Pentecostals Are Now Majority of Latin American Protestants

Pentecostals Are Now Majority of Latin American Protestants

A full 65% of Latin American Protestants now either belong to Pentecostal churches or identify themselves as “Pentecostal,” according to a new Pew Research Center report.

The report says that certain practices such as “divine healing, speaking in tongues and receiving direct revelations from God” are typical of Pentecostal churches and are considered to be “gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

This openness to supernatural occurrences goes beyond typically Christian phenomena, according to the report, and extends “to beliefs and practices often associated with Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Brazilian or indigenous religions,” such as witchcraft, reincarnation, and magic spells. Of those surveyed in the 18 countries and Puerto Rico, more than 30% believe in the “evil eye,” or the notion that people can cast curses on others.

According to Andrew Chesnut, professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, part of the success of Pentecostalism in Latin America has been its absorption into Latin American culture. For example, Chestnut says, “the music that you hear in Pentecostal churches has the same rhythms that people enjoy outside of church. In fact, in only a century, Pentecostalism has become indigenous, or ‘Latin Americanized,’ to a greater extent than Roman Catholicism has in its four centuries in Latin America.”

Chestnut says that other factors include Pentecostalism’s emphasis on faith healing, which draws many to convert when they or a family member become sick.

Pentecostal preachers also tend to be less educated that their counterparts in other churches, which leads them to “speak to their flock in the same way that people in Latin American speak to each other,” Chestnut said. By contrast, he added, “in the Catholic Church, most priests are part of the elite. They are either white or mestizo and many are actually from Europe.”