Category: Texas

Putting Jesus back on trial

Alan Bean

On Maundy Thursday, Mark Osler and Jeanne Bishop will be staging their 12th re-enactment of the trial of Jesus, this time using Texas law and legal procedure.

If Jesus was tried in a Texas court would he have been sentenced to life in prison, death, or would he have been acquitted?  Holy Week is the perfect time to reflect on this question and this article from the Austin American-Statesman gives Osler and Bishop  an opportunity to explain why they are putting Jesus on trial all over again.

Some might take offense at the very idea of placing Jesus on trial, in Texas or anywhere else; after all, he is the Son of God and all.

But there were good reasons for hauling Jesus in front of Pontius Pilate in the first century.  As Jeanne Bishop puts it: “When you tell people to give to the poor and sell everything you own and follow me, or you’re saying, ‘Turn the other cheek; don’t resist an evildoer,’ those are subversive things.”

Drama asks audience to consider Christ, death penalty

By Juan Castillo

American-Statesman Staff

If Jesus were prosecuted today under Texas law, what would we do?

Would we sentence him to a life behind bars, or would we sentence him to death? (more…)

Texas business needs Latino labor; the Texas GOP needs Latino votes

By Alan Bean

Thanks to Scott Henson for alerting me to this piece in the San Antonio Express-News.  In the 2012 election, as everyone knows, Latinos turned out in record numbers, voting overwhelmingly for Barack Obama.  Signs abound that Republicans, even in safely red states like Texas, are taking notice.

Even if Latinos continue to support Democrats, the blue team won’t be competitive in the Lone Star State for at least another decade.  But Republicans can’t win the presidency without significant Latino support, and that sobering fact has deflated the anti-immigrant movement, at least temporarily.

Long-term, Texas Republicans can maintain control of their state’s legislative machine only by cultivating Latino participation and influence.  That won’t happen if Texas Republicans are lining up to sponsor anti-immigrant legislation.

Jason Buch’s article (see below) suggests the Texas GOP may be awakening to the new reality.

If so, this is great news.  Mass deportation is having the same impact in poor Latino communities that mass incarceration has wrought in poor African American neighborhoods, and for similar reasons.

During the most recent session of the Texas legislature, immigrant rights activists combined with pro-business groups to defeat most Arizona-style bills. Texas businesses, large and small, need undocumented workers in the same way the GOP needs Latino votes.  Texas Republicans can soldier on as the Party of White for at least another decade without Latino support, but bereft of undocumented labor the state’s economic infrastructure would collapse.

Immigrants, legal and otherwise, contribute far more in labor and taxes than they absorb in various forms of social assistance. Brave men and women (it takes courage to cross the border these days) come to America in search of work and show their gratitude by working far harder than most native born citizens.  As Texas moves reluctantly into new demographic territory, may these good people receive the dignity and respect they deserve. (more…)

Changing the wind in Waco

By Alan Bean

An earlier post, Immigration and the Heart of God, was written for the event described in this article.  The goal was to place the immigration issue on the agenda of the faith community.  Friends of Justice has been part of this work for several months now and, in cooperation with like-minded groups and individuals, we plan to expand the scope of the Immigration and the People of God program described below.  Lydia Bean’s comment captures the spirit of this work: “It is very clear this is something God cares about.  Politicians always have their finger in the wind to see how it blows.  Rather than trying to change the politicians, we’re trying to change the wind.”

Waco churches urged to join immigration reform discussion

By CINDY V. CULP
cculp@wacotrib.com

Sunday September 2, 2012

Local activists are encouraging Waco churches to join a nationwide effort that seeks to move the discussion about immigration policy from the political arena to church pews.

The effort kicked off this summer with a symposium that explored what the Bible says about immigrants and how Christians should respond. Held at First Spanish Assembly of God Church in Waco, it drew representatives from 27 organizations, most of them churches, organizer Manuel Sustaita said.

Now, the fledging group is encouraging pastors to follow through on pledges they made at the event, said Lydia Bean, another organizer.

Nine said they would preach sermons this fall related to God’s heart for immigrants. Others vowed to hold voter registration drives or host guest speakers to educate members about immigration issues, she said.

The group plans to meet later this month to talk about possibly hosting a broader community event, Bean said. But for now, the focus is on encouraging congregations to discuss immigration issues. That sort of grass-roots effort is the best bet for prompting meaningful immigration reform, she said.

“I think it is very clear this is something God cares about . . . Politicians always have their finger in the wind and see how it blows,” said Bean, an assistant sociology professor at Baylor University. “Rather than trying to change the politicians, we’re trying to change the wind.”

Bean and Sustaita — who is known to many in the community because of his role as founder of the Waco Vietnam Veterans Memorial — declined to publicly list the churches involved. They said they are sensitive to the fact that immigration policy is a politically touchy issue and want to let pastors approach it in their own time and own way.

But most of the churches involved are evangelical, they said.

The Catholic Church has long advocated immigration reform, Bean and Suistaita noted. So parishes here are already involved in the issue.

