Just as Hispanic charismatics and Pentecostals are being hailed as the future of American evangelicalism, they are also seen as having the political potential that may have a significant impact on the 2012 presidential elections.
But does the growing evangelical clout of Latinos translate into political activism in the way it has for white evangelicals? An article in Charisma magazine (May) by influential Latino evangelical leader Samuel Rodriguez forecasts that “Hispanic Spirit-empowered believers … stand poised to become the narrators of this century’s American faith experience …. The measureable impact of this already exists in three of the most prominent historic Pentecostal denominations—the Church of God, the Assemblies of God and The Four Square Church—where Hispanics represent not just a growing constituency but, in many respects, the only measureable growth metric.” Rodriguez adds that “one could argue that the future of American evangelicalism as a whole lies with the Hispanic Spirit-empowered church.”
Hispanic evangelicals are not only predominantly Pentecostal and charismatic, but are increasingly “bicultural, independent, megachurch-influenced and multifaceted in the spiritual tangibles they deliver,” Rodriguez writes. The number of Hispanic megachurches has grown from a handful of ministries to dozens. He writes that Hispanic churches have always had strong social ministries, but predicts that “Next-generation Hispanic Spirit-leaders will emerge out of both pulpits and pews to lead in the ecclesiastical and public spheres.”
Rodriguez does not specify how Latino evangelicals will express their faith in the public sphere; there is a widely held view that minority groups work from a different political context than their counterparts in the mainstream and majority (white evangelicals).
But there is also evidence that evangelicalism, in compared to secularism and Catholicism, “is the most potent worldview force in conservatizing Latino political attitudes,” write Troy Gibson and Christopher Hare in the journal Politics and Religion (Issue 5).
In analyzing data from a 2007 Pew survey of Hispanic adults, the authors found that on issues of abortion, gay marriage and other ideology, Catholics and seculars “placed themselves in the orthodox and progressive camps of the so-called culture war, although this rightward effect is far more substantial for evangelical than committed Catholic Latinos.” Gibson and Hare conclude that the “Latino vote” is far from cohesive, with fractures likely existing “along religious lines.”
(Charisma, 600 Rhinehart Rd., Lake Mary, FL 32746; Politics and Religion, http://journals.cambridge.org)