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Latin American Christianity: Colorful, complex and conflicted

The Azusa Street Revival is given credit as the spark that lit Latin American Pentecostalism, but revival spread largely through native-born Latin Americans who made Pentecostalism relevant to Latin Americans.

We do not have the space to comment on all of the articles. I would like, however, to say a few things on two of the articles. The first is Carlos F. Cardoza-Orlandi’s “’¡Llegaron los pentecostales!’: How Pentecostalism spread in Latin America and the Caribbean.” It gives credit to the Azusa St. Revival as the spark that lit Latin American Pentecostalism, but also shows that its spread was largely through native-born Latin Americans who made Pentecostalism relevant to Latin Americans (called acculturalization). I was particularly pleased and informed by the attention given to the Puerto Rican Pentecostal Evangelist, Luis M. Ortiz, who did so much to bring forward Pentecostalism in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean (my family comes from Puerto Rico).

Cardoza-Orlandi shows three ways in which Pentecostalism spread and flourished in Latin America. The first was what he labels as “split and grow” whereby a missionary arrives in Latin America, tries to fit into a traditional denomination, but that does not work out. He or she then leaves and forms a new and indigenous church that often flourishes beyond the original denomination. In another pattern called “goodbye missionaries,” a nondenominational and independent missionary comes to Latin America, founds various churches, and quickly leaves them in the hands of local pastors. Lastly, the “nation to nation” is a model in which missionaries arrive at their destination with only prayer support from the originating church and establish churches which, by necessity, are immediately staffed with local people. All of these patterns make a lie out of the anti-Pentecostal conspiracy theory, popular in some Catholic and Left-wing circles, that Pentecostalism was a CIA invention to ruin the advance of Liberation Theology.

The next article I would like to comment on is, in fact, on Liberation theology. This is Edgardo Colón-Emeric’s piece entitled, “A new Pentecost: The Story of Medellín.” It is a positive interpretation of Liberation Theology, an opinion that would be echoed in most mainline and liberal seminaries.[5] The article affirms that Liberation Theology shifted attention to the poor in Latin America, something both Catholicism and Protestantism did not do well.

My own take is that Liberation Theology was a disaster. It advocated that “Capitalism” was the evil, which doomed governments influenced by it to anti-free market policies. The destructiveness of disdaining free markets can be seen in the present crisis in Venezuela and in the fact that China and other ex-Communist countries have rejected this dogma.

More seriously, Liberation Theology created a justification for armed revolt. This inspired a whole generation of Catholic youth to become anti-government guerrillas. This, in turn, bred counter repression among the middle classes who feared that any revolution would eventually be captured by some variety of radical Marxism. I can think of the Cuban revolution of the 1950s which was an alliance of several groups, but which the Communists captured. Other Marxist groups arose in Latin America, such as the murderous Sender Luminosa of Peru that became a Maoist tyranny in the areas they controlled. In this, the conservatives were historically informed, whereas the sincere advocates of Liberation Theology were ideologically hopeful. The resultant civil wars in Central America and Columbia were especially savage and a win-win for Satan.

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Category: Church History, Spring 2019

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include Quenching the Spirit: Discover the Real Spirit Behind the Charismatic Controversy (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015), and The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing Prayer to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Emeth Press, 2018). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He continues in his healing, teaching and writing ministry and is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

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