Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Latino Infusion, Studied

A new report from the Pew Trusts surveys the "transformation" of the American religious and demographic landscape augured by the nation's expanding Hispanic population. According to the authors, its most notable aspect is the "distinctive form of Christianity" -- "the prevalence of spirit-filled religious expressions and of ethnic-oriented worship" -- that, they say, "is essential to understanding the future of this population as well as the evolving nature of religion in the United States."

On the Catholic front, the news is mixed:
The study examines religious beliefs and behaviors and their association with political thinking among Latinos of all faiths. It focuses special attention on Catholics, both those who retain their identification with the church and those who convert to evangelical churches.

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 Hispanic Catholics identify themselves as charismatics, compared with only an eighth of non-Hispanic 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 Hispanics in this category identify with spirit-filled religion, compared with about a fifth of non-Hispanic Protestants.

The study also shows that many of those who are joining evangelical churches are Catholic converts. The desire for a more direct, personal experience of God emerges as by far the most potent motive for these conversions. Although these converts express some dissatisfaction with the lack of excitement in a typical Catholic Mass, negative views of Catholicism do not appear to be a major reason for their conversion.

The practice of religion is not only often renewalist in character, but for most Latinos across all the major religious traditions it is also distinctively ethnic. Two-thirds of Latino worshipers attend churches with Latino clergy, services in Spanish and heavily Latino congregations.
Ergo, the national rush on the bi-lingual formation at Assumption Seminary....

The study's making waves in today's NYTimes, and the one in LA, too.