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Hector Hinojosa

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My name is Hector Hinojosa. I was born in South Texas in 1957 to a family of yellow dog Democrats. That means if there’s a Democrat on the ballot, we will vote Democrat even that Democrat an “old yellow dog.” Being born in October of 1957 I did not get to vote in the presidential election until 1980.  I voted for Ronald Reagan.  Since then I have voted for every Republican presidential nominee since then- until our last election.  Because of the position the Republicans have taken on the wall, I could not support them.  I felt like I would be betraying the sacrifice my grandparents and others made to give me and my children the opportunity we have..

I have been a Christian since 1991. I have been going to my church since 1998. I am a leader at our church. I work in the Financial Services Business, so I’m pretty conservative on fiscal matters.  I’ve been a Mexican almost my entire life and, on this border wall issue, I guess I am considered a bleeding-heart liberal.  I am considered one of “them”- you know the guy who hates America and wants it over run by foreigners.   I don’t think I am – but that is what I am told.  I hope that disagreeing with many of my fellow Christians on this topic doesn’t mean I am committing a mortal sin. Having been born a Catholic I know what a big deal that is! That is why I am so grateful for grace!

I was recently asked to write this paper. My topic was “the Christian and politics”. As I was gathering my thoughts, I came across an article written in the Christian Chronicle that talked about some congressmen who were worshipping with their first-generation Spanish-speaking Hispanic friends and loving them like Christ would have us do.  These same congressmen also support building a border wall. They all seem very comfortable holding these two seemingly diametrically opposed ideas at the same time. But for me it’s impossible to square them.

Perhaps we should agree that what someone says, and what another hears are sometimes NOT the same thing. Sometimes they’re  a little different, and there is not harm.  And sometimes they’re so different it’s almost funny.

And in this instance, a politician worshiping with first generation Spanish-speaking Hispanics- not caring if they are fully documented, is a true picture of what Jesus’ love should look like. But, when the very next sentence is that we have to build a wall, those positions seem incongruent. What I hear is this: we love you and we don’t care how you got here or what your status is.  On the other hand, your brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles are not welcome here. At least not today. Now, if they take the 5 to 10 years to process paperwork and apply legally- then hopefully they will be chosen for status of the United States, then we would be happy to welcome them and love them like Jesus loves us. Short of that, all we can say is “don’t come.” If you try, we’ll catch you… at the wall.

The disappointing thing here is that these men all love Jesus. They love their church and the people in them. I simply must believe that they don’t understand what is being heard- when they speak. I am currently reading a book by Andy Stanley titled Irresistible. The premise of the book is to try to find out why Christianity has become so resistible. Right after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christianity was irresistible. People were flocking to become followers of Christ.  And in doing so they faced great danger to livelihoods, to their families, even to their lives- many were killed because of their faith in Christ.  And yet they came. Today only about a third of the people in the county that I reside in, Tarrant county, attend a church assembly on Sunday. Only half consider themselves Christians. What has happened to our faith? Why has our faith become so resistible?

While there may be many things we can look to- I believe that this non-congruent view of immigrants is a good example of why people stay away and even refer to us as hypocrites. After all, Jesus told us to love our neighbor. The pharisees were trying to get Jesus to say something wrong.  They wanted to ask him loaded questions to try to trap him. They asked him “who is our neighbor” and what does love look like.  He told the story of the good Samaritan. In it he showed us how it is that we are to love our neighbor. We are to do what love requires. The story also forced them to realize that people that don’t look like them, or come from the same country, or believe in the same way- were their neighbors. I think that’s something we should consider today. Instead we seem to be saying that “while we love you, we don’t want or love your family back home.” I don’t believe that’s what Jesus would have us do.  I think the question that we need to ask is “what does love require?” How do we love them? The answer is -what does love require.  I don’t know what that means, but I’m pretty sure that love does not require a wall.  This reminds me a little of the first century Jews (Pharisees) that were teaching Gentiles that before they could become Christians -they first had to become Jews (circumcision).  They were adding steps to be worthy of God’s love.

