By Editorial Staff
Published August 4, 1992
By José Yelincic G.
Latin America is turning evangelical. The continent which has been predominantly Catholic for nearly 500 years since the arrival of Spanish and Portuguese “conquistadors,” is now being shaken by a widespread wave of change in the religious field. Thousands of people are leaving the Catholic church, which means leaving a tradition and a culture held for centuries, to join evangelical Protestant churches, and especially Pentecostal ones.
The Catholic hierarchy is concerned. Some authors and researchers say that in Brazil, supposedly the largest Catholic nation in the world, over a half million Brazillians are leaving the Catholic church for evangelical churches each year. Others say that “the number of evangelicals has tripled regionwide in the past 25 years and in some countries has even sextupled.“1
Although statistics may vary, the fact is that a wind of revival is sweeping Latin America, to such extent that scholars and sociologists are seriously thinking of a true new Reformation (like the one that took place in Europe in the 1500s) taking place in Latin America. Spectators of this evangelical movement ponder the reasons for the mass exodus from traditional religion. There are many causes: people seeking spiritual responses that no longer come from a secularized church; an attraction to more participatory and less ritualistic forms of worship; the personal approach to the Scriptures held to by evangelical churches; the Catholic church’s internal crisis; and the desire for participation in a close community of the newly converted.
This situation seems to open a new window of hope for Latin American countries, due to the positive economic, political, and social impact of evangelical conversion; although it is also producing tensions that have resulted, in extreme cases, in death for some evangelicals.
In several countries, the principal fortress, and ultimately the source for the institutionalized intolerance lies on the “official church” status that Catholicism enjoys. Catholics usually refer the emerging Christian churches as “sects,” and charge them with destroying the national spiritual unity, the family, and popular traditions.
Here is an overview of some of the countries that are experiencing spiritual revival, but also religious intolerance.
Situated in the heartland of South America this country is witnessing a very dynamic movement of Protestant and evangelical churches. But it has had a high price to pay in the past. Eight Baptist missionaries were stoned to death by a mob in Mercamaya, a small town near Oruro, in 1949. Today threats and violent actions against Protestants are common in rural zones. In the last few months, major articles against evangelicals have appeared weekly in the national newspapers. The arguments used to attack the evangelicals vary from accusations of “being instruments of foreign imperialism” to “being harmful for the national culture.”
Last year a formal petition for religious freedom sponsored by 24,000 signatures from all over the country was sent to the Bolivian congress.
There is now increasing interest in a constitutional reform among Argentinian Protestants. Written petitions are being sent to the President and parliamentarians urging them to convene a constitutional assembly for 1993.
As of now, the Argentinian Constitution establishes that the state supports the Roman Catholic religion. Moreover, it is constitutionally stated that a citizen must be Roman Catholic to be President of the nation. A dangerous legal project known as the Jimenez Montilla Bill, which has already been approved by the Senate will inflict jail terms of six months to two years on persons guilty of “crimes against religious sentiment,” “abuse of faith or religious beliefs,” and the “illegal exercise of worship.” This law will severely restrict freedom of worship.2
Although the evangelical church is growingquickly in this nation, Mexico is by far the Latin American country with the most cases of violent persecution. Although there has been no official church since the times of Benito Juarez (1855) the Catholic church has widely influenced the religious behavior and culture of society. The result is a long tradition of intolerance, violent threats, stoning of chapels, beatings and arrests of pastors.
Recently, four evangelicals – two of them pastors – were finally released after being held in jail since November 1991, accused of stealing the crown of the Virgin and other cult artifacts from a Catholic church in Nuevo Acambay. There was no evidence connecting them to the theft.
Another recent case concerns the hundreds of Chamula Protestant Indians who had suffered a violent attack and eviction by tribal leaders. The attackers wanted the evangelical Chamulas off their land because they refused to participate in Catholic festivals.3
Government establishment of religion will be finally be abolished in June, if the Constitutional Assembly approves a project for the new constitution. Surprisingly, even the Catholic church has officially recognized that “it has become clear that it is best for society not to impose a confessionality upon the state.”
