On Saturday, I had the privilege to pray on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as part of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Almost 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech, we were in the same place to declare that the dream continues. When I was invited to pray and share some words, I felt deeply honored to be included among the chorus of voices calling for what King called, "the beloved community."
I was born a decade after the original 1963 March and historic exhortation of Dr. King. As a Latino evangelical pastor born in the '70s, I often lament the conspicuous absence and relative non-involvement of many evangelicals in the struggle for civil rights. Dr. King's "Letter From A Birmingham Jail" serves as a prophetic reminder that silence is often complicity. This time, I wanted to be sure that Latino evangelicals were part of the continuing legacy of moral exemplars that speak with the most vulnerable. Our coalition, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC), joined other faith leaders in sponsoring the interfaith service earlier in the week. In harmony with the tens of thousands of marchers, young and elderly, Hispanic Evangelicals said, "¡Presente!" The close to 8 million Latino evangelicals owe a deep debt of gratitude to leaders like King, Rosa Parks, César Chavez, Joanne Robinson, and Fannie Lou Hamer. Our debt to them and to the Gospel is to be sure we are part of the on-going movement for civil and human rights in the U.S. and all over the world.
This entire week we were celebrating that we "have come a long way." We, as a nation, have made progress in ensuring more diverse and equitable representation in business, education, the Armed Forces, Congress, the Cabinet, and even the White House. We no longer see the horrific images of water hoses turned on young people, or German shepherds attacking those who wouldn't let anyone turn them around. These advancements ought to be applauded, affirmed, and cherished. On Saturday, we did just that.
Nevertheless, for me, the March and the Dream were not just about celebration but a call to prophetic action. Although we've come a long way we still have much work to do. I was so proud to hear the dozens of pastors say we must continue to work to achieve a more perfect union and fulfill the tenets of the dreams of Dr. King and all who love justice and mercy. Hispanic evangelicals should be part of the cloud of witnesses who non-violently call for a new Voting Rights Act, immigration reform, equitable education for all, living wages, economic opportunity, and a comprehensive response to a culture of violence. We, who serve the God of Love, and the Prince of Peace, cannot ignore the clarion call to "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before our God!"
Of course, in any movement there are differences of opinions and a spectrum of policy priorities. However, Hispanic evangelicals cannot allow disagreement on some issues prompt inaction on all issues. I prayed and spoke at the March on Washington because inaction is irresponsibility. It was not lost on me that my prayer as a Latino evangelical came immediately after my friend and colleague, the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, the spiritual home of Dr. King. I was inspired by his renewed calls for love and justice and thought how appropriate that Black and Brown were praying for the dream together. Below is an excerpt of the prayer I offered in solidarity as a Hispanic Evangelical indebted to dreamers everywhere:
"... So we pray for a resilient spirit to keep the dream alive. Lord, wherever there is a recalcitrant voice... make us midwives for justice. Help us to lift every voice and sing until we drown the cacophony of fear, misunderstanding and xenophobia. God, help us to keep doing the work of justice until justice rolls on like rivers and righteousness like a mighty stream. In Jesus' name, Amen."
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