A friend of mine posted on her Facebook page a while back that life is not easy, although social media makes it look as if it is. She then went into a detailed account of how some of her days look "behind the veil." As I read her post, I immediately was reminded of something an inner circle chica had told me once. She said, "Liz, you make it look easy. People think you are able to do all you have done because you are just smarter or haven't had the trials some of us have had." To which I replied, "that is absolutely not so." She then said, "well how would we know. You don't share your struggles." I never forgot that talk. Since that time, I have been very intentional about sharing defeats as well as wins. With social media nowadays, our failures are usually very much on display for all to see. But today, I thought I'd share again.
I was raised by a single mom who struggled to raise two daughters. The extent to which I still only imagine because she was not one to share her pain or struggles, always opting to show herself strong in an effort to raise strong daughters. My half sister and I are seven years apart. We are similar in that we have both fought for what we now have. None of us was handed anything in life. I don't remember much of my dad. Although I do know he left my mom with nothing when I was two. A "religious" man, a store front church preacher, he was also violent. My mom has a scar on her arm as evidence from his barber toolkit.
Much of my early life is a haze. I guess my brain did its best to protect me from pain. Anyway, being a child of a single parent was not a picnic. Economically, we struggled. In the religious community, one that celebrated two parent homes, we were shall we say "not celebrated." I used to dread both Mother's day and Father's Day as a teen. Why? Because my mom did not come to Jesus until late in life thus she was not in church attendance when I was until much later. So every Mother's Day, when they called the mother's up with their families, I was alone. I would encourage myself by telling myself that "at least I had a mother in my life." On Father's Day, alone again, I felt worse because I could not tell myself "at least I had a Father in my life."
Most of my teachers did the absolute minimal work in class and I never heard an encouraging word. As a matter of fact, I remember in 10th grade at my high school, I would skip school because as a "church girl" I could not wear pants and was not seen as a cool chick. One day the guidance counselor called my mom and told her of my absences and told her to come in. I was called down to her office to find my mother there. I was then part of what seemed to be an hour long lecture on why I would NOT pass my Regent's exam and why I would NOT go to the next grade. Guess what? I not only passed my Regent's with flying colors, I also went to 11th grade. I never liked people telling me what I could or could not do based on THEIR opinion. That always served as fuel for me to exceed expectations.
In my book, Don't Buy The Lie: Eradicating False Belief Systems that Keep You From Your Destiny I share how even in the church some folks thought I would not amount to much because of a silly teenage mistake. Let's just say, I proved them wrong too.
Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves of just how powerful we can be if we unite in the fight, which in this case is the resistance against unjust policies that are continually hurting the black and brown communities of the world. We are brown. We are Latinx. We are here to stay.
While the United States is heading toward a time where there will be “no clear ethnic majority, at this present time, it is the nation’s largest community of color at 25 percent of the population, followed by African Americans at 12.7 percent. By the year 2050, the Latinx population is expected to exceed 100 million individuals. While there are some in society that view all of the Latinx community as Mexicans, the reality is that there are many subgroups. There are Mexican, Honduran, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Cuban, Chilean, Dominican, Colombian, Argentinian, Puerto Rican, Venezuelan, Ecuadorian, Bolivian, Peruvian, Panamanian, Costa Rican, Nicaraguan to name just a few. Each community has its own ethnic, political, racial, socio-economic, linguistic, and cultural diversity.
Older research places the Latinx population in the larger metropolitan areas in what is known as gateway cities including Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Chicago. However, a 2016 Pew Research Center study found that from the 1990s onward the Latinx community were bypassing these traditional gateway cities due to available jobs and affordable housing. Now one can find large Latinx communities in North Carolina (particularly Charlotte), New Orleans, and even what is known as the Black Mecca, Atlanta, Georgia. A surprising fact is that North Dakota and Utah mostly white populations have been attracting a large amount of Latinos due to an oil boom that again brings jobs with it.
Religiously, the Latinx population is also quite diverse. There are Catholics, Protestants, Muslim, Buddhists, Santeros (worship of saints), Curanderos (a traditional Native healer, shaman who use herbs and spiritualism) and even agnostics and atheists. Yet, for the most part, approximately 93% of the Latinx community self-identify as Christian. Of this Latinx group that self-identify as Christian, more than “one million self-identify with the Assemblies of God (AG) across the United States and Puerto Rico, 700,000 plus of whom are noted in AG statistical analyses. The rest are Latinos who do not regularly attend church for various reasons, but who still self-identify with the AG.” In addition, Pentecostals make up approximately 64 percent of all U.S. Latino Protestants and 65 percent of the U.S. Latino Protestant electorate.
