Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and lead pastor of New Season Church in Sacramento, California. Rodriguez has advised Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump, and frequently consults with Congress advancing immigration and criminal justice reform as well as religious freedom and pro-life initiatives. In April 2020, Rodriguez was appointed to the National Coronavirus Recovery Commission to offer specialized experience and expertise in crisis mitigation and recovery to help leaders guide our nation through the COVID-19 pandemic. He is co-founder of TBN Salsa. He earned his master’s degree from Lehigh University and received honorary doctorates from Northwest, William Jessup and Baptist University of the Americas.
If you know anything about Latinos, you know that we love our families. Latino families are closeknit, multigenerational, and large. And if you spend much time with us, you will soon become part of the family! There is always room for another seat at the table.
Latinos are now the nation’s second largest ethnic group, and a growing percentage of us are evangelical Christians. We are the fastest growing part of many evangelical denominations. To understand the Latino community just look through the lens of the family, always. It is — and always will be — our first priority. For this reason, I believe God has raised up the Latino community to bless our nation and our churches for such a time as this.
Family Under Stress
You don’t have to be a sociologist to know that the American family is under stress. More young adults than ever are delaying marriage — some in favor of cohabitation but nearly two in five adults ages 25–54 are neither married nor living with a romantic partner. Those who are married are having fewer children. As a result, our fertility rate has declined to 1.7, well below replacement rate. Our population is growing at the slowest rate in our nation’s history. Were it not for the infusion of new blood via immigration, much of it from Latin America, our population would actually be shrinking.
To compound the problem, more than 60 million American babies have been aborted since 1973. The Supreme Court action overturning Roe v. Wade offers hope that fewer babies will be aborted in the coming years, but abortion on demand will continue to be legal in many states. In this context, the growth of the Latino evangelical community in America is good news. Latinos are pro-life, pro-religious freedom and pro-justice, because we are pro-faith and pro-family.
Like other Americans, Latinos face the challenge of providing for their families in a time of high inflation. Our concerns generally mirror those of broader American life, with a strong focus on education. We value hard work, and care about economic opportunity, parental rights, school choice, religious liberty and the sanctity of life. Those who are first generation immigrants often face language and cultural barriers, and for some, challenges of immigration status. But most of us are American citizens who speak English fluently.
What Latinos Bring to the Family
Latinos, and especially Latino evangelicals, meet these challenges with strong faith, loving families and a profound commitment to the sanctity of human life. These virtues benefit not only the Latino community but all Americans. I would be so bold as to say that that the future of America, in many ways, rests in the hands of our Latino brothers and sisters.
Americans can learn from Latinos’ political independence. Many of us came from countries that were oppressed by dictatorships of the left or the right. We came to the United States seeking freedom and opportunity, and we are wary of being taken advantage of by any political party.
Politicians struggle to put Latinos into neat ideological boxes. The average Latino in America is socially conservative yet sympathetic to justice issues. Political parties like to co-opt their constituents for partisan purposes, but historically, Latinos have been independent and likely will remain so.
Family immigration is an important issue that has touched virtually every Latino family in the United States. Latinos support a secure and well-managed border as a first step in comprehensive immigration reform. That’s because we are often the first victims of smugglers and traffickers who prey upon vulnerable immigrants. We want to see our legal immigration system overhauled, so that immigrants who come here to work, study or reunite with family can do so efficiently and legally. Currently immigrants wait for years, and even decades, to reunite with close family members: parents, children and siblings. For Latinos who value family so highly, this is truly painful. We believe facilitating the legal entry of immigrant families represents a blessing to America not just economically but also spiritually.
Christians have sometimes been naive and deceived rather than following the warning of Jesus himself to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. We must not be subservient to the agenda of the elephant or the donkey. Instead, we must come to terms with our status of being “in the world and not of the world.”
The world will never fully accept us, and we shouldn’t expect it to. The faith passed down to us is too true and too important to be squandered for a high five from the political left or the political right. The answer is to be all in on both the message of Billy Graham and the march of Martin Luther King, Jr. — the mission of the Great Commission and the compassion of the Great Commandment. This is an agenda that will bless all of our families.