Tag Archives: Latin America

The Politics of Pentecostalism

by Luis Aránguiz Kahn. Originally published at Pensimiento Pentecostal.

Pentecostalism is a movement that surged in the beginning of the 20th century simultaneously in different parts of the world and in the middle of the diversity of the protestant and evangelical churches. In general terms, its social base was made of the poor, marginalized and discriminated. In the case of South America, there were two points of beginning. In Brazil by the hand of Luigi Fransescon, and in Chile it was brought about by Willis Hoover. From there on the movement has expanded geographically to the entire Southern Cone, but it has also had a notable quantitative growth in the different countries in the zone. There has also been an influence from external Pentecostalism, especially from The United States.

By the nature of movement there coexists an ample heterogeneity of churches, practices and believes in the interior of the Pentecostalism. This, in methodological terms, complicates the analysis of the phenomenon and the possibility of offering an explanation that stretches over its diversity. Therefore once more, if we speak in general terms, it is possible to notice that the Pentecostalism has arisen from a political derivation that can reveal itself in two ways, and which will not be unknown to anyone familiar in any way with this type of church.

On the one hand, it is possible to observe the existence of a Pentecostalism which calls itself “apolitical”. Within this category every church and believer would fit who, in the name of a moral dualism which sees the behaviors of non-Christians as mundane, rejects the political field (especially in its partisan version ) by considering it mundane, that is to say sinful. In those who maintain this form of thinking, there exists a tendency to reaffirm the status quo. Even when the political field is avoided, the “apoliticals” tend to champion the political groups which uphold the conservation of order.

In this way, for example, it is not strange to encounter Pentecostals who support anti-Marxist dictatorships in the previous century, as seen in the cases of Guatemala and Chile. In the same way today it is possible to encounter Pentecostals who support parties which are morally conservative, in order to avoid legislations which approve homosexual marriage, abortion and euthanasia. In a certain way, whether they want it or not, the “apoliticism” ends up being more a distant horizon than a way of living, well examples like these show that although one avoids forming parties or participate in them, inevitably one will participate in the public square. Therefore the query that remains is understanding this apoliticism as a fundamentally political act. Continue reading The Politics of Pentecostalism

Chile’s Prophetic Pentecostals that Refused to Support Pinochet

Prophetic pentecostalism: the case, challenges and hopes

by Luis Aranguiz Kahn.

“Prophetic Pentecostalism” is the name that a particular group of Pentecostal believers put to distinguish themselves from the main Pentecostal branch in Chile. So, what was the difference? In first place, it is necessary to say that Pentecostals in Chile has been mainly conservative in terms of politics. Before the coup d’etat of Pinochet, they used to declare themselves “apolitical” to avoid the political struggle between the strong leftwing winds that ultimately took Allende to presidency in 1970 and the rightwing counterpart.

In the middle of this complex political context, appeared a different kind of Pentecostal that was not apolitical but openly leftist. Highly influenced by Liberation Theology, they then faced the dictatorship and at the same time went against the general Pentecostal tide. Meanwhile in 1974 many important leaders of the biggest Pentecostals churches of the country signed a public letter supporting Pinochet, this little group was resisting in its denomination (Mision Iglesia Pentecostal – MIP) and its communities.

Prophetic Pentecostals were also involved in ecumenical activity, something very strange to find in Pentecostals of that time given the many prejudices about the World Council of Churches and the suspicion of some kind of Marxist influence inside it. Those were times of a deep split among Christians. Chile, as a post-colonial State was largely influenced by USA not only in political terms, but also political, cultural and therefore religious. Continue reading Chile’s Prophetic Pentecostals that Refused to Support Pinochet

Pentecostal Strategies for Saving the Environment

by Luis Aranguiz Kahn. Part 4 of 4. Read the whole article as a PDF here.

Let us end this series with some conclusions and concerns. Pentecostals have notably matured since they began. They have the potential to do great things in societies. If they become aware and reflect more on ecological matters, they could be a strong agent of influence and change. This is a long process that has already begun. What would happen if we mix radical morality, poverty and exploitation experience, political holiness, ecological concern, and spirit-baptized human strength focused on the problem of creation as a spirit-baptized one?

Let’s see some aspects in which this possible new Pentecostal LatinAmerican Eco theology ethics could engage. Some global ecological issues we can name are, for instance, carbon dioxide emissions, creating a renewable energy future and the social cost of energy. In the first place, Pentecostals can do a great influence calling for carbon equity policies by requesting the creation of jobs while demanding a decrease in the impact of air pollution, an improvement in economic conditions and climate resiliency for the poor. The most polluted cities in the region like Bogotá, Lima, Santiago, Montevideo and Cochabamba, are part of countries with a strong Pentecostal presence and big national churches must take part in this discussion to work on fighting against pollution.

