January Series Speaker Urges Biblical View of Immigration

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Salguero January Series cutline235Gabriel and Jeanette Salguero co-lead the multiethnic Lamb’s Church in New York City.Some ministers understandably prefer not to mix together in their messages current-events and politics. Rev. Gabriel Salguero is not one of them.

Speaking recently at Calvin College's January Series, Salguero shared the stage with his wife, Jeanette, who translated his message from English to Spanish.

Just who are Latinos?

He began his talk with a brief demographic primer of who Hispanics, or Latinos, (Salguero interchangeably used both adjectives) are in the United States. Fifty-four million live in the U.S.; 55 percent are Roman Catholic and 22 percent are Protestants with 16 percent identifying as evangelicals or Pentecostals.

Despite their Christian roots, Latinos represent the fastest growing ethnic group who are unaffiliated with any religion, Salguero said, who co-leads the multiethnic Lamb's Church of the Nazarene in New York City that worships in three languages: English, Spanish, and Mandarin; he is president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition; is the founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition which offers a leadership voice for the close to eight million Latino evangelical in the nation, is a featured writer for "On Faith," and the Huffington Post's religion page.

Moreover, the U.S. Latino population grew 47.5 percent between 2000 and 2011, and by 2050, is projected to rise to 30 percent of the U.S. population.

Latinos tend to be theologically conservative who regard the supernatural as real and working in their day-to-day living.

Although they are perceived primarily as migrant people, 60 percent of Hispanics are born in the U.S., Salguero said.

'We're a funny group'

"I live in the Latino evangelical world," Salguero said of himself. "We're a funny group. We're the swing voters. We tend to be socially conservative and economically progressive. George W. Bush won the Hispanic vote at each election by a slim margin. Barrack Obama won the Hispanic vote twice by a slim margin. We tend to be more progressive than our white, evangelical counterparts."

And when it comes to the immigration debate that's currently the rage with presidential candidates, Salguero's progressive side comes out. But, he said, he has a different term to describe his views on immigrants: biblical.

Keeping the gospel center

When it comes to "issues of life we hope we are bridge builders who can talk across cultures without losing our gospel center," said Salguero.

"We've heard a lot of xenophobic (intense fear and dislike of people from other countries) rhetoric from political candidates that has nothing to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ," he said.

Salguero supported his assertion with Matthew 25:35: "I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home."

"Latinos are not a challenge to America, they are a gift to America," Salguero said. "We have an opportunity to define the future of the country, to be hospitable or to be xenophobic. Silence is not an option. People do not leave their homelands unless there is serious economic depression."

Collectively, the church at large should be a sanctuary, the face of Jesus, Salguero added.

Such beliefs come with a price, Salguero said. He has received death threats on his answering machine and has found it necessary for police to escort his children to school for a time.

"How do you explain to them people are threatening clergy who stand up for immigrants?" Salguero said.

His son came up with the right answer.

"He said, 'Remember daddy, love wins,' Salguero recalled. "We're all in this together. The Latino church is having an impact on America."

So too is the anti-immigration rhetoric, which will have an undesirable effect on the nation's youngest.

Must be intoxicated with hope

"The children raised are being poisoned with cynicism," Salguero said. "The biggest challenge within the Christian church is cynicism, despair and nihilism. We must be intoxicated with hope. We must tell our children there's injustice, but love wins.

Silence is Complicity

"As Christians, we transmit hope, righteous indignation, which is always showered with hope. A prophet doesn't just tell what's wrong with the world, they also give alternative solutions. We answer to a higher authority. Whenever any (political) party or both parties advocates for practices that oppress people, the church must stand because silence is complicity."

"I chose hope because hope has chosen us."
Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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