Thursday, October 12, 2006

“Renewalists” Around the World


’Renewalist’ impact grows” encapsulates a new Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life study of “renewalist” Christianity, indicating a rapid spread of Pentecostal and charismatic denominations in 10 countries around the world. The study indicates that one-quarter of the world’s Christians are renewalists of one stripe or another, i.e. belonging to mainline Protestant denomination or the Catholic Church.

The study’s got some surprising findings, the most striking of which are a new politicization of Pentecostals:

... Renewalists believe in an active role for religion in political affairs. Pentecostals were long thought to avoid politics, but they are "anything but apolitical," [Pew Forum director Dr. Luis] Lugo says.

Large majorities in all countries but India and South Korea support active political involvement, and in all 10 countries, majorities say it's important that political leaders have strong religious beliefs. Still, there is widespread support for separation of church and state. Only in the U.S. (52 percent) and Nigeria (58 percent) did a majority of Pentecostals back making the country a Christian one.

Similarly, renewalist Christians give strong support to a free-market economy. Yet in all 10 countries polled, the report says, "majorities also agree that government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep."

At the same time, such Christians say that faith in God is very important to economic success. Some Pentecostal pastors have been criticized by other Christians for preaching a "prosperity gospel," encouraging the idea that God gives health and material prosperity to those with enough faith. The survey shows widespread support for this, though the belief in God's blessing of health is more common than that of financial success.

and a welcome embrace of women as pastors in nearly every country surveyed:

Renewalists do break with tradition when it comes to women in the clergy. Except for India, huge majorities of Pentecostals support female pastors, with charismatics not far behind.

"Still, there is a glass ceiling," says Dr. [Arlene] Sanchez Walsh [author of Latino Pentecostal Identity]. "Single women, particularly, almost never get to senior pastor."

However, as if more evidence were needed that religion is culturally driven, the Pew study finds sharp differences in beliefs about AIDS as divine retribution:

While in five countries polled, majorities did not see it as a punishment from God, renewalists in South Korea, Kenya, and Guatemala say it is God's punishment for immoral behavior.

Just as the world’s nations have been breaking up or dissolving into larger units, so are the world’s faiths atomizing into smaller and smaller, almost tribal, units. Personally, I’m nearer to the Sam Harris/Richard Dawkins end of the spectrum of belief, but from a policy standpoint the impact of millions of renewalists in thousands of churches has yet to be felt and will have to be addressed.

No comments:

Site Meter