But the topic is only recently gaining traction in evangelical circles, Bean said. (more…)

The “theology” of a Lubbock Judge puts Texas back in the spotlight

Lubbock County Judge Tom Head talks with Texas Governor Rick Perry earlier this year. Head made comments about President Barack Obama this week that is drawing reaction from both sides. (Stephen Spillman)
County Judge Tom Head greets the Governor

By Alan Bean

Lubbock County Judge Tom Head wasn’t looking for national publicity when he set up an interview with the local Fox affiliate.  Head just wanted to plug a 1.7% tax increase that would fund an expansion of the sheriff’s department and put more money at the disposal of the DA’s office.

But Tom Head is now famous, for the moment at least.  Perhaps the County Judge thought the voters needed a really good reason to open their wallets.  How about this scenario.  There’s a good chance that Barack Obama will get himself elected (God forbid), and if that happens we’re gonna have as an old time insurrection, right here in Lubbock County.  And Obama, he’s not gonna like that so he’s just likely to call in UN troops, an army of foreign occupation, and force his will on the good people of Lubbock County at gunpoint.  And if that happens, I’m gonna stand boldly in front of those UN personnel carriers and say, “You ain’t comin’ in here!

I am paraphrasing.  You can find Mr. Head’s exact words here (and in several thousand other places).  His paranoid screed went viral.

Lubbock attorney Rod Hobson (who helped shut down the ill-famed Tulia drug bust) was so impressed by the judge’s rhetoric that he hung a UN flag outside his office.  “When I saw the story I thought, once again, Lubbock is going to be the laughingstock of the entire nation,” Hobson told a local TV station. “What makes it so sad is he is our elected county judge, who is in charge of a multimillion-dollar budget. That is scary. It’s like the light’s on, but no one is home. … I’d just like to think he’s off his meds.”

A few days ago, Fort Worth columnist Bud Kennedy expressed his relief that Missouri’s Todd Akin was deflecting attention from notorious Texas weirdos.  This morning he admitted that the prurient interest of America has returned to the Lone Star State.  To put things in perspective, Kennedy offers a little background on Mr. Head.

Folks, please understand. In Texas, we don’t choose our county judges or commissioners based on any qualifications besides who’s good at dominoes.

In the orchard of targets for TV joke writers, Texas county officials are low-hanging fruit.

Head, 63, is an administrator with only a psychology degree. He worked first in law enforcement as a Texas Tech University campus officer and city marshal, then as an elected county justice of the peace.

He moved up to county judge in 1999 and led his own mini-rebellion against Obama in 2009, posting literature and cartoons mocking him on a hallway bulletin board before commissioners removed them.

One of the posters showed jail book-in photos of nine arrestees in Obama T-shirts. Seven were African-American.

Asked to explain himself to the Lubbock Avalanche-JournalHead boldly shared his Christian witness:

I cannot divorce my theology and my philosophy from my office.  I’m pro-life, I’m pro-gun rights and if you’re gonna vote for me and if you’re not for gun rights, then you probably don’t want me in office.

In other words, this isn’t a story about a single Loony-Tunes (check out his tie in the picture above) judge in West Texas–the voters of Lubbock County like this guy.

But wait a minute here, what possible connection could there be between Mr. Head’s “theology” and his paranoid take on Obama and the United Nations?

The judge is likely referring to Agenda 21, an uncontroversial fluff-document signed by 178 world leaders, including President George H.W. Bush, in 1992.  The idea was to encourage the efficient marshaling of scant natural resources in times of famine and natural disaster.  Or that’s what we originally thought.  Listen to Glenn Beck’s dispassionate take on Agenda 21:

Those pushing … government control on a global level have mastered the art of hiding it in plain sight, and then just dismissing it as a joke.  Once [internationalists] put their fangs into our communities and suck all the blood out of it, we will not be able to survive.

Ryan Lenz of the Southern Poverty Law Center explains the paranoid perspective on Agenda 21 in remarkably restrained language:

Under Agenda 21, these activists argue, the expansive American way of life, in which everyone can aspire to the dream of owning a house with a big yard and two cars in the driveway, will be replaced by one in which increasing numbers are crammed into urbanized “pack ’em and stack ’em” apartment complexes, and forced to use mass transportation and live according to a collectivist ethos. Once the UN’s radical utopia is achieved, gun ownership will be forbidden and the UN will raise an army intent on terrorizing the populace in the name of social order and equality, sustainability and smart growth — all words that anti-Agenda 21 activists believe signal the true intent of the UN’s plan.

The tattered remnants of the John Birch Society are all over this stuff, which would be irrelevant were it not for the fact that Tim LaHaye, author of bestselling “Left Behind” series, is a proud JBS stalwart.  LaHaye and co-author Jerry Jenkins sprinkled Agenda 21 paranoia throughout their end times thrillers.  I distinctly recall sitting in a well-attended Sunday School class in Tulia, Texas (70 miles north of Lubbock) in which Mr. LaHaye’s eschatology was embraced as the gospel truth.

