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Latino Catholics Increasingly Drawn To Pentecostalism

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by Ben W, May 1, 2006.

  1. Ben W

    Ben W Active Member
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    Sep 16, 2002
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    Interesting news article that I came across!


    Latino Catholics Increasingly Drawn To Pentecostalism

    By Sonya Geis
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, April 30, 2006; Page A03

    LOS ANGELES -- When Fabiola Briones entered a Pentecostal church for the first time, she was in crisis, recently divorced and bitter from abuse she suffered as a child. A Mexican-American Catholic, she had never seen anyone fall to the ground while praising God or speak in tongues, which is common at Pentecostal services.

    But she liked the church and she went back. On an Easter Sunday two months later, she was transformed.

    "A hand went inside of me, and I felt God was pulling out roots," she said from the pew of a Pentecostal service here last week. "I know now that they were the roots of bitterness. I forgave my ex-husband, and I was healed from the abuse."

    Briones is one of thousands of Latino immigrants who have left behind the ritual and perceived formality of the Roman Catholic Church for the personal experiences and boisterous services of Pentecostalism. The mass migration of Latinos to charismatic Christian movements, such as Pentecostalism, is more than a religious transformation. It also could have strong political ramifications.

    Democrats once counted on lockstep support from Latino voters, but the GOP has been making inroads, and analysts say that Latino voters who switch religion tend to be more conservative.

    National surveys show that Latino Catholics are more likely to vote for Democratic candidates than Republicans. The reverse is true for Latino evangelicals, including Pentecostals.

    "Because Latinos, both Catholic and Protestant, tend to have strong family values, they're much more morally conservative overall," said Edwin Hernandez, director of the Center for the Study of Latino Religion at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. "But the Pentecostals and evangelicals are much more conservative than the Catholic Latinos are."

    Thirty years ago, about 90 percent of Latinos in the United States were Catholic, sociologists estimate. Today that number is about 70 percent, and it remains steady only because of high birth rates and new immigrants filling the pews. Most other Latino Americans -- 9.5 million of them -- are Protestant, usually Pentecostal or another evangelical denomination. Their numbers are fed by the conversion of second- and third-generation immigrants, whose families become more likely to convert the longer they are in the United States.

    The Pentecostal movement was sparked in Los Angeles on April 12, 1906, when William J. Seymour preached a sermon for a small group of followers and was so overcome that he spoke a strange babbling language. Seymour taught that the Holy Spirit could enter into anyone, giving the believer power to heal others and communicate directly with God. He told followers that "end times" were near and that God would soon "do a great shaking," said Anthea Butler, an assistant professor of religion at the University of Rochester, N.Y., at an academic panel on Pentecostalism here.

    Six days after that sermon, the San Francisco earthquake struck. African Americans, whites, men and women flocked to a month-long series of meetings. One of the hallmarks of the Pentecostal movement from the beginning was evangelism. Enthusiastic believers spread across the globe.

    Today, Pentecostalism has between 250 million and 500 million adherents, most of them in developing nations such as Brazil, China, the Philippines and Nigeria. It is the fastest-growing Christian movement in the world. Thirty years ago, Pentecostals or similar charismatic groups represented 6 percent of all Christians; today that figure is 25 percent, according to the World Christian Encyclopedia.