16 April 2007

Pentecostal Church Lures Latin Americans Away From Catholicism

Der Spiegel has another interesting article.

A singer in body-hugging black leather pants pumps up the audience with reggae rhythms. The young people tap their feet to the beat. Then the house lights dim, creating the perfect ambiance for a makeout session. Suddenly, the spotlights blaze on. The audience applauds and whistles, as if revving up for a rock concert. Beams of light converge on a short man in jeans: Pastor Rinaldo Pereira.

The 34-year-old preacher throws his arms in the air as he welcomes his congregation and steps behind his altar, a surfboard on trestles. Behind his back, a laptop projects saccharine images of mountain landscapes and sunsets onto the wall. "God wants to see you smile!" the minister bellows into the jammed hall. The towering loudspeakers next to the altar throb. "Jesus! Jesus!" the audience chants.


Rina was moved to establish a Protestant Pentecostal community by a "spiritual experience," he says. He held his first service in a surfing supply store for a group of friends. "My generation has a strong yearning for spirituality that the Catholic Church can't satisfy," he explains. "Religion was considered square. So we had to come up with something new."


The Catholic Church has been hit hardest. Hordes of believers from the world's largest Catholic country are defecting to the evangelicals. The archbishop of São Paulo, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, estimates that the Catholic churches have lost one-third of their members over the past 40 years. Seven out of 10 former Catholics are seeking salvation in a Protestant community.

Roughly 18 percent of Brazilians belong to Protestant churches, and half of all believers in many major cities are now Protestants. "A holy war for people's souls is raging in Brazil," says Regina Novaes, an anthropologist and religious expert. "The Catholic Church has lost touch with the masses."

Whereas the Pentecostal churches -- "a tree with many branches" (Novaes) -- cultivate a direct relationship with God, the Catholics go through an intermediary, the priest. "The Catholics don't provide quick answers to people's needs. The Protestants are more dynamic," Novaes says.

Yaaar. I don't want Latin America to go Protestant!

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