5.17.2007

Latino Transformation of American Christianity

Latinos are transforming the nation's religious landscape, especially the Catholic Church, not only because of their growing numbers but also because they are practicing a distinctive form of Christianity.

Religious expressions associated with the pentecostal and charismatic movements are a key attribute of worship for Latinos in all the major religious traditions -- far more so than among non-Latinos. Moreover, the growth of the Latino population is leading to the emergence of Latino-oriented churches across the country.

About a third of all Catholics in the U.S. are now Latinos, and the study projects that the Latino share will continue climbing for decades. This demographic reality, combined with the distinctive characteristics of Latino Catholicism, ensures that Latinos will bring about important changes in the nation's largest religious institution.

Most significantly given their numbers, more than half of Latino Catholics identify themselves as charismatics, compared with only an eighth of non-Latino Catholics. While remaining committed to the church and its traditional teachings, many of these Latino Catholics have witnessed or experienced occurrences typical of spirit-filled or renewalist movements, including divine healing and direct revelations from God. Even many Latino Catholics who do not identify themselves as renewalists appear deeply influenced by spirit-filled forms of Christianity.

Similarly, the renewalist movement is a powerful presence among Latino Protestants. More than half of Latinos in this category identify with spirit-filled religion, compared with about a fifth of non-Latino Protestants.

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Click here for Changing Faiths: Latinos and the Transformation of American Religion, a report (in pdf format) by the Pew Hispanic Center.