But this isn’t just about West Texas.  Texas is riddled with Anti-UN nuttiness.  Ted Cruz, the man expected to succeed Kay Bailey Hutchison as Texas Senator, is mad as hell about the imminent UN destruction of American sovereignty.  In the mind of Ted Cruz, the Antichrist is George Soros, but the general thrust mirror’s the views of Beck. Cruz recently printed this rant on his personal blog:

Agenda 21 attempts to abolish “unsustainable” environments, including golf courses, grazing pastures, and paved roads. It hopes to leave mother earth’s surface unscratched by mankind. Everyone wants clean water and clean air, but Agenda 21 dehumanizes individuals by removing the very thing that has defined Americans since the beginning—our freedom.

Cruz is particularly concerned that the UN plans to abolish the game of golf.

All of which explains how a simple-minded Texas judge could see opposition to a US president and an innocuous (and largely meaningless) UN document as theological issues.  When the saints of God are raptured to heaven and the Antichrist (known as Nicolae Carpathia to Left Behind enthusiasts) comes to power, United Nations troops will spring to his assistance.

How do we explain this craziness?  Or maybe it isn’t crazy.  When the majority of people in a given locale (say, Lubbock, Texas) share a common delusion maybe it’s the unbelievers who are crazy.  Who gets to define normal?

Tom Head’s fears about Barack Obama reflect the deep dread many Americans feel about the future.  Where are we heading?  What is happening to America?  What’s it all about, Alfie?

How else do we explain the Tea Party’s undimmed enthusiasm for free market fundamentalism?  After the financial industry lied and swindled the world to the brink of financial catastrophe, how can anyone believe in the natural goodness of unregulated markets?

Because it’s all we have.  If the free market won’t save us, who will?  If the free market won’t save us, the glory that was America disappears.  It’s Ichabod time!

How do we explain why a great nation like the United States of America has a crumbling infrastructure and can’t pay its bills when the folks in collectivist dystopias like Canada, Norway and South Korea seem to be faring so much better?

We could blame the fact that we spend more on defense than all the other nations of earth combined.  We could point to our bloated prison system.  We could acknowledge that America is now a wholly owned subsidiary of a consortium of international corporations.

But that doesn’t sit right somehow.

How much better to believe that America has been hijacked by ultra-liberal socialist big-spenders like Barack Obama who give their true loyalty to Allah and/or a One World dictatorship.  That way, we simply turn the reins over to pro-business folks like Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz and an unregulated market will gradually drag us back to prosperity.

Sound good?

If you’re Tom Head, it does.

Are Texas Democrats ready to take Latinos seriously?

Latino Symposium 009
Political consultant Chuck Rocha

By Alan Bean

With every new election cycle, the Latino share of the vote in Texas rises by about 2 percent.  If this trend continues, as it almost certainly will, Latinos will eventually dictate the shape of politics in the Lone Star State.

George W. Bush took the Latino vote seriously, both as governor and president.  When Republicans reach out to Latino voters they can snare as much as 40% of the vote, enough to win easily in deep-red Texas.  This is because the white middle class is overwhelmingly Republican; only 26% of white Texans voted for Barack Obama in 2008, (his fifth worst showing with this demographic behind Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana).

I attended the event described in this Star-Telegram article with my sociologist daughter, Lydia Bean.  The day’s most telling quote didn’t make it into the paper.  Gilberto Hinojosa, the first Latino Chair of the Texas Democratic Party, told the gathering that after Ann Richards lost the governor’s race to George W. Bush in 1994, Texas Democrats pinned the blame on the defection of conservative to moderate white voters.  In consequence, it was decided that winning these people back was the key to electoral success. (more…)

Texas executes wrong man

In 1989, Carlos DeLuna was executed for the killing of a gas station attendant in Corpus Christi, TX.  His conviction rested solely on eyewitness testimony.  Over twenty years after his execution, the Columbia Human Rights Law Review has published a report stating that DeLuna was not the murderer.  

In reality, the murderer was most likely another Carlos, Carlos Hernandez.  Hernandez was also at the scene of the crime, but fled in the other direction while police detained DeLuna.  Despite DeLuna’s pleas of innocence and the prosecution’s lack of reliable evidence, DeLuna was found guilty of murder. And an innocent man was executed.

Sadly, this is just another chilling tale of our flawed justice system.  MWN

Wrong man was executed in Texas, probe says

By Chantal Valery

He was the spitting image of the killer, had the same first name and was near the scene of the crime at the fateful hour: Carlos DeLunapaid the ultimate price and was executed in place of someone else in Texas in 1989, a report out Tuesday found.

Even “all the relatives of both Carloses mistook them,” and DeLuna was sentenced to death and executed based only on eyewitness accounts despite a range of signs he was not a guilty man, said law professor James Liebman.

Liebman and five of his students at Columbia School of Law spent almost five years poring over details of a case that he says is “emblematic” of legal system failure.

DeLuna, 27, was put to death after “a very incomplete investigation. No question that the investigation is a failure,” Liebman said. (more…)