Leslie Fields: Obama Honors Cesar Chavez

Obama-at-Chavez-dedication
Official White House photo by Pete Souza

By Leslie Fields, Sierra Club

On October 8, on a gorgeous early autumn day in the oak-dappled foothills of California’s Tehachapi Mountains, President Obama formally designated the César E. Chávez National Monument. The designation is the fourth of Obama’s presidency, but the first-ever national monument dedicated to a Latino.

Below, the president with Helen Chávez at her late husband’s gravesite at Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz (Our Lady Queen of Peace), or La Paz, in the town of Keene, California, site of the new national monument.

Obama-with-Helen-Chavez
Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“César Chávez was a true labor and environmental champion whose work helped result in the passage of landmark laws that protect our air, water, land, and—most important—people,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. “His work helped link people’s health and the environment, and his fight for environmental justice is one that the Sierra Club remains committed to today.” …

Read the rest of  Monument to a National Treasure by Leslie Fields.

True ‘Family Values’ Means Loving Your Gay Kids, Say Latino Catholics

Migdalia Santiago: "My daughter is lesbian. I learned this when she was 13. I am Catholic."

The Christian Right has maintained a strong anti-gay plank in their “family values” platform. However, many Christians believe that true “family values” are rooted in the family as a model of Christian community.

Christian families are kinship groups where the basics of Christian virtues and life are taught to the young and exemplified by the elders  — including sacrificial love, deep prayer and study, charity and justice  within and beyond the family, and a bottomless well of mercy and forgiveness.

Latinos are known for holding the family at the core of culture and values. The Public Religion Research Institute’s July 21, 2010, report on Religion and Same-Sex Marriage in California indicates how “family values” are defined among Latino Catholics and Protestants in California when it comes to gays,  gay marriage, and justice.

Here’s what the statistics show:

*57% of Latino Catholics would vote for the legalization of same-sex marriage compared to 22% of Latino Protestants

*Latino Catholics “say they trust the parents of gay and lesbian children more than their own clergy as a source of information about homosexuality.”

*According to the Pew Forum, an estimated 31% of California’s population is Catholic. And of that between 40-50% is Latino.

Joe Palacios, adjunct professor of sociology at Georgetown University, reflects on this trend in On Faith:

Family First: Latino Catholics orient their social lives around the family and extended family even in the context of high Latino single-parent households (estimated 33% of all U.S. Latino households; 36% of all Latino Children in California live in single-parent households). Family solidarity is strong and even though children may not follow “traditional family values” as projected by the church and the U.S. society, parents want to keep their children within the family. It is not surprising that Catholics in general and Latino Catholics in particular, as the Public Religion Research study shows, see that parents learn about gay issues from their children. Their moral and ethical judgments are primarily made through this social reality rather than abstract pronouncements from their church leaders.

Catholic Communal versus Protestant Individual Faith: Catholicism is a communal faith that highlights the life cycle process through the sacraments of baptism, Eucharist, confirmation, and marriage. Families experience their moral lives through communal participation in the sacraments, as well as the Latino community’s cultural observances of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Posadas, Dia de los Muertos, etc. Protestant Latinos, on the other hand, have a faith that is individually driven through faith conversion (“accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior”) that often separates a person from the Catholic sacramental life cycle process and the social fabric of the Catholic-based cultural celebrations. Fundamentalist Protestantism sees such Catholic cultural practices as contrary to a pure Christian faith. The study illustrates this communal-individual faith difference by noting that Latino Protestants (37%) lean toward a style of religious social engagement prioritizing “personal morality and faith” over a Catholic (59%) orientation that prioritizes “justice and action.”

Latino Catholic Tolerance versus Protestant Fundamentalist Judgment: Catholics allow complexity and ambiguity in moral decision-making since Catholicism is neither fundamentalist nor literalist regarding the Bible. Rather, Catholics can weigh factors such as the Bible, church teaching, and social reality affecting decision-making. Latino Catholics in the United States live in this social context that allows the free exercise of conscience rather than enforced scriptural fundamentalism or bishops’ and pastors’ exhortations in making decisions regarding homosexuality and gay rights– as is often exercised in Protestant fundamentalist and evangelical denominations and now by increasingly doctrinaire Catholic bishops. Further, as noted in the study, Catholic priests rarely mention homosexuality or gay issues in sermons except when forced to by the bishops as happened during the Prop 8 campaign.

Read Palacios’ whole column here. Read the whole Public Religion Research Institute report with more valuable data on religious views correlated to gay/lesbian issues. Including this:

A significant number of Californians who initially say they  support civil unions but not same-sex marriage say they would support same-sex marriage if the law addresses either of two basic concerns about religious marriages:

*With a religious liberty reassurance that the law would guarantee that no congregation would be forced to conduct same-sex marriages against its beliefs, support for same-sex marriage increases 12 points, from initial support of 42% to a solid majority at 54%.

*With a civil marriage reassurance that the law would only provide for ‘civil marriages like you get at city hall,’ support increases 19 points, from 42% to about 6-in-10 (61%).

Also read Why Would More Latino Catholics Be For Same-Sex Marriage Than Protestants? by Candace Chellew-Hodge

And for an excellent discussion on the Bible and gay marriage, see earlier post The Good Book and Gay Marriage.

Catholics and Obama

The Tablet, the leading Catholic newspaper in the U.K., ran an interesting bit of analysis by David Gibson on Obama’s election:

Obama’s election is another important step towards what the Founding Fathers – all white men, many of them slaveowners – called “a more perfect union”. As Obama said in his speech on election day, “This victory alone is not the change we seek; it is only the chance for us to make that change.”

And that is where the path once again grows steep. Now the prophetic rhetoric gives way to the cold reality of a country that cannot afford a New Deal or a Great Society. But the challenges facing America are, historians say, every bit as grave as those that faced Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Depression, and the desire for fundamental change – Obama’s campaign mantra – as strong as that which coursed through America in the 1960s.

Additionally, the Pew Forum on Religion and Politics report How the Faithful Voted (5 Nov. 2008) said this about the Catholic vote:

Catholics, too, moved noticeably in a Democratic direction in 2008; overall, Catholics supported Obama over McCain by a nine-point margin (54% vs. 45%). By contrast, four years ago, Catholics favored Republican incumbent George W. Bush over Kerry by a five-point margin (52% to 47%).

Though precise figures are not available, early exit poll data suggests that Obama performed particularly well among Latino Catholics. Overall, the national exit poll shows that two-thirds of Latinos voted for Obama over McCain, a 13-point Democratic gain over estimates from the 2004 national exit poll. Meanwhile, Obama’s four-point gain among white Catholics (compared with their vote for Kerry) is smaller than the gain seen among Catholics overall. In fact, as in 2004, white Catholics once again favored the Republican candidate, though by a much smaller margin (13-point Republican advantage in 2004 vs. five-point advantage in 2008).

.