Hispanic/Latino Theology pp. 289-324
In chapter 15, “A Theological-Ethical Analysis of Hispanic Struggles for Community Building in the United States,” Ismael Garcia explores both diversity and solidarity within the U.S. Hispanic community. His argument in this chapter is that the shared Christian faith of the Hispanic community is a tool for building solidarity and overcoming divisions caused by different value orientations (290). Garcia explores three spheres which have been the dominant location of the struggle for U.S. Hispanic emancipation: “the political sphere, the social sphere, and the cultural sphere” (291). He explains the values and priorities of each of these spheres at length, but ultimately the difference between the three spheres is not the values they uphold, but the priority they place on these values (302). All three of the spheres value equality, order, and power, with each one prioritizing these values in a different order (302). The political sphere places the greatest value on power, the social sphere emphasizes order, and the cultural sphere focuses on equality (302). After discussing the three social spheres and their respective values, Garcia moves on to his main argument, that “the Christian tradition might provide a way out of this impasse,” the impasse of division between the three spheres (302). Drawing on the fact that all three spheres share the three values of equality, order, and power, Garcia discusses each of these values “from a theological point of view” (303). He uses theology to affirm each of these values, ultimately affirming each of the three spheres (303). He explains that “this transfiguration of foundational human values can make the struggle for the emancipation of the Hispanic community more inclusive, synthesizing the values and goals that are presently being fought for within the different spheres” (305). In other words, Garcia argues here that theology can and should be used as common ground, a tool for the affirmation and harmonization of the Hispanic struggle for emancipation. On the whole, I appreciated Garcia’s analysis of the prominent value orientations in the U.S. Hispanic community, especially his argument that religion can be a source of common ground; this resonates with my ideas about peacebuilding, especially peacebuilding in the Hispanic context.
In chapter 16, “Popular Catholicism,” Orlando Espin explores the positive and negative potential of Popular Catholicism in the U.S. Hispanic context (313-15). To set up this analysis, he discusses the interdisciplinary nature of the study of religion, particularly pointing out the interdependence of sociohistorical and theological study (308). Espin claims that “the experience of the divine always occurs in human culture” (309), and culture “only [occurs] in society” (310). Thus, an understanding of Hispanic culture and society is necessary for an understanding of Hispanic theology. After establishing this foundation, Espin moves on to discuss the two roles played by Catholicism: the legitimizing role (313) and the rebellious role (315). While Espin is writing from the Catholic context, I would argue that these roles are actually undertaken by religion in general, not only Catholicism. Essentially, these roles signify the church’s choice between legitimizing or rebelling against the status quo, the “hegemony in society” (313). Espin explains that while the Catholic Church in many ways has legitimized the status quo (318), it also has the potential to rebel and act as a force for change. He calls this the “rebellious hope,” a term which serves as a reminder that “today’s social and ecclesiastical realities are not final” (323). Overall, Espin’s reflections on the role of the Catholic Church were insightful and helped me think more about the way my own tradition legitimizes and rebels against the status quo. I especially appreciated his comments about how the church “trains and controls the ordained ministers,” which gives it “a powerful means of control and suppression of Latino hopes for justice and change and thereby a powerful means of enforcing compliance with the current hegemonic social formation and ideology in the United States” (320). These are strong but true words, which echo far beyond the Hispanic/Latino context. It is my prayer that the power of the church would be used for justice and change and against hegemonic structures and ideologies, not vice versa.
Journal Article Reflections:
The first journal article I read this week, “Latino Education Experts to Gather in Texas,” told of the upcoming meeting of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), which will take place in Austin, TX. The event will be focused on “budgeting strategies for student success,” which is especially relevant as Texas tries to balance its budget and support their students, half of which are Latino. I am interested to see what comes of this gathering, especially since education is one of my highest priorities in peacebuilding and in general. The gathering is coming up March 4-6, 2011, so in the coming weeks I will be sure to investigate the outcomes.
The second article I read, “Cuban Facebook Friend Shares Joys, Struggles,” focused on the power of social media in bridging the gap between cultures and contexts. Alicia Almanza-Leyva, the administrative assistant for the Rio Grande Conference, told her story of becoming Facebook friends with Rev. Onay Lopez-Diaz of Cuba. In the article, Almanza-Leyva shares the story of Rev. Lopez-Diaz’s congregation in Cuba, Consolacion Methodist Church. I have met a few Cuban Methodist ministers through Module I & II Hispanic Ministry training events, so hearing the story of this Cuban congregation and some of the challenges of ministry in Cuba was interesting for me.
This week, I hardly know where to begin with vocational discernment! This Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at my church, which exceeded my expectations and confirmed my call to proclaim God’s message of peace in the UMC. While I was home over the weekend, I was also offered a Hispanic ministry internship through the Maumee Watershed District, which is my home district in the West Ohio Conference. I will be working with Puente de Esperanza (Bridge of Hope) Hispanic Ministry Partnership, of which my home church is a part. In addition, I will be available as a resource to other churches and ministries throughout the district. My specific job description is still being shaped; actually, over spring break I will be spending time in prayer discerning how God is calling me to serve specifically within this internship. The people I am working with are very flexible and excited to shape this internship around my gifts and interests, so I am excited to see where the Spirit will lead us together in ministry!