Renewalist and Rising: Latino Religion

A major survey of Hispanic religious attitudes in the united States, released last year, concludes Latinos are transforming religion in the U.S., in part because they practice a distinctive, spirit-filled form of Christianity.

Conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, the detailed survey says Pentecostal and charismatic expressions of faith are a key attribute of worship for Hispanics in all the major religious traditions – far more so than among non-Latinos.

Catholicism, with its large numbers of Latinos, will be especially affected.

moreover, the growth of the Hispanic population is leading to the emergence of Latino-oriented churches across the country.

“These two defining characteristics – the prevalence of spirit-filled religious expressions and of ethnic-oriented worship – combined with the rapid growth of the His- panic population leave little doubt that a detailed under- standing of religious faith among Latinos is essential to understanding the future of this population as well as the evolving nature of religion in the united States,” the survey reported.

Among the findings from the executive summary:

• More than two-thirds of Hispanics (68 percent) identify themselves as Roman Catholics. The next largest category, at 15 percent, is made up of born-again or evangelical Protestants. Another 8 percent do not identify with any religion. About a third of all Catholics in the u.S. are now Latinos, a number likely to climb for decades.

• Renewalist Christianity, which places special emphasis on God’s ongoing, day-to-day intervention in human affairs through the person of the Holy Spirit, is having a major impact on Hispanic Christianity. more than half of Hispanic Catholics identify themselves as charismatics, compared with only an eighth of non-Hispanic Catholics. Though committed to the church and its traditional teachings, many of these Latino Catholics say they have witnessed or experienced occurrences typical of spirit-filled or renewalist movements, including divine healing and direct revelations from God. The renewalist movement is a powerful presence among Latino Protestants too. more than half of Hispanic Protestants identify with spirit-filled religion, compared with about a fifth of non-Hispanic Protestants.

• Two-thirds of Latino worshipers attend churches with Latino clergy, services in Spanish, and heavily Latino congregations.

• For most Latinos, regardless of religious tradition, God is an active force in everyday life. most Latinos pray every day, most have a religious object in their home, and most attend a religious service at least once a month. Religious Latinos largely believe that miracles are per- formed today just as in ancient times.

•Conversions are a key ingredient in the development of evangelicalism among Hispanics. Half of Hispanic evangelicals (51 percent) are converts; 43 percent of Hispanic evangelicals overall are former Catholics.

• Two-thirds of Hispanics say that their religious beliefs are an important influence on their political thinking. more than half say houses of worship should address the social and political questions of the day. by nearly a two-to-one margin, Latinos say that there has been too little expression of religious faith by political leaders rather than too much.

• Religious affiliation and church attendance are strongly related to political ideology and stances on a variety of social and public policy issues among Latinos. Latino evangelicals appear significantly more conservative than Catholics on social issues, foreign policy issues, and even in their attitudes toward the plight of the poor. Catholics, in turn, are somewhat more conservative than seculars when it comes to gay marriage, government-guaranteed health care, and increases in government services.

• Latino evangelicals are twice as likely as Latino Catholics to be Republicans. That is a far greater difference than exists among whites. The Democratic Party holds a nearly three-to-one advantage among Latino Catholics who are eligible to vote. because the Latino electorate is mostly Catholic (63 percent), Catholics represent the core of Democratic support among Latinos. Party identification among Latino evangelicals is more narrowly divided and appears to slightly favor the Republican Party. Among Hispanic eligible voters who are evangelicals, 37 percent say they consider themselves Republicans and 32 percent say they are Democrats.

Source: “Changing Faiths: Latinos and the Transformation of American Religion,” a survey produced by the Pew Hispanic Center. See