1. Arnaldo Mejias

    I believe Dr. Villafa帽e’s words are excerpted from his 1993/1994 book, “The Liberating Spirit.” In any case, it rings true today–almost 10 years after (more if you count the years during which he wrote his dissertation–the base of the book). We (believers from bi-/multi-cultural backgrounds) understand the idea of living in two worlds well: we are in the world, but not of the world… somos Latin@s in an Anglo culture… some of us are formally educated (and materially well-off) among relatives who never had the opportunities for education (and may not have much wealth). What IS this existence we, the Church, have between (in) two worlds? We must participate in this world’s politics, but not to the extremes of “Kingdom (Now) Theology.” We can’t be silent in the face of oppression, but do we also support causes that we perceive to be contrary to Scriptural values (e.g., abortion, etc.)? On another note, we (the Church) are still struggling with things going on in our congregations… Below is an e-mail message I recently received (text is sic):
    [“God bless everyone
    ………this is one of the responces to my question about God making people bleed and bangin peoples head on the altar in an act of chastisement………..i have removed his name but see his responce!…..he is the first out of all my contacts…to defend it!!!!……..tell me what you guys think!
    I defend it because in a lot of churches these days, the power of the Holy Spirit has been substituted for something else. God is not going to reveal the things that are in darkness if the Holy Spirit is not in the church. We need to go back to the “Senda Antigua”. I am a witness of what God does when someone is walking the wrong way. My wife (at that time my girlfriend) in a Campana de Jovenes, God took her and made her fly straight up in the air from the back of the church, all the way to the front, head first and bang her head on the altar. Why? Because she was disobeying God. Another friend of ours, also was disobeying God. God would use a prophet (which is something that we rarely see now and days), to talk to her and tell her to straighten up. She would get more rebelious with God. What happened? She had a car accident in which her boyfriend died and she is paralyzed from her neck down. Now was this God or just a coincidence? The most amazing thing to me is that with all this that has happened, she still does not serve the Lord. We cannot play with God and think that nothing is going to happen. We talk so much about the people of Israel in the Old Testament and we are worst than them. God speaks to us directly these days and we still have “itching of the ears” and we do not listen to what he is telling us. We have to remember that “obedience is better than the sacrifice”.
    God Bless You”]
    Most of our pastors (and the person who wrote this IS a pastor in the Bronx) can’t–or will not–discern for themselves. They refuse theological education… they refer to seminary training as “el cementerio” (David makes reference to this behavior in one of his earlier posts). We need to set things straight in-house; have the moral and ethical courage to at least begin where we agree. The “emergent” conversation will continue–and that’s great. But, what should NOT be a part of this conversation? Or should we consider any and all things/behaviors/activities? How would you all answer this pastor’s question regarding the “chastising” activities in our congregations?

  2. Thanks for sharing Arnaldo, I almost don’t know where to begin because of the complexity and plethora of hermeneutical issues that arise from your questions and observations. I was born and raised in the Pentecostal church and am greatful for the richness of experiences…yet disturbed at how it can be too insular and perhaps overly concerned about people’s holiness within the four walls. Many HIspanic churches are unfortunately losing many of their youth to churches that are less legalistic, and honestly taking many scars with them. In church, I’d be more interested in finding out what kind of impact the people are having, not in only the congregation, but in society. I’d also like to know if we can measure spiritual growth beyond what people wear, smoke, etc, to where people’s hearts are (pride, arrogance, envy), the things we can’t see.
    I love the Hispanic Pentecostal church and always will. It constantly reminds me of the passion and power of God. That’s a plus. The plus side of emergent, is that they’re willing to ask the tough questions about faith in America, and provide a safe place for people to be themselves in Christ. Of course, even emergent has its own growth edges as well…
    The question is can we stay engaged with people who are different, other, with out feeling morally superior, or thinking that others will negatively influence us? I for one don’t want to live a gospel of fear but want to engage the world, and the larger faith community…

  3. Arnaldo Mejias

    Brother Jose,
    I concur with your comment that the HPC can be (has been) “too insular and perhaps overly concerned about people’s holiness within the four walls.” This is why, as you also point out, “many Hispanic churches are unfortunately losing many of their youth to churches that are less legalistic, and honestly taking many scars with them.” As a former district youth director of a large Pentecostal denomination, I can attest to the youth exodus the HPC currently faces. That’s not to say that there aren’t leaders trying to keep youth in the HPC, but (in general) for some reason there seems to be a gap that has not been bridged. You are right to ask that churches become “more interested in finding out what kind of impact the people are having, not in only the congregation, but in society.” We (the Church Universal) were not sent to saty within four walls! Further (and I do not intend to come across as “preachy”), I believe we can–and ought to–measure spiritual growth “…to where people’s hearts are (pride, arrogance, envy), the things we can’t see.” It’s called faith-in-action (cf. James)… it’s Scripture… I mean, why don’t most HPC pastors get it? Last week I saw the film “The Gospel,” and the main character’s dad was presented as a model minister juxtaposed to a secondary character who succeeds the older minister. While the film leaves much to be desired, it represents some of the conflicts between “old school” ministry and “new jack” ministry. There needs to be a middle ground with both our theology and practice; we need to do the little things to those most in need, while changing our methods for reaching and keeping people of all ages.

  4. Arnaldo,
    You raise some very important issues, some that have been on the internal coversation pipeline for decades. It is precisely the fact that these issues are still salient in our communities is where I hear the exasperation in your voice and in many of us.
    I particularly enjoyed the notion that you posit, that as Latino Pentecostals, we live in “two worlds.” This is reminiscent of Tertullian’s age old question, “What does the church have to do with politics?” and again, “What does the church have to do with the academy?”
    We are citizens of two realities, or some would say “resident aliens,” that have to engage two different orders. As the church we are called to be salt and light, we often must stand over and against “the powers” that dehumanize, or facilitate systemic sin, genocide and/or oppression–hence the prophetic role of the church. You mention that “we cannot remain silent,” I agree with this and it reminds me of a host of theological camps including Liberation, Feminist, Mujerista and Post-colonialist that have struggled against varying forms of oppression. Being engaged does require courage, often many pay with their lives (Archbishop Romero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr. etc). This does not even mention other sacrifices often not mentioned (not receiving tenure, being “black listed” by peers etc) by those who dare to speak out. While on this thought we must be cognizant that many of our leaders play multiple roles and must deal with sensitivities we are not aware of hence must deal with high level diplomacy that is nevertheless prophetic although it may not be as vociferous as others.
    You rightly suggest that there are some things that ought not be part of the Emergent dialogue (i.e., behaviors, activities, etc.) It my understanding of the Emergent conversation, while embracing varying expressions of Christian faith, would address issues of orthopraxis (i.e., ethics) but would not venture to involve themselves into the idiosyncratic doctrinal or dogmatic expressions of of particular faiths along with its real or perceived strengths and weaknesses, those debates are part and parcel of each particular denomination and/or church movement, unless it impacted upon the Church writ large.
    Arnaldo you are right, we need to discuss these issues, and even address the often pathological manifestations in our movement. As we labor to be a bridge generation–via cultural, linguistic and/or economic realities, I’m sure you will agree, that we need to treat our elders as fathers and mothers and the younger as sisters and brothers.
    While many of us have not been extended this grace and bear the scars of rejection, ridicule, and ostracism perhaps we can begin the necessary healthy intergenerational dialogue that can lead to peace, freedom and healing.

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