The Rev. Dr. Daisy L. Machado will deliver this year’s Oscar Romero lecture on March 17, at 4 p.m. Machado serves as professor of church history at Union Theological Seminary in New York and director of the Hispanic Summer Program.
She has had also had a history of partnering with Wesley faculty and students. We asked her to talk with us about this history, her thoughts on Romero and her upcoming lecture.
eCalling: Tell us about your history with Wesley.
Machado: I delivered one of the early Romero Lectures when this lecture series first began, so I have been connected to Wesley this way for many years.
Most recently I preached at a chapel service in honor of Dr. Sharon Ringe at the time of her retirement. I was honored to do this as Dr. Ringe is a friend of many years and has been a great supporter of the Latino community and theological programs for Latinos like the Hispanic Summer Program. Wesley is one of 37 sponsoring institutions for HSP.
eC: Why is it important to remember Romero’s life and legacy?
DM: Given the popularity in film and in graphic novels of larger-than-life heroes, it seems our world is hungry for that hero figure. We’re hungry for the one who will defy evil, the one who will speak truth. We search for the one who will fight for those who cannot fight for themselves, the one who seeks justice.
The Christian tradition has lifted up many heroes for us. These were women and men who dared believe the Gospel message and who dared embody that message in their daily living. Some more modern names that come to mind—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., César Chávez, and Oscar Romero.
It is important to come to the realization that we can make a difference. One person can take a stand and speak to the suffering in our world.
Oscar Romero never set out to win any awards nor to gain public recognition. He sought to speak out to against the pain and suffering of his people. He called those in power to govern responsibly. He did this as Christian and as a priest compelled by the Gospel.
Surely today, during this election season, we can see how important it is for the Christian community to also raise its voice and be compelled by the Gospel.
eC: How Romero’s life has inspired you own life and work?
DM: As a Latina woman, an immigrant who came to this country at the age of 3, I have experienced the reality of anti-immigrant sentiments. I experienced it in the classroom in grade school and again when I worked as a public school teacher. It happened when I was a pastor in Houston, Texas helping establish the first Spanish-speaking congregation for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
These experiences made me aware of the need for Christians speak up and seriously embrace the Gospel message of justice for the least of these. Oscar Romero is one of my heroes precisely because he was “only one priest” yet he made a difference. He set an example for me to follow in my own struggle for justice.
eC: What is the title and topic of your lecture?
DM: The title is “Faith in the Public Square and the Challenge of Immigration.” The role of religion or theology in the public square has been debated in this country for decades. Yet from the Old Testament prophets to Jesus to John, there is a tradition in Christianity of critiquing of the secular world. And there is a tradition of Christianity offering a vision of alternative kingdom.
Certainly Archbishop Oscar Romero followed this tradition in his own struggles for justice in El Salvador.
Today, the U.S. and the world face a growing and urgent immigration crisis. The public square has become the place for vitriolic hate speech about immigrants. In this environment, this lecture will examine what it is Christianity can offer today’s public discourse about immigration.
We will also examine how Christianity can offer an alternative way of thinking and talking about immigration. We will lift up Christianity’s long-held vision of a common humanity, which calls Christians to boldly embrace the claims of faith to seek justice for all.
eC: What you want to students to take away from it or do with their knowledge of Romero?
DM: The harsh circumstances Archbishop Romero faced in El Salvador during the 1970s led him to a shift in his way of engaging the world as a Christian. This shift made him an effective and outspoken critic of the violence and war that was hurting his beloved country.
Because of his very strong faith, Archbishop Romero refused to remain silent amidst the suffering and injustice.
He joined the very long tradition in Christianity of engaging the secular world, offering a critique, and offering a vision of all humans having equal value.
This tradition is still alive today. I want the Wesley students to remember this tradition and celebrate this tradition. And I want them to dare to also embrace this tradition in order to think about and respond to the many difficult situations we face today, particularly around the reality of immigration.
A native of Cuba who grew up in the United States, she is the first U.S. Latina ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in 1981 in the Northeast Region. She has served inner-city congregations in Brooklyn, Houston and Fort Worth.
Machado served as the first director of the Hispanic Theological Initiative. The initiative was a $3.4 million project funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Its goal was to increase the presence of Latina/o faculty teaching in seminaries, schools of religion and religion departments around the country. Years before she became the director, she served as the chair of the board of the Hispanic Summer Program.
Machado is also a strong advocate for a comprehensive reform of current U.S. immigration laws. She participated and preached at a protest against an immigration detention center, Willacy Detention Center, Raymondville, Texas in 2010.
Machado has taught and written about the concept of “borderlands,” which refers to a geographic location and to Latinas and other women of color. Borderlands also refers to a social, economic, political and personal location within the dominant culture.
In addition to teaching, writing, preaching and advocating, Machado is also involved the early stages of a longer-term research project. She’s developing this project with Dr. Evelyn Parker of Perkins School of Theology, Dallas. The project “God Behind Bars” investigates and interprets the religious reality of Latina and African-American women inmates.