Daily Archives: 12 June 2005

Richard Rodriguez on the Protestantization of Latin America

Richard Rodriguez has some interesting observations in an old interview for Reason magazine about the attraction of Protestantism for Latin Americans.

Reason: What do you think about the attraction of Latin Americans. both here and in Latin America, to evangelical Protestantism?

Rodriguez: Catholicism is a religion that stresses to you constantly that you can’t make it on your own, that you need the intercession of the Virgin Mary, and the saints, St. Jude, and your grandmother–candles and rosaries and indulgences and the pope. There are all these intermediaries, because you facing God would be hopeless.

Suddenly, into the village comes this assurance that you don’t need padrecito. You can read the bible yourself–you don’t need someone to tell you what it says. You don’t need the Virgin Mary, you don’t need the saints, you don’t need anybody. God is speaking to you. And just because your father beat your mother, just because your grandfather was poor, doesn’t mean it has to happen to you. You can change your whole life around. This is all based on the Easter promise and not, as the Catholic church has always based it, on some Good Friday suffering.

Reason: Protestants always have empty crosses.

Rodriguez: It is an enormously powerful motif, the notion that Christ just got off the cross and walked away somewhere–went off to L.A.–and you could do it too. I think Protestantism is most successful in those cases where people are beginning to taste and sense discontinuity. And they begin to make sense out of it as providential. Protestantism also establishes, in a time of social change, the memory of the village. Within the storefront church, you can hold hands and remember what it was like in another time.

It will be one of the great changes of Latin America, the Protestantization of Latin America, and I think in some way that it will change the United States. The relationship of the evangelicals in places like Texas where there are rednecks and Mexicans together is really very interesting. The new Mexican who is now appearing in places like police departments–this is a new face of Latin America, and it is not necessarily one that we want.

Reason: How so?

Rodriguez: I think there has always been a charm to Latin America as being sort of morally lazy. We’ve always used it as a place where we could go to after dark and do whatever we wanted that we couldn’t do here. We never really expected that Latin America was going to become a moral Clorox for our society, and maybe there’s a ferocity there that we don’t expect.

Reason: Aside from the desire to have this Latin America of easy virtue, are there bad consequences to that?

Rodriguez: How shall I put this? Mexican cops have never been cops I like to deal with. And there can be this ferocity–you see it in New York now with a lot of Puerto Rican and Hispanic households, the ferocity against the gay movement, the Rainbow Curriculum, for example. I see myself as a homosexual man–much freer in America than in Latin America.

via Marc Cooper

While some Latin American evangelicals are migrating in, other homegrown evangelicals are seeking a way out. ChristianExodus.org is moving thousands of Christians to South Carolina to reestablish constitutionally limited government founded upon Christian principles. This includes the return to South Carolina of all “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States.”

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Filed under Latin America, religion