stereotypes. The Lord’s table and the Gospel of Grace makes room for us to sit at the table, share our personal and corporate stories, and ask God to continue redeeming our stories in His grand salvation work.

Citizens en La Casa

God’s word speaks most to me when I think about my context, interior life, community, and culture. A theologian friend of mine said that all theology should be done in our context.  It’s where God is meeting us.

I follow the Catholic daily lectionary. It’s usually a passage from the Hebrew testament, a prayer from the book of Psalms (prayer book), a passage from the New Testament, and a Gospel reading. If read each day, you can read the Bible in three years.

Today’s passage:

Ephesians 2:19.21.22
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household…In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

dia girl.jpg

I thought of a story I heard the other day. Sally (pseudonym) works at a local middle school where the “demographics” have been changing.  I asked her more about that and she said, “it’s not the hispanic population that is causing most of the problems.  And when they cause an issue at school, their parents receive a phone call and they immediately do something about.  They apologize and say that it will be handled at home.”  She said that most problems are drugs and sexual activity on campus, and that it’s mostly caused by kids whose parents are uninvolved.  When these parents get a call from the school, their response is, “I’m sure it will all be fine”.  In other words, they dismiss it.  But it’s mostly assumed that it’s the Hispanic population shift that is causing most of the issues.  My heart was overjoyed to hear that Hispanic parents are involved in their children’s lives.

I thought of another conversation I had with a pastor the other day.  He said that his church movement is finding that when Latino’s feel like they have a place at the table and are welcomed, Latino’s respond with gratitude and joy.  I think it’s because Latino’s just want to feel included and wanted.  I know everyone wants that but for many Latino’s, they’re seen as strangers, foreigners, and illegal.  It hurts to hear those words and be treated in that matter.

The politic of the Gospel is that Christ Jesus says we are no longer foreigners, strangers, or illegals.  He calls us His own and makes us feel welcomed, inviting us to be in His home and part of his Casa.

We are also called to participate in the building up of a community where the Spirit of God dwells.  The Spirit gets poured out to all people, thus welcoming us to have a place at the table.

My friend, the other day, challenged me to claim and appreciate my heritage.  I’m tri-cultural:  American, Mexican, Christ follower.  I’ve neglected my Mexican heritage.  It’s painful to think about the kind of shame I’ve felt because I’m Mexican.  I was born in Whittier (near East LA County), grew up in Fullerton (Orange County), and always felt like I was different (in a bad way).  I long to belong.  I long to be known and have a place at the table.  Sometimes ethnic shame, not feeling good enough, or feeling like I’m a tonto have caused me to slip away.

I’m usually one of the few Latino’s gathered at a pastor’s cohorts, in a theology class, or when talking to other executives in business settings.  I don’t blame anybody for that.  I commend them and hope to learn from others as much as I can.  So it feels really good when I step into situations where there are other Latino’s.  It makes me feel like I belong.  That’s why I love visiting Mexico.  It feels like familia.

I write this with tears.  It’s an area I have written much about.  In Christ, I’m no longer a mexican foreigner, stranger, or less than.  I have a place–en la mesa de Cristo, en su Casa.

And so do you!  You have a place.  You’re no longer a stranger.

Tim Keller on the Missional Church

According to an article published by Tim Keller in 2001, the church has lost its privilege (Christendom) in the culture in part for these reasons:

  • cruelty and hypocrisy – “Christian morality without gospel-changed hearts” (Keller)
  • silence of the church over issues of abuse from ruling powers against the weak.

And this decline started in the mid 19th century!!!

Keller points out five ways the Church in N.America can be missional:

  • discourse in the vernacular
    • The missional church avoids sentimental, pompous, ‘inspirational’ talk . Instead we engage the culture with gentle, self-deprecating but joyful irony the gospel creates. Humility + joy = gospel irony and realism.
  • Enter and re-tell the culture’s stories with the gospel
    • “In a missional church preaching and communication should always assume the presence of skeptical people, and should engage their stories, not simply talk about “old times.”  Our culture cares about justice (inclusive) and to be authentic (safe world).
  • Theologically train lay people for public life and vocation
    • “In a ‘missional’ church, the laity needs theological education to ‘think Christianly’ about everything and work with Christian distinctiveness. They need to know: a) what cultural practices are common grace and to be embraced, b) what practices are antithetical to the gospel and must be rejected, c) what practices can be adapted/revised.”
  • Create Christian community which is counter-cultural and counter-intuitive
    • “In general, a church must be more deeply and practically committed to deeds of compassion and social justice than traditional liberal churches and more deeply and practically committed to evangelism and conversion than traditional fundamentalist churches. This kind of church is profoundly ‘counter-intuitive’ to American observers.”
  • Practice Christian unity as much as possible on the local level
    • engage with other church and para-church communities so that Christian love and unity can be in full display (i.e. In North County San Diego, a host of church gathers for what they call “One Church”.  It’s a quarterly gathering where there is a sharing of resources and encouragement with one another.  There are also pastoral cohorts that get together on a monthly basis.  Some churches I know are partnering with para-church groups like InterVarsity, FCA).