The Myth of the ‘Natural Republican’ Hispanic
Conservatives have a persistent fantasy that Hispanics are deeply religious, socially conservative, “natural Republicans.” Just this month, Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes claimed Hispanics were flocking to the president: “As the Democratic Party lurches left on social issues the largely Catholic and Evangelical Hispanic community of America finds itself orphaned by the Democratic Party.” Mr. Cortes also claimed many Hispanic Democrats consider themselves conservatives.
A new Gallup poll has found that only 45 percent of Hispanics belong to a church. This is a big decline since 1999, when 68 percent of Hispanics were church members. Overall, church membership in America declined from 69 percent in 1999 to 52 percent today. Hispanics were a major part of that decline and are now 7 percent less likely than other Americans to be church members.
In 2010, 67 percent of American Hispanics were Catholics, but by 2013 the figure had reportedly dropped to 55 percent. Twenty-five percent of Hispanics said they were former Catholics, 22 percent were Protestant, and 16 percent evangelical.
In 2014, 60 percent of Hispanics said religion was very important in their lives, and 40 percent went to church every week. These rates were higher than for whites. Forty-nine percent of whites said religion was very important and 34 percent attended church weekly. However, more whites belonged to a church (53 percent). Furthermore, the dramatic decline in self-identifying Hispanic Catholics from 2010 to 2013 and the new Gallup poll suggest numbers for Hispanics could be lower today.
Hispanics are somewhat more conservative than whites on some issues. Sixty-one percent of whites say abortion should be legal compared to 49 percent of Hispanics. Sixty percent of Hispanics support gay marriage, slightly lower than the 64 percent for whites. (Only 51 percent blacks support gay marriage.)
However, both Catholic and evangelical Hispanics think immigration and the economy are more important than social issues. Evangelical Hispanics are much more progressive than their white co-religionists. Non-white evangelicals are far more likely than white evangelicals to support liberal immigration policies, favor an apology for slavery, and promote the Black Lives Matter movement.
According to the New Yorker, many non-white evangelical pastors have committed themselves to left-wing causes, including anti-police activism and support for more immigration. “We talk about racism, we talk about gay marriage, any political issue,” says Hispanic evangelical pastor Liliana Da Valle. “We talk a lot about gun violence right now.” Miss Da Valle added that Hispanic evangelicals see themselves as separate from the Religious Right: “[Evangelical] means [only] that we are Christ-centered.”
“It comes down to really caring about Latinos,” says National Latino Evangelical Coalition Vice President Rev. Walter Contreras. “[Y]ou’re going to have Latinos voting for people who represent them well.”
Hispanic Catholics are more liberal on issues such as abortion than Hispanic evangelicals. Prominent Hispanic Democrats such as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and presidential candidate Julian Castro claim their Catholic faith shapes their politics, yet both support abortion and LGBT rights. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez says her faith makes her progressive. Mr. Castro says his faith reaffirms his Hispanic identity and commitment to social justice. Hispanics of whatever religious stripe continue to vote overwhelmingly Democratic.
Hispanic Christianity is often different from the conservative faith of white Republicans. Many Hispanic congregations promote “social justice” and more immigration, and some even practice paganism.
Mesoamerican pre-Christianity heavily influences Central American religion. Farm animals are frequently sacrificed in the Chiapas region of Mexico. The Santa Muerte cult, which has an estimated 12 million followers, is probably based on the Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl.
Santa Muerte is a Mexican folk saint of death, and is portrayed as a skeleton. Devotees offer her tequila, cigarettes, and other gifts to bring good luck and protection. She is associated with Mexico’s Day of the Dead and is popular in drug cartels. The Catholic Church in Latin America condemns it as a heathen death cult, but the American church is quiet. Santa Muerte expert Andrew Chestnut claims American bishops mute their criticism because they don’t want to imply that Hispanic migrants worship death and associate with cartels.
The cult is growing. Mr. Chestnut argues this is due to Santa Muerte’s universal appeal. “On one level she’s very Mexican,” he says, “but on another level, since she’s death herself, she knows no borders or frontiers.” The cult can include human sacrifice. In 2012 in Mexico, devotees sacrificed two boys and a woman. Last November, a man in Tennessee barely escaped sacrifice.
Hispanic Catholicism is often liberation theology. Heavily influenced by Marxism, liberation theology aims for a radical redistribution of wealth, social revolution, and separating Christianity from its European roots. It’s very influential in Nicaragua and El Salvador, the homes of many Hispanic immigrants.
In the past, the Vatican officially condemned liberation theology despite its support from several Latin American bishops. However, Pope Francis, while not a liberation theologian himself, has been friendly towards the movement and tried to reconcile it with the Church.
Whatever form of Christianity Hispanics practice, it is rarely the faith of white Americans. Hispanic Christians, whether Catholic or evangelical, see themselves as a people apart from the historic American nation. Their faith reinforces that separate identity and advances their interests. Social conservatism is secondary to la raza.
Hispanics will not save American values. They’re here to replace them with their own.