A few years ago, a friend of mine who was the pulpit minister in a church in McAllen Texas (on the border) was looking for volunteers to help when the children’s immigration crisis was happening. He was lamenting that all the churches of Christ in the valley only produced 5 to 8 volunteers a day, but that the Catholic Church had hundreds of volunteers helping these children. Is there something we can learn from them?  Is there any question as to why most of these Hispanics attend the Catholic church?  It’s not about theology, it’s about how they are loved.

I believe that we all want everyone to follow Jesus and find his love and his grace. It’s important that we are sensitive to what our words and beliefs say about how we love people.  All people! Even our enemies. And maybe even the people who are risking everything to come to America! They are not the enemy.  But the enemy has convinced many of us that we can treat such people as if we hate them and still love Jesus.

If you have read to this point, I want to thank you. This has likely not been an easy read. Hopefully I didn’t offend you.  But I do want to remind us that this (Earth) is not our home! That we too are immigrants and that one day we will go home where there will be no walls.  America is the greatest country in the world, it’s not the promised land…. That is coming and I want to see everyone there!

In him  Hector

Recently a ”good, Jesus -loving” gentleman came to me after one of my English Dominant Latino presentations and said to me “Hector, I don’t see color.” I answered “Wow your sunsets must be boring!” I was not trying to be offensive or trite, it’s just that God made us different colors and we should recognize and rejoice in that. How boring it would be if we all looked the same.

What do you call a church whose church demographic does not match the demographic of the community around them? The answers I have received have varied from “dying” to “normal,” and everything in between. But can this disparity be called racist? Of course our churches are not racist. But the question was “could it be seen as racist?” Have you ever seen an all-white church meeting in a culturally diverse neighborhood? How does that feel? What does that look like to you?

Yesterday I had lunch with a couple who does see color (I’m pretty sure they had heard my previous story) and they wanted to know what they could do. They want to reach Latinos and other minorities but don’t know what to do. There are things that a church body can do to reach minorities, but today we will focus on you- the individual.

So what we can you do? Here are 3 things you can do if you a member of the dominant culture-

Believe it- First believe that racism exists today. We don’t want to believe it, but it’s there. And sadly Sunday continues to be the most segregated day of the week! If the kingdom of heaven is not segregated, why is the church segregated? I am pretty sure that is not how a church should lead.

See with kingdom eyes- I visited a church a while back and they said “We just don’t have any Hispanics in our area.” I was coming back in 2 weeks and I asked them to “look” for Hispanics in that time. When I came back they confessed that they were shocked at how many Hispanics they had seen – in the same community that 2 weeks earlier they were pretty sure that none existed! Look with kingdom eyes and God will let you see us! We are not hiding, but sometimes we are just invisible. You find what you look for.

Intentionally make a friend with a person of a different skin color. I know what you are thinking – this is manipulative! We can’t do that. While it may sound weird, let me tell you the story of how I got to know my wife. I first saw her at a birthday party some friends threw for me. I didn’t know her, but she looked great! So in the next few weeks I went to work and figured out who her friends were, what she liked to do and a little bit about her family (I should have spent a lot more time learning about her family! But that is a different story.). Within a few weeks of meeting her I made a casual meeting happen and I took that opportunity to invite her to coffee. In January we celebrated 23 years of marriage. Why do I share that story? Because I did exactly what I am proposing- I intentionally went out of my way to meet and get to know my wife only because of how she looked. That is not weird, it’s being human. I am not suggesting that you go and marry the next Hispanic you meet, but you can intentionally try to make them your friend.

