The April 15th cover of TIME magazine. (Courtesy TIME)

TIME magazine cover features “The Latino Reformation”

This week, TIME magazine’s April 15th issue shows the pastor of New Life Covenant Church in Chicago, Wilfredo “Choco” DeJesus’ praying hands, along with Reverend Samuel Rodriguez’ phrase, “The Latino Reformation” on the cover.

What does this mean for America, religion, and politics?

Rev. Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) — the nation’s largest Christian Hispanic organization representing 40,118 churches and more than 16 million members — says “The Latino Reformation” is about first-generation Latinos coming into their own identity and becoming leaders.

“We are providing leadership for the first time for the Christian community, not just the Latino community,” says Rodriguez. “This is about Christian churches taking charge, and Latino pastors not just leading Latino churches. It is a new day.”

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According to the NHCLC, more than two-thirds of the 52 million-plus Latinos in the U.S. are Catholic, but that number could decrease by half by 2030, as more than 35 percent of Hispanics in America now call themselves “born-again.” The Southern Baptist Church – the largest evangelical denomination in the country – aims to more than double the number of Baptist Hispanic churches by 2020.

“A relationship with Jesus Christ is the major reason Catholics move to evangelicalism,” says Rodriguez. “We take out the middleman…[Also,] in the Catholic Church you are a member, in the Evangelical Church, you can convert today and a year from now be a pastor. There is no glass ceiling — there is no limitation.”

However, he makes sure to add that the Evangelical Church is working together with the Catholic Church, more than any other time in history. Just three weeks ago, Rev. Rodriguez says he attended a Latino Evangelical-Catholic gathering on Capitol Hill.

“The conversation was on common ground areas — what can we collaborate on, and the result was a continued commitment to further collaborate to create infrastructure and space where we will work together for the purpose of the common good,” says Rodriguez.

According to the TIME article, faith is more important to Latinos as a whole — 92 percent as opposed to 58 percent of the general U.S. population. Rev. Rodriguez says this is because faith is part of our cultural DNA.

“To the Latino community, faith is private and public — it is something you talk about and live it out,” says Rodriguez. “The immigration experience is definitely part of it. We face so many hurdles…the foundation on which we stand is our faith. Even for the undocumented immigrant, their solid rock is their faith.”

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He says after witnessing how polarizing the last presidential election was, he was called to write a book, “The Lamb’s Agenda,” which just hit shelves earlier this month.

“We are more divided than ever before,” says Rodriguez. “This nation is more focused on what tears us apart than what brings us together. We need a new movement.”

He says right now is the time for a call to righteousness and justice for the country, because even the Christian community has been divided for too long.

“It is time to go beyond politics,” says Rodriguez. “Politics is dividing America. We are divided in this nation, and only the Lamb’s agenda can bring us together.”

He describes the Lamb’s agenda to not be the Democratic or Republican agenda, but a Christ-loving agenda combined with a daily relationship with God.

“It’s a compassionate movement — a call to end sex trafficking, to respect the image of God in every human being, to end pornography, to end hunger…I want to see America experience a spiritual movement,” says Rodriguez.

Instead of a Tea Party or Occupy Movement, he says we need an independent voting bloc in this country.

“I’m convinced we will emerge as an independent voting bloc of the 21st century,” says the mega church pastor. “We will not be manipulated by a political party. It’s not about us endorsing them, it’s about the candidates endorsing our ideas.”

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