In another way, if Pentecostals develop a larger and stronger reflection about ecology, would it be possible for them to discuss to invest 5% of their investments into climate solutions to end energy poverty with clean energy? It is one of the most important questions regarding the economic power that different Pentecostal denominations have reached. In the present, Pentecostals are near to 13% of total population (560 million people) in Latin America. In all countries it is possible to find big national churches that are economically strong. If leadership of these organizations assumes a commitment with energy ethics, they not only could mobilize thousands and thousands of believers but a lot of economic resources to work in climate solutions and clean energy. Continue reading Pentecostal Strategies for Saving the Environment

Spirit-Baptized Creation

by Luis Aranguiz Kahn. Part 3 of 4. Read the whole article as a PDF here.

My third and last step is the thought of Aaron Jason Swoboda,[1] North-American Pentecostal theologian. He begins to notice the fact that Pentecostal academy, churches and publications have been “Eco-theologically quiet”.[2] However, he finds that there are four major strands that have contributed to a social Pentecostal theology: charismatic social theology, liberation theologies, eschatological social justice and African creation spiritualties. As we have chosen liberation theologies as a source, we will continue with the concept from which Swoboda has articulated his Pentecostal Eco theology: Spirit-baptized creation.

Swoboda’s account is relevant for us in two senses. First, he maintains the idea of creation—earth—as the residence of the Spirit, as the Spirit “fills all things” (Eph. 4:10). Second, he maintains the idea that a person baptized in the Holy Spirit is empowered to “care for, protect and defend the earth” (p. 285). In his perspective, as in the beginning, the baptism in the Holy Spirit was a way for bringing peace among all races, according to the view of black leader of Azusa Street revival William Seymour: the core of the action of the Spirit is love. Being so, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and an understanding of creation as a sacred work of God, would bring out a love for creation, and consequently, an ecological ethic. Continue reading Spirit-Baptized Creation

Is a Pentecostal Liberation Theology Possible?

by Luis Aranguiz Kahn. Part 2 of 4. Read the whole article as a PDF here.

In Latin America, there have been some developments on Eco theology that come from other traditions. I cannot speak theologically from Latin America without mentioning one of the main Latin American theological frames, Liberation Theology.[1] In a Pentecostal view, we could say that Pentecostals were worried about “spiritual issues” while liberationists were worried about “worldly issues”.

However, I would like to go beyond this distinction because it is not that liberationist Christians were not worried about spiritual issues but that they understood spirituality in other terms. And it is not that Pentecostals were not interested in worldly issues, but that they understood worldliness in other terms. I would like to take two concepts from liberation theology.

The first comes from the hand of Leonardo Boff; in his book Ecología: Grito de la tierra, grito de los pobres[2], the Brazilian theologian develops a critical analysis of technological human progress. In his view, modern civilization is oriented by an anthropocentric (then androcentric) concept that divides human being and cosmos, and therefore, technological progress concludes as domination over nature. This can be seen clearly in the various forms of natural exploitation in the region, especially those regarding mining, water and forests.[3] The call of Boff is to rethink our cosmology, so we can better savor the greatness and glory of God in his creation. Continue reading Is a Pentecostal Liberation Theology Possible?

Pentecostalism, Latin America and Eco-Theology

by Luis Aranguiz Kahn. Part 1 of 4. Read the whole article as a PDF here.

What would a Pentecostal Latin-American Eco theology look like? In this question I am saying many things simultaneously. First of all, I use the word “Pentecostal.” However, there isn’t only one Pentecostalism; rather, there are many branches and styles within what is commonly referred to as “Pentecostalism.” In this clarification I am compelled to choose one specific branch in the Pentecostal tradition. Secondly, I use the word “Latin-American”, which means that I have to take distance from different kinds of Pentecostalism among the world. I have to speak from Global South, to speak considering our regional ecological problems instead of other’s concerns. And finally, I use the term “Eco theology”. This is a complex word because I have to engage it with my specific Pentecostal view and my Latin-American context.

By this way, I will go describing our reality and context in relation with climate change and energy issues, especially related to mining and pollution. Last but not least, I will put in dialogue the result of this question and contextual reflection with the concerns of the common project that convoke us: energy ethics. This reflection intends to call to a stronger Pentecostal action in the field of ecology, looking forward to a church that serves the world as Jesus did.

The Pentecostal movements started in the beginning of the twentieth century in many parts of the world. They share not only the conviction of the power of the Holy Spirit pouring among the Church giving many supernatural gifts, but they also share social and material conditions: many of these revivals took part among poor people, peasants or industrial workers. In other words, they started in the middle of the social issues. In the case of Chile, it started mainly in growing cities with increasing immigration from the countryside and consequent formation of poor neighborhoods. Continue reading Pentecostalism, Latin America and Eco-Theology