Texas

Why Are Evangelicals Supporting Immigration Reform? Q&A with Filmmaker Linda Midgett

Filmmaker Linda Midgett, right, interviews Meghan Blanton Smith for documentary film “The Stranger.” RNS photo: Brandon Falls

The Evangelical Immigration Table commissioned the documentary “The Stranger” to foster evangelical support for immigration reform. Linda Midgett, a graduate of evangelical Wheaton College who produced the 40-minute film, told Religion News Service she hopes ongoing screenings across the country will build a groundswell of support for legislation. On Wednesday, President Obama urged Congress to quickly approve increased funding to deal with the crisis of immigrant children flooding across the border.

Busloads of Turned-back Immigrants, an Image of Shame

A protester holds a sign for immigration reform in Washington, DC on May 1st, 2010. Photo: Nevele Otseog/Flickr.

Sometimes a picture says it all.

Consider the 1963 picture of fire hoses and snarling police dogs in Birmingham, Ala., used against African-American students protesting racial segregation. Surely not our civil servants at their best.

Or the 1972 picture of the little girl in North Vietnam running terrified and naked with burning skin after South Vietnamese planes accidentally dropped napalm on Trang Bang, which had been occupied by North Vietnamese troops. The world then saw how war could hurt children.

Now, in 2014, we see citizens of Murrieta, Calif., turning back buses of women and children headed for a federal processing center, a day after Mayor Alan Long told them to let the government know they opposed its decision to move recent undocumented immigrants to the local Border Patrol station.

Marching Through Death’s Desert

Rev. Jeff Hood begins his pilgrimage. twitter.com/revjeffhood
Rev. Jeff Hood begins his pilgrimage. twitter.com/revjeffhood

It’s 93 degrees in Texas today. And Rev. Jeff Hood is walking 200 miles across the state. What would compel somebody to do that? He wants to end the death penalty … and he is not alone.

Rev. Jeff Hood is a Southern Baptist pastor, deeply troubled by his denomination’s stance on capital punishment. And he is troubled because he lives in the most lethal state in the U.S. Texas has had 515 executions since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976 – the next state in line is Oklahoma with 111. That means Texas is responsible for 37 percent of the executions in the U.S. Jeff has been a longtime organizer and board member for the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, a movement that is gaining some serious momentum these days.

A growing number of Texans — and Americans in general — are questioning the death penalty. A recent ABC poll shows we are over the tipping point, with more than half of Americans being against the death penalty and in favor of life in prison, putting death penalty support at a new low. For some it is the racial bias – in Texas it is not uncommon for an African American to be found guilty by an all-white jury. In fact, in considering “future dangerousness,” a criteria necessary for execution in Texas, state “experts” have argued that race is a contributing factor, essentially that someone is more likely to be violent because they are black – prompting articles like the headline story in the New York Times about Duane Buck: “Condemned to Die Because He is Black.”

In Heart of Texas, Support Grows for Same-sex Marriage

Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, of Plano, Texas on May 31, 2014. Photo by Mei-Chun Jau, courtesy of USA Today.

GUN BARREL CITY, Texas (RNS) This place got its name because the main road was straight as a gun barrel. Today, it’s at the center of a fight over gay marriage.

That’s because weekenders Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, who bought an A-frame house overlooking scenic Cedar Creek Lake four years ago, have become minor celebrities as the men challenging Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage.

Their battle, joined by two women whose Massachusetts marriage the Lone Star State refuses to recognize, is as unlikely as it is uphill. They’ve already won the first round in federal court in San Antonio, where District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled the state’s marriage laws against gay couples “demean their dignity for no legitimate reason.”

#Fast4Families Bus Presses on in Week 4 of Tour

Courtesy Fast for Families
The #Fast4Families bus stops in Aurora, Colo. Courtesy Fast for Families

Entering its fourth week on the road, the Fast for Families bus continues its journey across the country getting closer to its final destination: Washington, D.C. on April 9.  

Continuing the call for fair and humane immigration reform, fasters visited Arlington, Texas last week on the southern trail, connecting with members of Congress who shared their goals for immigration reform.

“The trickiest issue is what do you do with people that are here [undocumented]?” said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who is drafting his own immigration bill and hopes to introduce it in late spring or early summer. “We need to weed out the bad apples and send them back home or put them in jail. But the others whose only [unauthorized] act is coming to this country [undocumented], we sort them out and put them on a legalization path, and minors on a citizenship path.”