Politically, existing literature emphasizes that the Latinx electorate as a whole is showing signs of substantial changes that are worth noting. Bell states,
The potential Latino electorate has increasingly taken on the characteristics of the second- and third-generation immigrants filling its ranks. New voters are US-born, US-educated, and more fluent in English than the generations who preceded them, and their interests, political awareness, and sense of civic responsibility often diverge from those of their elders. They are increasingly taking up residence outside of the geographically-narrow enclaves of their parents and grandparents, and while Latino communities are not yet pervasive throughout the United States, their political influence is slowly extending across the nation.
Educationally, in 2011, 11.4 million Latino students were enrolled in public schools. It is expected that by the 2022-23 school year, 30 percent of public school students will be Latino. Researchers and educators alike assert that the success of Latino students is critical to the success of our nation as a whole. While more Latinos are attending college, there are still large bachelor's degree attainment gaps. In 2013, only 16 percent of Latinos ages 25-29 held at least a bachelor's degree, compared with 40 percent of white young adults. The percentage slightly increased during the 2014-15 academic year with a total of 22 percent of Latinos (25 and older) earning an Associate degree or higher. 
This information on the Latinx population is important to acknowledge as they have ushered in what David Carrasco’s coins the “the Brown Millennium” which he believes “will profoundly shape the spirit, ethos, and cultural complexion of American religion, politics and society.” Furthermore, Espinosa stresses the importance of the Latino Assembly of God members when he states they, “may be one of the movements in the vanguard of the browning of American Evangelicalism and Christianity.”
Because Latinx people have been the victims of racism, suffer through educational equity issues, and a host of other justice issues, it is not surprising that justice has become important to them as it became important to the Black community in the civil rights era. Espinosa writes “Contrary to popular perception, Latino Pentecostals have been involved in faith-based social, civic, and political civic action throughout the twentieth century. Although their work is not framed in terms of the Social Gospel or Liberation Theology movements because such movements are not Christ-centered enough for them.” Espinosa advocates for a blending of Pentecostal distinctives that has an emphasis on the power of the cross, supernatural healing and God’s grace. He elaborates further,
While traditional Evangelical and liberal Protestant churches have split evangelism and social justice into two different types of ministry, Latino Pentecostals blend them together in evangelistic social work and outreach. This approach seeks to use social action, civic engagement, political participation, and acts of mercy as vehicles through which to demonstrate and incarnationalize the love and saving grace of Jesus Christ to a broken and suffering world. …Latino AG leaders …call this blending Jesus Christ’s “agenda of righteousness and justice,” which combines Billy Graham’s vertical reconciling message of salvation and hope in Jesus Christ with Martin Luther King Jr.’s horizontal prophetic focus on civil rights and social justice.
To the Latinx Pentecostal community their understanding of missio Dei is to bring salvation to a world in need by whatever means necessary and that is la causa (the cause) that they all are driven by to this day. They embrace what Michael Gorman states, “The mode by which that salvation is conveyed to the world is the preaching of this good news both in word and in deed.” Samuel Rodriguez illustrates this beautifully,
…The cross is both vertical and horizontal, redemption and relationship, holiness and humility, covenant and community, kingdom and society, righteousness and justice, salvation and transformation, ethos and pathos; it is John 3: 16 and Luke 4, orthodoxy and orthopraxy, Billy Graham and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., faith and public policy, imago dei and habitus Christus, prayers and activism, sanctification and service, the New Jerusalem and Washington DC.
In deed, or as Rodriquez states, the horizontal, is what some Latinx Evangelical Pentecostals feel many White Evangelicals dismiss. Of course, anyone can communicate scripture from the pulpit but biblical justice is living it out. Gorman states, “The Church is a living exegesis of the gospel of God. The church performs the gospel as a living commentary on it...it lives the story, embodies the story, tells the story.”
Are you part of the Latinx Evangelical community? How are you attempting to live out the gospel message in light of everything going on in today's America? Has your church's involvement in justice issues (whether too much, too little or not at all) impacted your church attendance? I'd love to hear about it. Please comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
. Center for American Progress. August 2015. Demographic Growth of People of Color. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress accessed February 22, 2018, https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/05075256/PeopleOfColor-Democracy-FS.pdf
. Havidán Rodríguez, Rogelio Saénz, and Cecilia Menivar, eds., Latinos/as in the United States: Changing the Face of America (New York: Springer, 2008), 10.
