In America, the church has historically been a place where congregations practice participation within a larger community. For many, it becomes a dress rehearsal for political engagement. This is because the separation between church and state does not make church-goers apolitical. In fact, those who are active participants in their churches are also typically active in local education, politics, and have an overall sense of civic duty.
However, according to the Pew Research Center, Latinos are largely divided on the role the church should play in social and political issues with 47% saying that churches should express their social and political views and 44% saying they should not.
Esperanza’s Vice President of National Programs, Reverend Emilio Marrero weighs in on the Hispanic Clergy’s role in cultivating politically engaged Latinos:
When engaging in religion and politics, Latinos are represented across the full spectrum of opinions. I believe that the Latino clergy has the special privilege of informing their congregations about the connection between the church’s values and the activities taking place in politics.
Clergy should be helping their congregations (1) to be engaged in the political process and exercise their right to vote, (2) to understand the positions supported by politicians and (3) help congregations understand the values they support and reconciling that with their vote.
Our congregations must understand what impacts us as a community – a community of Christians, a community of Latinos, families, etc. Once people understand which issues are directly impacting their lives, they need to learn to articulate what they support, and then employ “power in numbers.” This means bringing people together, speaking as a community, and aligning with other communities with similar concerns and values.
In the end, if we as a church understand and embrace the power of civic engagement and practice it, we can create a community with moral integrity. What I mean by this is that we possess the power to address issues that are problematic in our society. Many of these issues are morally linked to our faith and our beliefs. In the marketplace of ideas, we have a moral responsibility to make our concerns known. Whether we win or not is irrelevant. It is better to speak, be heard, and stand up for ones values and lose than to say nothing and allow politics to play out without a moral challenge.
Our role is to speak in order to represent the truth we understand to be inherent to our faith. It is not to demean, denounce or alienate others but to represent our beliefs with conviction and integrity. Hopefully, we produce arguments that are founded on substance, sound doctrine, and speaks to protect the innocent, the poor, and edify the general populace.
No matter what your religious affiliations, Latinos have an incredible opportunity in the current political environment to speak on what we believe is right for God and Country. While many others have had the pulpit in American politics before us, it is our time to step up and speak our truth.
Be the face of the Latino community of faith. Be the face of the Latino electorate.