Stop Duane Buck's Execution

Photo: File from Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice

Twenty-seven evangelical Christian leaders across Texas and the United States are calling on Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson to allow a new, fair sentencing hearing for Duane Buck. Mr. Buck is an African-American man who was condemned to death after his sentencing jury was told that he was likely to be a future danger because of his race. These evangelical Christian leaders oppose the setting of any execution date for Mr. Buck.

“We write to respectfully request that you support a new, fair sentencing hearing for death row prisoner Duane Buck,” the letter states. “Although opinions on the death penalty vary within each of our churches, we are strongly united in our view that no death sentence should be a product of racial discrimination, as it was in Mr. Buck’s case.”

A Problem with the Climate in Texas

Via tristan tan / Shutterstock
Close up of plastic and polystyrene fast food packaging in a river. Via tristan tan / Shutterstock

In the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, there is a Psalm that proclaims: “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). There is no part of this world that God is not aware of, cannot lay claim to, and does not rule. Christians affirm that as people of faith we’re called to be stewards over creation, answering one day for how we’ve treated the earth.

And part of that stewardship means understanding how this world works and what it needs in order to thrive. Unfortunately the din of our political ideologies has too often drowned out the biblical calling to care for creation.

In Texas, the State Board of Education will recommend new textbooks for all its students—and because it has such a large population, what they decide could determine what students in other states learn about science. There are several ideologues submitting textbook critiques to the board and their reviews will factor into each book’s overall score and likelihood of being approved by the school board. These ideologues could block the use of textbooks that teach the reality of climate change for the whole country’s public school students.

For Navy Yard Shooter, Buddhism Was a Temporary Refuge

Photo of Aaron Alexis. Via RNS, courtesy FBI

What people here are wondering today is what in the world went wrong with Aaron Alexis?

The man who shot and killed 12 people had his problems. But friends who worked and lived beside Alexis say they don’t recognize the man who went on a shooting rampage Monday at a military complex in Washington, D.C., and eventually was shot dead in a gunfight.

Alexis’ life ended in Washington, where he lived in a Residence Inn in the southwest part of the city and worked as civilian contractor for the military. But much of his story is centered in Fort Worth, where he seemed to be an easygoing guy who practiced Buddhism, meditated for hours and hung out with friends who spoke Thai, as he did.

If Cheerleaders Don’t Convert You, Chuck Norris Will

Chuck Norris. Photo courtesy Christian Piatt.

You know, I always hedge when people ask me where I’m from, because the second I tell them I was born and raised in Texas, all kinds of stereotypes pop up in the conversation.

Yes, I can read.
No, I’m not a Republican.
Yes, I’m a Christian. No, not that kind.
No, I don’t ride horses, own a cow, oil derek or know JR Ewing personally.
And no, I do not think Texas should become its own republic.

But then, stories like this one come along that only serve to reinforce the negative biases against Texans that I try so very hard to debunk. Come on guys, work with me here!

America's Rough Week

Hands photo, Andreas Gradin / Shutterstock.com
Hands photo, Andreas Gradin / Shutterstock.com

Life is difficult. It can knock you down. Sometimes, an entire nation gets knocked down.

First it was Boston. Some mad man (or men) lays waste to one of America’s most hallowed sporting events — the Boston Marathon. Sidewalks that should have been covered with confetti were covered in blood.

Then it was the quintessential small Texas town of West. Populated by hearty Czech immigrants, folks in West worked hard in their shops, bakeries, and fertilizer plant until the plant exploded. A magnitude-2.1 on the Richter scale, witnesses compared it to a nuclear bomb. Dozens are feared dead.

In the nation’s capital, we had the bitter realization that something is broken that will not be easily repaired. A commonsense proposal that emerged from the Newtown, Conn., tragedy, background checks to prevent convicted felons and the seriously mentally ill from purchasing guns online or at gun shows, fell prey to Washington gridlock. None of the Newtown proposals — the ban on assault weapons, limits on the number of bullets a gun can hold or expanded background checks — could garner the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Senate filibuster.

Finally, there were the ricin-laced letters sent to a Republican senator and the president.

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