LATINO VOICES
11/20/2012 05:42 pm ET Updated Nov 20, 2012

Latinos Are All About Family And Faith... But Not Applying The Bible To Their Lives

Nevermind the latest political trends -- Latinos are all about their faith and family values, a new survey says.

“Hispanic America: Faith, Values & Priorities,” a study conducted by Barna Group in partnership with American Bible Society, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and OneHope, says Hispanics believe a traditional family is the main building block for a healthy community, and that their most important contribution to American society is the commitment they have to their own.

The news provides a silver lining for conservatives looking to appeal to the growing Latino vote after Mitt Romney's poor performance among Hispanics played a major role in costing him the presidential election.

"Faith and family are the main building blocks of Hispanic Americans,“ Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference said in a statement. "The 2012 election catapulted the importance of the Latino demographic to the proverbial stratosphere."

Exit polls indicated that Latinos have grown increasingly liberal on social issues, with almost six in 10 Hispanic voters saying they support legalizing gay marriage in their state.

But the "Hispanic America" survey showed that traditional religious and cultural attitudes remain engrained, despite evolving political stances.

For many immigrant families, leaving their home countries forces them to turn to their faith in an effort to seek out familiar faces. In the United States, church becomes a safe haven. According to the study, half of parents with kids at home (52 percent), and about three-fifths of grandparents (58 percent) say the church is very important when raising their children.

Latino households also apply fundamental Christian values when educating their children. The findings point toward great respect for marriage within Latino culture, with 69 percent of the respondents saying that a child will be better taken care of if he or she lives with married parents, and 66 percent agreeing with the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.

Moreover, 60 percent say that sex should only take place within the context of marriage, and divorce should only be accepted in cases of adultery (70 percent), abuse (68 percent) or lack of love (53 percent).

But while religion might be fundamental for the Latino community, Hispanics don't always rely on the Bible when making daily decisions. Some 59 percent of Latinos say the Bible is true in all it teaches, but only 22 percent say they make choices based on the book's principles.

In an interview with ChristianPost.com, David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, assured that although Latinos hold a very high view of the Bible, just 8 percent of Latinos are really “engaged with the Bible" compared to 21 percent of all Americans. This is for him the "biggest gap between what Latinos say of themselves and how they actually think and behave.”

Some 31 percent of Latinos confessed that they just didn’t have enough time to read the Bible, and another 12 percent said they just weren't attracted to the book.

The authors noted, however, that the tendency might result from lack of clarity of how to apply the Scriptures in their everyday lives, due to the outdated Spanish translations available.

“Most Hispanic churches in the United States continue to use the 1960 Reina Valera Bible translation”, Rev. Emilio Reyes, vice president for Multi-Language Ministries at American Bible Society told ChristianPost.com, calling the translation "difficult to understand."

But if religion remains an important part of most Latinos' identities, ethnicity trumps it. Respondents found themselves more inclined to refer to themselves first as "Hispanic" or "Latino", before "Christian," "Catholic," or "American." Some 97 percent said they're proud of their Hispanic heritage.

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