For many Latino immigrants the “American Dream” of success and a better future has become fused with Pentecostal prosperity teachings that provide a greater sense of empowerment and hope to these newcomers.
While the “American Dream” has been eulogized since the burst of the housing bubble, the hope for a more prosperous future, including home ownership, drives many immigrants, writes Tony Tian-Ren Lin in the summer issue of the Hedgehog Review, the journal of the Institute for the Advanced Studies in Culture of the University of Virginia. Lin found that Word of Faith Pentecostalism, a movement that teaches that God desires believers’ healing and prosperity and that followers have the power to make such miracles a reality, has found a wide hearing among Latino immigrants and is having a “transforming effect in this large community.” A 2007 Pew survey found that the majority (73 percent) of all Latino Christians believe that God grants wealth and health to those who have faith.
In interviewing Latino Pentecostal immigrants, Lin found that a sense of “divine entitlement” validates their presence in a society that often marginalizes them and “emboldens them to be proactive in all they do, although not always to their benefit.” The strong positive thinking thrust of the Word of Faith approach gives the believer a sense of control over their lives even while they hold that only God can provide such prosperity. Most Word of Faith Pentecostals Lin encountered did not become prosperous, even as they worked extremely hard and applied the formula to their efforts. He witnessed many incidents of bankruptcies, unpaid loans, and even divorces that resulted from getting caught up in a cycle of endless failure. But the Word of Faith teachings were also found to inspire hope for a better future and transform lives for the better. As prosperity teachings spread across the world, they are also extending and indigenizing the “American Dream” to those who could never come to the U.S. Lin cites the rise of “boss Christianity” in Wenzhou, China, where Chinese workers are motivated to convert to Christianity by the wealth of their Christian bosses.
(Hedgehog Review, www.iasc-culture.org/THR/index.php.)