I am convinced that if you use this simple formula you may make lifelong friends. Some of my best friends are white people! I am not sure that they intentionally sought out to make me a friend. If they did I am grateful! Because in the years I’ve known them we have laughed together, cried together and celebrated together- and most importantly we have worshiped our great God together. They still say things that I don’t understand (like “our goose is cooked” or “get your ducks in a row”- I don’t understand the fascination with poultry) but we have come to know and love one another. Maybe your life would be enhanced if you had a good friend that did not look like you.

And if you are buying lunch, I’ll be your friend.

I don’t see color!

I heard this from a Jesus loving member of our church a few weeks ago and I responded “wow that must make your sunsets very boring.” “I don’t see color” is one of the dumbest things I have ever heard. I know that he meant that “he loves everyone the same.” That he doesn’t see “a difference” between people. But there is a difference. Race has become such a challenging topic that it is difficult (and uncomfortable) for even church people to talk about. We don’t know what to say and we are afraid hurt someone’s feelings that we don’t talk about it.  Twenty Five years of recovery has taught me that before you can fix a problem you have to admit there is a problem.

Race has been a taboo subject for years in America. The recent hatred and senseless killing of innocent people, the killing of police officers and riots have made it easier to see how America is divided. Divisive attitudes and how to fix them are far beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say that there is a problem, it’s going to be difficult to solve, and it’s going to take a long time!

But I think we have to start with the recognition that we are different. Not being able to acknowledge that gives us little chance of fixing this problem. If we can’t talk about the elephant, we will never be able to get it out of the room! If we can’t laugh at ourselves, at our differences and our idiosyncrasies – how can we find a solution that offers each other a feeling of safety and trust? We are different because God made us different.

A minister I know in Houston was reflecting on the prayer walk his church coordinated after the tragic and senseless shooting of Sheriff Deputy Goforth (a member of his church) – he said “Everyone is scared! The white community is scared. The Latino community is scared. The black community is scared. The police officers are scared! But there was some of each of those communities at the walk and the prayer walk brought a peace to everyone, for at least a few hours. Everyone felt united.”

That got me thinking of something I heard a while back – Sunday is the most segregated day of the week in America. Of those Americans that go to church most blacks go to black churches; most whites go to white churches and most Latinos go to Catholic churches.

So a simple question is “Why is it that way? Why don’t most of our churches reflect the demographic of their community?” Is it because it’s hard to change? Just because something is hard is not enough reason not to try to change. Is it because we don’t care? Is it because we are lazy? Is it because we have not educated ourselves of the changing face of America? If those are the reasons, aren’t those a form of racism?

Two years ago I noticed that our church was baptizing a lot of English speaking Latinos (2nd and 3rd generation- yes there are a lot of us- by 2060 Latinos will be 1/3 of the population) and I wanted to know why. We arranged a luncheon to ask them the question (among others) “how did you get to our church?” We had 35 folks in the room. What we found was not rocket science.  While a few came through special programs (like sports and vacation bible study for the kids) the vast majority came because they were invited. Who knew? Despite the programs, the outreach, the signs and advertising, the most effective way to get someone to know our church and introduce them to Christ is to invite them.

That raises another question. If it’s that simple then why are we still so segregated? Could it be that if you are one race you only have friends, acquaintances and coworkers of that same race? I don’t think so. Is it because we speak a different language. Nope- even 95% of second generation Latinos are either English dominant or bilingual.

So I think we have to ask ourselves, are we a church or are we a social club? Are we charged with getting together with folks that look like us, think like us and act like us for a couple of hours a week, or are we charged with changing the world. Maybe God knew how busy Americans would be in 2015- too busy to go on mission trips and take the good news around the world. Wanting to give us an opportunity to partner with Him he sent a mission field to America! While America is the greatest country in the world (maybe ever) – it’s not the promise land. That is coming! But for today I think we need to get out of our comfort zone and invite those of different color and heritage to church. They are easy to find, they are the ones that don’t look like you! It’s not an original idea but it has to be intentional.

We have to make our churches look more like our neighborhoods –and how heaven will look like later.