April 25, 2007
Notable Study on Hispanic Religion, Politics
For observers of the Latino religious community, this morning's study released by the Pew Hispanic Project will hold few surprises. The survey of 4,600 U.S. Latinos found, among other things, that:
* Renewalist Christianity (including both Pentecostal and charismatic beliefs and practices) is more common among Latinos than non-Latinos.
* More than half of Latino Roman Catholics identify themselves as charismatics, a fact that is already changing the face of U.S. Catholicism and could have even greater impact as the country's Hispanic population continues to boom. (Already, about a third of U.S. Catholics are Hispanic.)
* Nearly two-thirds of Latinos worship in ethnic congregations, though not always in Spanish-speaking congregations.
* Latinos' political affiliation is up for grabs (with Protestants tending to be Republicans and Catholics tending to be Democrats) but most agree that religious values guide their political views and that politicians should express faith more often and openly, not less.
As I said, nothing too shocking. Pew emphasizes Latinos' commitment to charismatic faith and tendency to worship in ethnic enclaves as its most significant findings. No doubt both can be explained partly through demographics: About 62 percent of Hispanic adults in the U.S. are foreign-born. The strength of renewalist faith among Latino immigrants clearly reflects the explosive growth of Pentecostalism in Latin America and elsewhere throughout the global South (watch for our July cover story for more on this point). On the other hand, the tendency of Hispanics to worship with other Hispanics may change quite a bit as the Latino population assimilates. If Latino experience mirrors that of other immigrant groups, second- and third-generation Latinos will almost certainly find the home country-orientation of their parents' and grandparents' churches to be an uncomfortable fit.
I've asked a couple of Latino Christian leaders for their thoughts on the study, so we'll likely have more to post later.