Latino Covenanters Feel Sting of Political Rhetoric

Abraham Bejarano, pastor of Emmanuel Covenant Church in Northridge, California

Abraham Bejarano, pastor of Emmanuel Covenant Church in Northridge, California

CHICAGO, IL (February 1, 2016) – Many Covenant Latino church members are suffering shame, anger, pain, and fear due to the inflamed political rhetoric that they say dehumanizes them and which is made all the worse because it is supported by so many evangelicals.

Although there have long been differences and harsh words over immigration, they reached a heightened level when Donald Trump spoke to a largely white audience last June and said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

According to polls at the time, the comments received strong support from many evangelicals, and recent polls show that as many as 37 percent of people who call themselves evangelicals support Trump’s candidacy.

Many Latinos I know feel ashamed by what people say about them in a country that they feel hates us, that wants us out. – Ed Delgado, CHET president.

Latino Covenanters want their fellow ECC members to oppose the language and attitudes. Danny Martinez, pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Spring Valley, California, and president of the Ministry of Hispanic Covenant Churches in the United States (MHIPE), said, “My immediate reaction, my gut feeling is, being part of the Covenant church for 28 years now, is ‘Did you hear what Donald Trump called me?’… I’m not Mexican but I represent, you know, all of Latin America.”

He continued, “We are Latin America, and we represent the church, so how do you feel about Donald Trump calling me a rapist and a criminal and a murderer? How are you going to react to that? And if you truly believe that you and I are brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, if you truly believe that we are in the same boat, then that should offend you.”

Abraham Bejarano, pastor of Emmanuel Covenant Church in Northridge, California, said, “When we talk about how bad ‘those people’ are, then we’re talking about our children. We are talking about people in our own family and churches.”

“I totally feel offended by what is being said because anybody who speaks Spanish is labeled as Mexican, and it is sad when people don’t recognize the difference and the richness of our different cultures,” said Karen Figueroa, who is from El Salvador and works as an executive assistant at Centro Hispano de Estudios Teologiicos (CHET), the Covenant’s Hispanic leadership training center.

“It also is offensive when the statements are made as a general way of diminishing the hardworking people who do contribute to the wealth of this country,” Figueroa added. “I have talked to my kids about it, and we pray for the people that are not knowledgeable of the reality of applauding candidates that want to win the vote with these types of comments. I tell them our stories. The stories that matter, the stories that have made this country one of immigrants.”

The language is about more than words and political philosophy. “Many Latinos I know feel ashamed by what people say about them in a country that they feel hates us, that wants us out,” said CHET President Ed Delgado.

The political campaigns also remind Latinos of elections in many of their native countries, Delgado added. “For Latinos who recently left or fled hardship, they wonder where, if anyplace on earth, there is to go. Talk of building yet another wall, but only in the Southern border is despicable, and openly prejudicial.”

Figueroa added that Latinos must work to make others aware of what they have fled and the need to work towards a better future in the United States. “As a church we also need to let others know of the importance of doing our homework. We have been suppressed by the government in our countries with so much corruption that we lose the energy to fight for the truth and for equality.”

Bejarano said he believes fear is at the root of the harsh attitudes toward Latinos and immigrants. “People fear outsiders, and you have a nation that is fearful about the future, but it is that fear that is making our families live in fear.”

Latinos are reminded of that fear and distrust whenever derogatory statements are made about Muslims as well, Delgado said. “It’s the same thing.”

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About the Author

Stan Friedman

Stan Friedman is the news and online editor for the Covenant Companion and is grateful for the opportunity to serve in a job that combines his newspaper and pastoral ministry experience. He has been to 15 Bruce Springsteen concerts in four cities and listened to “Thunder Road” an average of at least once a day for 41 years.

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10 Comments

  1. As a Christian brother, I am saddened to read that none of the pastors named on this article has mentioned our Lord Jesus Christ when uttering their criticism to Trump. Without Jesus, this article doesn’t bear even the slightest affiliation to the Truth! It looks more to what the average unsaved street immigrant would say when asked about Trump’s comments.

    I don’t see an invitation made to Trump to surrender to our Lord and Savior. Neither do I see the benefits the Lord has for him.
    I’m wondering if this article is benefiting someone else instead of the ones offended by Trump.

    The Lord is in control and He isn’t at all offended or outraged by what Trump has said. Let’s show a little bit of our Lord to him.

