Lindhardt, “New ways of being Pentecostal in Latin America”

Lindhardt, Martin. ed. 2016. New ways of being Pentecostal in Latin America. Lanham: Lexington. 

Publisher’s Description: The explosive growth of Pentecostalism has radically transformed Latin America’s religious landscape within the last half century or so. In a region where Catholicism reigned hegemonic for centuries, the expansion of Pentecostalism has now resulted in a situation of religious pluralism and competition, bearing much more resemblance to the United States than to the Iberian motherlands. Furthermore, the fierce competition from Pentecostal churches has inspired significant renewals of Latin American Catholicism, most notably the growth of a Catholic Charismatic movement. However, another and more recent source of religious pluralism and diversity in Latin America is an increasing pluralization and diversification of Pentecostalism itself and of the ways in which individual Pentecostals exercise their faith. By carefully exploring this diversification, the book at hand breaks new ground in the literature on Latin American Christianity. Particular attention is focused on new ways of being Pentecostal and on the consequences of recent transformations of Christianity for individuals, faith communities and societies.

More specifically, the chapters of the book look into certain transformations of Pentecostalism such as: theological renewals and new kinds of religious competition between Pentecostal churches; a growing political and civic engagement of Pentecostals; an observed de-institutionalization of Pentecostal religious life and the negotiation individual Pentecostal identities, composed of multiple intra- and extra-ecclesial points of identification; and the emergence of new generations of Pentecostals (children of Pentecostal parents), many of whom have higher levels of education and higher incomes than the previous generations within their churches. In addition, Catholic responses to Pentecostal competition are also addressed in several chapters of the book.

Gross, “Religion and Respeto”

Gross, Toomas.  2015. Religion and Respeto: The Role and Value of Respect in Social Relations in Rural Oaxaca.  Studies in World Christianity 21(2): 119-139.

Abstract: This paper discusses the relationship between religious affiliation and the ways that the notion of ‘respect’ (respeto) is used in common discourse in rural Oaxaca. Drawing on the ethnographic example of indigenous Zapotec villages in the Sierra Juárez, I examine how Protestants and Catholics employ the term to justify their attitudes towards each other and towards the norms of communal life. Both consider ‘respect’ an important value in social relations, but in significantly different ways. Catholics conceptualise ‘respect’ mainly as a hierarchical value central to which is the villagers’ subordination to the authority of customs and communal leaders. For most Protestants, however, respect is a horizontal notion that is associated with freedom of religion and the right of individuals to distance themselves from local traditions without being socially excluded or marginalised. The differences between these two perspectives are reconciled by a mutual acknowledgement of the need to ‘reciprocate’ respect.


Gross, “Incompatible Worlds?”

Gross, Toomas. 2012. Incompatible Worlds? Protestantism and Costumbre in the Zapotec Villages of Northern Oaxaca. Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore 51:191-218.

Abstract: In recent decades, Protestant population has grown rapidly in most Latin American countries, including Mexico. The growth has been particularly fast in rural and indigenous areas, where Protestantism is often claimed to trigger profound socio-cultural changes. This article discusses the impact of Protestant growth on customs, collective practices and local identities using the example of indigenous Zapotec communities of the Sierra Juárez in northern Oaxaca. Drawing on the author’s intermittent fieldwork in the region since 1998, most recently in 2012, the article first scrutinises some of the recurring local perceptions of Protestant growth in the Sierra Juárez and their impact on communal life. Particular attention will be paid to converts’ break with various customary practices pertaining to what locally is referred to as usos y costumbres. The article will then critically revise the claims about the culturally destructive influence of Protestantism, suggesting that the socio-cultural changes in contemporary indigenous communities of Oaxaca may actually be caused by more general modernising and globalising forces, and that the transformative role of Protestantism is often exaggerated.

Gross, “Changing Faith”

Gross, Toomas. 2011. Changing Faith: the social costs of Protestant conversion in rural Oaxaca. Ethnos 76(4):1-28.

Abstract: This article discusses conversion to Protestantism in the Zapotec communities of the State of Oaxaca in Southern Mexico. Conversion to Protestantism in these predominantly  Catholic villages has a rupture effect on converts’ relationships with their families as well as the Catholic majority. This transformation can be interpreted as a ‘social cost,’ which influences religious choices made by individuals and the sustainability of their new religious affiliations. The cost is generally higher for native villagers than for migrants to the communities. Focusing on the adverse effects of conversion and scrutinizing the choices of individuals who do not convert or who return to their previous faith contributes to a more nuanced understanding of religious change. The process if often far more complex and multi-directional at the local level than macro-level trends of rapid Protestant growth suggest.