The ‘non-Catholic’ Latin American church is going full steam ahead—but are we on the right track?
The most prominent item in many Latin American churches is a drum set. Many congregations spend over an hour standing and singing (often songs written by church members) before the sermon. Lively worship and other Pentecostal characteristics (speaking in tongues, prophesying, and healing) have become part of most non-Catholic Christian churches in Latin America. Many of these, often called “neo-Pentecostal,” are self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating without any historical connection to classical Pentecostalism.
Despite their similarities, these churches are not unified. Some experts say non-Catholic Christianity in Latin America is best described as “neo-Pentecostalisms”—plural.
Two general interpretations have emerged for the exponential growth of these non-Catholic churches: Some uncritically see this as a movement of the Spirit, bringing people by the hundreds of thousands to the foot of the Cross, making them true sons and daughters of God and of the Reformation. Others see the massive movement in clear continuity with popular Catholic religiosity and indigenous traditions, having nothing to do with Protestantism.
Indeed, the neo-Pentecostalisms may be based on neither Protestant nor Catholic core doctrine, but on a convergence of popular Catholic religiosity with popular Protestant religiosity. In that case, we are likely witnessing a new form of post-, neo-Christianity.