  2. It is appalling that Donald Trump has the following that he has and that the media gives him the kind of coverage that they do. His comments are outrageous! And the positions taken my Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are no better. When the media talks about evangelicals they are not speaking about the Evangelical Covenant Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church or others who represent the true history and meaning of evangelicalism. They are associating fundamentalism at it’s worst with evangelical as it is rightfully understood! I thank God for our Hispanic brothers and sisters! They bring a richness to our church and to our country!

  3. Stan and Companion thank you for this article and especially for the interviews and stories. We don’t have to endorse one political candidate or another to call out sentiments and postures that are against Christ and the gospel. Lamententing with our Latino brothers and sisters is a decidedly gospel response. Period. As a Covenant person seeking to embody the love of Christ in the world, I stand with you and I feel confident in saying the denomination does too.

  4. Trump’s comments are reprehensible. Period. But where is the Christian outrage at candidate’s support of killing unborn babies, and not only supporting but celebrating homosexuality. And then there is the issue of lying-on both sides. Folks, we need to pray for our elected leaders and we need to support candidates with Christian faith and moral character. Character matters.

  5. I can’t stand Trump’s rhetoric either. Nor have I found my perfect political candidate. What I have always loved about the Covenant is that we have a history of freedom and grace in spiritual differences. Do we really want to head in the direction of naming approved Covenant political candidates?

    It’s very difficult to keep church and state separate, but isn’t it healthier of we can? Political differences have become so divisive with angry polarizing that it has the power to partition each of us into permanent “approved Christian” silo’s. There’s plenty of history on that.

    We all have differing views on secular politics based on economic conditions, family history, life experience, etc.
    Do we really want to join the noisy political parade as a denomination? Which parade? Which floats? Isn’t it healthier to allow each other the freedom to make our own political decisions in the polling booth as we individually, with prayer, decide how to address those interests privately?

    Certainly there is no restriction to engaging in private political interests in our communities – in fact, it’s a positive way to be light in the community. There are political groups of every stripe to join in order to promote our own interests.

    But when in church, is it not better to simply focus on Christ and his love for each other and our fallen world?

    1. We are studying and discussing the Covenant’s 2014 Resolutuon on Immigration in our Sunday School class, and I believe what this article is saying is that a part of the body of Christ has been wounded, and there is a need for healing. It is a calling for help… action, to speak up in defense against such destructive rhetoric coming not only from Trump, but those who share his sentiment under the guise of the greater evangelical movement.

      Being Covenant means that we are united in Christ, not by common doctrine. This allows us to coalesce in many beautiful ways.

      I see a call for raising the bar, raising the expectations of our peers, and raising up those who are unjustly stereotyped and oppressed. We need to be asking our peers to help us understand their opposing views. Perhaps even gently, rhetorically ask them to consider where they see Christ residing on the issue.

      I’m saddened that my brothers and sisters in Christ are hurting because of the unchecked actions of someone like Trump. However, I hope we can use articles like Stan’s as a springboard for greater and healthier productive dialog which can lead to the broadening of hearts and minds, not the siloing of inflammatory rhetoric-based sound bites that halt any chance at discourse.

  6. As horrible as Trump’s comments are, both Rubio and Cruz, sons of immigrants themselves, have not rejected his language. I’m astonished at Iowa’s evangelical voting record.

  7. Obviously, our country has many issues and problems. One of the most glaring to me is the amount of people backing and supporting the candidacy of Donald Trump for president, regardless of race, color, creed, religious beliefs, etc. The words that come out of his mouth create nothing but animosity among many people, and the continued support of this man causes me the most concern. I am praying hard for our country and for our people. Love God, love others.

  8. Hearing this from my Latino Covenant brothers and sisters fills me with deep grief, embarrassment, and anger. I am at a loss to understand how evangelicals, of all people, can be supportive of Trump. Everything he says and represents is at odds with what our savior calls us to be and do. I have spoken out when I have heard the reprehensible words of Trump and confronted those who have supported him, challenging their perspectives, advocacy of Trump’s rhetoric, and their grasp of what it means to truly follow Jesus. Know that I am in solidarity with you!

  9. I love you brothers and sisters. I am so sorry for your heartache. Similarly, as an African American and a woman, I understand how you must feel. It breaks my heart and also angers me. I lived in the deep Jim Crow south until age 13 and relate to harsh treatment in words, deeds and physical mistreatment. I remain in prayer for all of my sisters, brothers, children, and families. Know that I stand with you in spirit and in truth.

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