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Just one week after the U.S. presidential election raised concerns about the Republican Party's ability to appeal to minority voters, Christian organizations are expressing new and renewed interest in Hispanics.
The Barna Group announced Tuesday the launch of its new Hispanic research division, Barna: Hispanics, which coincides with the release of its first report, "Hispanic America: Faith, Values and Priorities."
In addition, more than 150 evangelical leaders renewed their calls for comprehensive immigration reform. On Tuesday, the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT) issued letters to President Obama and federal lawmakers demanding a meeting within the next 92 days—a reference to the number of times the Hebrew word for immigrant (ger) appears in the Bible.
The EIT, which launched in June, is calling for lawmakers to "create just and humane immigration laws" that adhere to six principles: respect for "God-given" human dignity; protection for families; respect for the rule of law; guaranteed border security; fairness for taxpayers; and a path toward legal status for qualified immigrants.
Original signatories of the EIT include the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), Sojourners, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the National Latino Evangelical Coalition.
Such calls for immigration reform among evangelical leaders—as well as these particular principles—are not new. In 2010, the NAE ran a similar ad campaign, "An Evangelical Call for Bipartisan Immigration Reform," advocating the same principles verbatim. Although new reform bills have been introduced in each Congress since 2008, comprehensive legislation has never cleared both chambers.
Nevertheless, Barna Group president David Kinnaman says the election raised interest in the effect of the U.S. Latino community on politics. And he says the results of their new study—conducted by Barna Group in partnership with the American Bible Society, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), and OneHope—illuminate how the religiosity of Hispanics influences how they vote.
Among the more interesting results:
Finally, the study found that Hispanics generally hold a high view of the Bible as the inspired, inerrant Word of God—but they may regard it as a sacred text, rather than as a practical tool with implications for work and social attitudes, Kinnaman said. Only 8 percent are "engaged" with the Bible—which Barna defines as having a high view of the Bible's authority and reading it at least four times a week.
In other words, Kinnaman said, Hispanics need to be persuaded that the Bible holds value for how they should live their lives.
Javier Elizondo, managing editor of Cristianismo Hoy (a CT spinoff launching in 2013) says this means Hispanic ministry leaders must "find ways to help our church members and youth to connect in a more meaningful way to the Scriptures, particularly in the way the Bible can be used to inform decision making."