Abstract and Keywords
Pentecostalism, a Christian renewal movement that emphasizes ecstatic bodily worship and charismatic practices, transformed Latin American Christianity over the course of the twentieth century. While they were influenced by the disruptive North American Holiness movements from which their piety originated, converts adapted Pentecostal Christianity to local economic and political realities that generated new, Latin American forms of Pentecostalism. This chapter traces the dynamics of Pentecostal transformation in Latin America across two case studies: Guatemala and Brazil. Both countries underwent enormous shifts in religious demographics and practices that reveal similar trends amid substantial diversity in the Pentecostalization of Latin America. Guatemala’s Pentecostal boom occurred through the country’s tumultuous thirty-year conflict between leftist guerrillas and an intractable military government. Pentecostalization crescendoed while military general Efrain Ríos Montt, a Pentecostal, came to power and oversaw the violent deaths of as many as 200,000 civilians who were predominantly indigenous Maya. Vast numbers of conversions to Pentecostalism followed, revealing its power to re-enchant destroyed and seemingly hopeless worlds. Brazilian Pentecostalism maintained a subdued, conservative critical presence within Brazilian society until neo-Pentecostal evangelists asserted themselves in the public sphere, taking on popular African diasporic religions, Spiritism, and established Catholicism in equal measure. After democracy was re-established, neo-Pentecostal churches—magnified by their immense fortunes garnered from prosperity theologies—reshaped the Brazilian relationship between Christian piety, national culture, and secular government. Today, Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostal churches sustain a transnational culture that connects Christians across Latin America, dynamically reshaping both social relations and Latin American Christianity itself.
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