Since June 1991, the Colombian Constitution has provided for freedom of religion. This historic step was widely supported not only by Protestant Christians, but also by followers of indigenous religions.
Latin America is rapidly changing, faster than anyone would believe. In the midst of uncertainties and contradictions the flames of revival are rising, burning out an old fashioned worldview. This revival involves primarily religion, but reaches culture, social order, economics and politics. The degree to which a reformation can be accomplished depends now upon the extent that religious freedom reformers are willing to fight for and sustain.
(1) Andres Tapia, “Why is Latin America Turning Protestant?” Christianity Today, April 6, 1992.
(2) Dave Miller, “Laws on Religion Spark Controversy in Argentina,” Christian Observer, March 20, 1992.
(3) News Network International, Special Edition, April 24, 1992.
Jose Yelincic G. is Communications Coordinator of the Rutherford Institute in Latin America.
Forerunner - Home » The Forerunner Newspaper » Latin America
Your comments are welcome!
Foundations in Biblical Eschatology
By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.
All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?
These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.
$12.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Download the Free Study Guide!
God’s Law and Society powerfully presents a comprehensive worldview based upon the ethical system found in the Law of God.
Speakers include: R.J. Rushdoony, George Grant, Howard Phillips, R.C. Sproul Jr., Ken Gentry, Gary DeMar, Jay Grimstead, Steven Schlissel, Andrew Sandlin, Eric Holmberg, and more!
Sixteen Christian leaders and scholars answer some of the most common questions and misconceptions related to this volatile issue:
1. Are we under Law or under Grace?
2. Does the Old Testament Law apply today?
3. Can we legislate morality?
4. What are the biblical foundations of government?
5. Was America founded as a Christian nation?
6. What about the separation of Church and State?
7. Is neutrality a myth?
8. What about non-Christians and the Law of God?
9. Would there be “freedom” in a Christian republic?
10. What would a “Christian America” look like?
Perfect for group instruction as well as personal Bible study.
Ten parts, over four hours of instruction!
Running Time: 240 minutes
Watch over 60 on-line video interviews from God’s Law and Society.
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Special Two-Disc Set!
After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.
Available for the first time on DVD, this documentary spectacular also includes intimate in-depth conversations with Francis and Edith Schaeffer. With the on-disc study guide, this presentation forms a unique course of comprehensive study. While this series forms an innovative analysis of the past, this outstanding work is more than history. Each episode focuses on a significant era, yet speaks clearly to 21st-century man with answers for modern problems.
$49.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Who is the Real Jesus?
Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.
Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.
The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.
Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.
Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!
Running Time: 130 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
High Quality Paperback — 200 pages
A Reasonable Response to Christian Postmodernism
Includes a response to the book Christian Jihad by Colonel V. Doner
The title of this book is a misnomer. In reality, I am not trying to get anyone to shut up, but rather to provoke a discussion. This book is a warning about the philosophy of “Christian postmodernism” and the threat that it poses not only to Christian orthodoxy, but to the peace and prosperity our culture as well. The purpose is to equip the reader with some basic principles that can be used to refute their arguments.
Part 1 is a response to some of the recent writings by Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late Francis Schaeffer. This was originally written as a defense against Frank’s attacks on pro-life street activism – a movement that his father helped bring into being through his books, A Christian Manifesto, How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? These works have impacted literally hundreds of thousands of Christian activists.
Part 2 is a response to Colonel Doner and his book, Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America. Doner was one of the key architects of the Christian Right that emerged in the 1980s, who now represents the disillusionment and defection many Christian activists experienced in the 1990s and 2000s. There is still great hope for America to be reformed according to biblical principles. As a new generation is emerging, it is important to recognize the mistakes that Christian activists have made in the past even while holding to a vision for the future.
$14.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)