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The Rise of Hispanic Christian Evangelicals

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two menThe immigration debate has drawn Latinos into the public square more fully than ever before — and Hispanic Protestants in particular — Gabriel Salguero, a noted Latino evangelical author and thinker, recently told an audience at Mercer University.

Gabriel Salguero (left), director of Princeton Seminary’s Hispanic Leadership Program and David Gushee, director of Mercer University’s Center for Theology and Public Life, before Salguero delivered the first address in the new center’s lecture series.

Salguero is director of the Hispanic Leadership Program at Princeton Theological Seminary and he and his wife, Jeanette, are senior pastors of The Lamb’s Church, a multicultural Nazarene congregation in New York. He gave four addresses at Mercer’s Macon, Ga., and Atlanta campuses on Oct. 11 and 12 as the first speaker hosted by the new Mercer Center for Theology and Public Life.

He challenged the thesis of Who Are We?, written by the late Harvard University political scientist Samuel Huntington. It claimed that America is defined by an Anglo-Protestant ethic that includes individualism, the English language, hard work and a belief that the country is not a “nation of immigrants,” but rather a “nation of settlers” who came to develop a new country based on the rule of law. Huntington argued that previous waves of immigrants had assimilated into this settlers’ ethic, but a variety of factors led Hispanics to resist this.

Salguero pointed out that followers of Christ from Hispanic and other backgrounds understand that they are integrated into the global church rather than assimilated.

“It is possible to integrate the rule of law with respect for human dignity,” Salguero said. “The Scripture has done it all the time. Jesus puts it this way: ‘Humanity was not made for the law, but the law was made to serve humanity,’ So what we say as people of faith is that if the law is breaking people, then the law is broken.”

Latino evangelicals have come to the fore in the public-policy coalitions dealing with social issues as a result of the immigration conversation, Salguero contended.

“The immigration debate has been a watershed moment for Hispanic evangelicals. Before that, they were not really asked into the conversation; they were not part of these national coalitions,” he said. “But the immigration debate, for better or for worse, catapulted Hispanic evangelicals into the national scene.”

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