(Photo: Clint Fisher)
Hispanic evangelical leader Samuel Rodriguez said Christians must realize the importance of dealing with the issue of illegal immigration, and urged them to rise up and apply biblical principles rather than leave it to "self-seeking" Republican and Democrat lawmakers.
Dealing with the immigration issue "may very well be the salvation of American Christianity," said the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, pastor and president of National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, in an interview on Christian TV program Life Today with James and Betty Robison on Monday.
Rodriguez pointed out that of the 50 million Hispanics in America, 69 percent identify themselves as Roman Catholic – and more than half of them say they are Catholic Charismatic. And 24 percent of all Hispanics are born again or evangelical. Hispanics, he stressed, are "the only ethnicity where the majority identify themselves as spirit-empowered… This is a Christ-centered, Bible-based … a prophetic community."
Rodriguez, whose organization serves the 16 million Hispanic born-again Christians of all denominations in the United States and provides a unified voice for them, admitted "they came in here illegally." But, he added, they did not come to teach America Salsa, Meringue, or Cha Cha Cha. Breaking down the word Hispanic as "His" and "Panic," he said, "I believe we are here to bring panic to the kingdom of darkness in the sovereign name of Jesus Christ."
The answer to the immigration issue lies embedded at the cross, Rodriguez proposed. "You mean it doesn't lie in Congress?" Robison asked. "No because the donkey and the elephant have failed," the Hispanic leader replied. "I believe the Christian community should rise up and instead of just being married to the agenda of the donkey or the elephant; we should be married exclusively to the agenda of the lamb. That's the agenda – that's our agenda!"
The cross, he went on to say, is both vertical and horizontal. "It's both righteousness and justice… sanctification and service, covenant and community... John 3:16 and Matthew 25… Billy Graham and Martin Luther King, Jr." He said Christians for too long had either functioned vertically or horizontally.
Rodriguez said the solution could be found in Leviticus 19 and Romans 13. "Treat the stranger amongst you as one of your own because you were once an immigrant in Egypt with respect to the rule of law." But, first of all, "as Christians we should be opposed to illegal immigration… We need to stop illegal immigration."
Many of the women that try to come over here illegally, he mentioned, end up being raped and violated at young ages.
However, he cautioned, "we have to look at those that are currently here. Let's deport the bad guys. Let's identify those that came here to engage in nefarious activity: The gang banger, the drug trafficker." But not so "with the rest of the community… these wonderful, wonderful god-fearing, family-loving, faith-filled, freedom-loving individuals came here to give their children a better day… let's integrate them."
Rodriguez said the level of poverty in Mexico was egregious. "If I was on the other side, and I'm one mile away from my daughter suffering great harm or from feeding my family, I'm going to be honest with you, there is a good possibility I may jump the Rio Grande likewise, just for the sake of my children." He added that many of immigrants were self-sustaining, not dependent on welfare or government subsidies, they pay taxes and contribute.
However, illegal immigrants should be told they would not be given amnesty, he said. "First thing you're going to do is admit guilt. We're going to make you pay a fine. You're going to learn English… the language of our nation… We're going to get you a guest worker program so you can continue to work here legally but here's a way." It may take up to 10 years, but at the end of the day, when they embrace that citizenship "you're going to have someone who says, 'God bless America!'"
Politicians on Capitol Hill, he said, were not capable of solving the issue. "The Democrats believe that this is a natural voting constituency. The Republicans think that if … a Democratic president would sign a law that provides this sort of immigration solution that they're locked in, the community is locked in to vote Democrat for years. So both political parties are suffering of myopia. They don't understand."
Christians, Rodriguez added, needed everyone on board. But "we are alienating the very community that is committed to Christ, to faith and family and country. We're alienating them, we're casting them to the side." If we were to deport 10 million people, many of the Southern Baptist, Assembly of God, Church of God and Four Square churches would lose up to 50 percent of their constituents, he estimated. "It will egregiously impact the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in America. We may very well be deporting the salvation of American evangelicalism."
Hispanic American Christian community, he said, "will usher in a new awakening in the 21st century. I believe the next Great Awakening won't have names as Edwards or Whitfield or Spurgeon or Moody but it will have Rivera and Sanchez and Padilla and Martinez."
After all, Rodriguez reminded, "we are the Samaritans in the 21st century… but it was a Samaritan who looked at that person left behind on the road – that Good Samaritan – and brought about restoration and renewal."