Rethinking Protestantism in Latin America
Edited by Virginia Garrard-Burnett and David Stoll
Temple University Press, 1993, 234 pp.
Edited by two leading specialists on Latin American Protestantism, Virginia Gerrard-Burnet of the University of Texas at Austin and David Stoll, author of several books on the topic, this important volume upsets much conventional wisdom. Elizabeth Brusco argues that born-again religion helps Latin American women resocialize their men away from destructive machismo more effectively than secular feminism. Lesley Gill and Linda Green, who examine Guatemala and Bolivia, show how indigenous women use evangelical social organization as a survival vehicle. And John Burdick, in an excellent chapter on Brazil, a nation that represents 40 percent of the Latin American and half the evangelical population, argues forcefully against the orthodox view that evangelical populations are politically passive and inherently conservative. Based on a close case study of evangelical communities in one of the worst areas of Rio de Janeiro, he shows how a commitment to living correctly and to cleanliness can quickly translate into a concern about bad drinking water, dangerous buses and roads, unstable tenure of homes and plots, and lack of electricity -- in short, into community activism. It remains to be seen, as Garrard-Burnett concludes, whether "Protestantism in Latin America may ultimately be as the Pentecostals like to say a `consuming fire' that forges and purifies -- or burns and destroys. In either case it is clear that this Protestant movement is a reformation in the most literal sense of the word: a re-forming of the religious, social, and political contours of contemporary Latin America."