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Native Evangelism in Central Mexico

Native Evangelism in Central Mexico

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    Native Evangelism in Central Mexico
    Book Description:

    Evangelical Christianity is Mexico's fastest-growing religious movement, with about ten million adherents today. Most belong to Protestant denominations introduced from the United States (e.g., Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists), but perhaps as many as 800,000 are members of homegrown, "native" evangelical sects. These native Mexican sects share much with the American denominations of which they are spinoffs. For instance, they are Trinitarian, Anabaptist, and Millenarian; they emphasize a personal relationship with God, totally rejecting intermediation by saints; and they insist that they are the only true Christians. Beyond that, each native sect has its distinctive characteristics.This book focuses on two sharply contrastive native evangelical sects in Central Mexico: Amistad y Vida (Friendship and Life) and La Luz del Mundo (The Light of the World). The former, founded in 1982, now has perhaps 120,000 adherents nationwide. It is nonhierarchical, extremely egalitarian, and has no dogmatic directives. It is a cheerful religion that emphasizes charity, community service, and personal kindness as the path to salvation. It attracts new members, mainly from the urban middle class, through personal example rather than proselytizing. La Luz del Mundo, founded in 1926, now has about 350,000 members in Mexico and perhaps one million in the hemisphere. It is hierarchically organized and demands total devotion to the sect's founder and his son, who are seen as direct links to Jesus on Earth. It is a proselytizing sect that recruits mainly among the urban poor by providing economic benefits within the congregations, but does no community service as such.Based on ten years of fieldwork (1996–2006) and contextualized by nearly fifty years of anthropological study in the region, Native Evangelism in Central Mexico presents the first ethnography of Mexico's native evangelical congregations.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-75842-1
    Subjects: History, Anthropology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    By “native evangelism” we denote dissent movements turning away from Catholicism, as well as doctrinal and organizational dissent from American Protestant evangelist derivations. The Pentecostal, Seventh-Day Adventist, and Jehovah’s Witnesses sects are the most common sources of emulation. Native evangelical sects come into being in basically two different ways: either an individual or group, originally member(s) of a Protestant sect, becomes dissatisfied with some organizational or doctrinal aspect, secedes, and launches a new movement; or a divinely inspired leader initiates a native sect upon hearing the word of God, who, in the time-honored Christian tradition, reveals to him or her...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Analytical Framework of the Study
    (pp. 19-38)

    As there are no ethnographies of native evangelist congregations, the central concern of this book is an ethnographic study of two congregations belonging to two native evangelists sects: one established twenty-four years ago and in the process of expansion; the other founded eighty years ago, and probably the most successful native sect in the country. The first, Amistad y Vida A.C. (Cristianos), is located in the small city of Fortín, Veracruz; the second, La Luz del Mundo, is located in the city of Tlaxcala, the capital of the state of the same name.

    Through the longitudinal study of the Tlaxcala-Pueblan...

  7. CHAPTER TWO The Theology and Teleology of Amistad y Vida (Cristianos)
    (pp. 39-53)

    Amistad y Vida (Cristianos) had its beginning in Mexico City. It was started in 1982 by the Presbyterian minister Robert Mayers, with the help of Mr. and Mrs. Pardillo; they formed the first congregation, which quickly grew to more than two thousand members; by 2001, numbers had increased to more than four thousand. A second congregation was established in Puebla in 1986, and within four years five more came into being within the metropolitan area of the city, with a total membership of more than eight thousand. Missionaries from the city of Puebla congregation founded a third group of congregations...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Cristianos: The Structure and Material Organization of the Congregation
    (pp. 54-73)

    Like its teleology and theology, the formal organization of the cult of Amistad y Vida is quite streamlined; the most structured rites and ceremonies take place during the weekly Sunday services. But there is also a large ritual and ceremonial complex that goes on informally, sometimes in private homes, but more often and elaborately in public venues. These involve, as we have indicated, prospective converts, either guests of congregants or town people who attend out of curiosity, wanting to know more about what Cristianos do and their approach to religion. This is the latent mode of proselytizing, but the manifest...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR La Luz del Mundo: Theology, Teleology, and Ideology
    (pp. 74-98)

    La Luz del Mundo (LLDM) was founded in 1926 by Eusebio Joaquín González in the city of Monterrey, Nuevo León. Eusebio Joaquín was born in Colotlán, Jalisco, and fought in the early stages of the Revolution of 1910. According to the offi-cial history of the sect, he was baptized by Saulo and Silas, two converts to a Pentecostal sect founded in the city of Chihuahua by Carmen Valenzuela when she returned from Los Angeles, California, after conversion to Pentecostalism. Saulo and Silas became very influential in the new religious movement, and entitled themselves “prophets.” Eusebio Joaquín was baptized in 1925...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE La Luz del Mundo: Structure and Ritual-Ceremonial Organization of the Congregation
    (pp. 99-119)

    In this chapter we analyze the organization of the cult of La Luz del Mundo (LLDM), its ritualism and ceremonialism, the process of evangelist enculturation, and the life of the congregation as molded by the beliefs and dogmas of the sect. The scandals and controversies that have plagued LLDM, especially during the past decade, are well known in Mexico to scholars and the general public, but we do not think this is the case with students of religion elsewhere. Thus, we conclude the chapter with a description and analysis of LLDM as a destructive sect, aiming to clarify what this...

  11. CHAPTER SIX The Process of Conversion: Antecedent Factors and Results
    (pp. 120-150)

    A great deal has been written about Catholics converting to Protestant evangelism in most Latin American countries: the early work of Willems (1967), Lalive D’Spinay (1969), Boff (1982), and Bastián (1983); the more recent work of Annis (1987), Paloma (1989), Martin (1990), Stoll (1990), and Bowen (1996); and the work on Mexico beginning with Rivera (1961), followed by the work of Bridges (1973), Gaxiola (1984), Garma Navarro (1987), De los Reyes (1990), López Cortés (1990), Zapata Novoa (1990), and many others. These sources discuss explicitly and implicitly, and occasionally analyze in-depth, the causes and forms of conversion. It is not...

  12. Conclusions
    (pp. 151-166)

    This book has presented a description and analysis of two native evangelist sects in central Mexico. It discusses the organization of the congregations, their methods and techniques of proselytism, doctrinal beliefs and worldview, theological and teleological underpinnings, endogenous and exogenous activities, relationship to the Catholic majority, perceptions that they engender, and several related aspects of the nature of Protestant evangelist sects in the context of the rural/urban cleavage. It also discusses the different forms evangelism takes with respect to ethnic and class affi liation, and the Catholic reaction to evangelism’s penetration. To conclude, we address three topics: (1) a comparison...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 167-178)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 179-184)
  15. Index
    (pp. 185-197)