. Jorge. J. E. Gracia and Pablo de Grief (eds.), Hispanics/Latino in the United States: ethnicity, Race and Rights (New York: Routledge, 2000), 1.
. Hugo Martin, "Top 10 Cities for Hispanics to Live In: Where Latinos Love To Live, Work And Play." Hispanic, 08, 16-18, 2005. 20-22, accessed April 18, 2018, https://seu.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.seu.idm.oclc.org/docview/237003580?accountid=43912.
. Renee Stepler and Mark Hugo Lopez, “U.S. Latino Population Growth and Dispersion Has Slowed Since Onset of the Great Recession,” Pew Research Center (Hispanic Trends), September 8, 2016, accessed April 20, 2018, http://www.pewhispanic.org/2016/09/08/latino-population-growth-and-dispersion-has-slowed-since-the-onset-of-the-great-recession/
. Gastón Espinosa, Latino Pentecostals in America: Faith and Politics in Action, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), 4. To further clarify “Christian”, Espinosa noted included people and/or with a Christian tradition, movement, or experience such as being born again, Pentecostal/Charismatic, and/or independent/nondenominational Christian.
. Ibid. 3.
. Aaron T. Bell, "Diversity and Potential: The Latino Electorate in The 2016 Elections." Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice 8, no. 2: 2016.243-262, accessed April 27, 2018 https://seu.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.seu.idm.oclc.org/docview/1848083544?accountid=43912.
. A. P. McGlynn, Latino college-going & graduation rates moving up but gaps remain. The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, 24, 18-20. (2014, Sep 08), accessed April 17, 2018, https://seu.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.seu.idm.oclc.org/docview/1562505767?accountid=43912
. Miriam Rinn,"Graduate Education: Maintaining Equal Access to Graduate School." The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, Jun 27,1997, 8, accessed April 17, 2018, https://seu.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.seu.idm.oclc.org/docview/219297942?accountid=43912.
. Excelencia in Education “Latino College Completion: United States” Handout, 2014-2015 enrollment and completions data, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), U.S. Department of Education, accessed April 28, 2018, https://www.edexcelencia.org/sites/default/files/LCCStateStats/Exc-2018-50StateFS-USA-04_0.pdf
. David Carrasco as cited in Gastón Espinosa, Latino Pentecostals in America: Faith and Politics in Action, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), 5.
. Ibid. 322.
. Gastón Espinosa, Latino Pentecostals in America: Faith and Politics in Action, 322. For more insight on this see Samuel Rodriguez, The Lamb’s Agenda: Why Jesus Is Calling You to a Life of Righteousness and Justice, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2013).
. Michael J. Gorman, Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2015), 23.
. Samuel Rodriguez, The Lamb’s Agenda: Why Jesus Is Calling You to a Life of Righteousness and Justice, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2013). Kindle, 2.
. Ibid. 43.
I am sure you have felt it. The person in the meeting who goes against everything you suggest. The person in your group activity that never seems to get your point of view. The person who stops talking when you enter the room or who sizes you up when you get there. You probably have a picture in your head of that person. Or maybe there are more than one.
Whether it is a need for control or a need to be right, these kind of folks can be annoying and sometimes even demoralizing. Contrary people can be exhausting and sometimes you have to decide what you want to do with that. If it is a work situation, obviously not everyone can get up and go and to be honest, in a work environment, you will probably have alot of that. You might just have to grin and bear it because you need that check. But if you believe the person is fairly reasonable at some level, have a talk. Ask, "is there a reason why you are always the contrary conversationalist?" You will be surprised of what people confess to. Some share about their family background where their voice was never heard and they will be damned if they don't raise it now with anyone on anything. Some will even say they did not realize they were doing that. But it is your call how you want to handle that kind of person at work. Worst case, you can try to avoid them. But what happens when this kind of person is in something you belong to for personal development, socialization or philanthropic reasons.
Here you still have a choice but you have more room to make it and you can weigh it against the things that matter to you other than money to pay your bills! Thank God. Here's what I think:
There are enough places in this world that can make you feel inferior, unwanted and disliked and where you have no control of the situation i.e. work, etc. But when you can take control of the situation do so. Where you are celebrated is where you will grow. Where people make it a habit of checking themselves and their interactions with folks is where it is healthier. Go find people, places and spaces like that or create your own.
Yeah, sometimes you just have to go and guess what, you will thrive. Being around healthy people has a way of helping you bloom. Go. Find. Them.