October 5, 2006

Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Releases Results from a 10-Country Public Opinion Survey of Pentecostals

Survey covers the religious, political and civic views of pentecostals and charismatics in the United States, Latin America, Africa and Asia

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life today released the results of a 10-country survey of pentecostal and charismatic Christians, two large and fast-growing groups whose socially conservative views are impacting religion and politics worldwide.

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“This survey demonstrates that pentecostal beliefs and practices are literally reshaping the face of Christianity throughout the developing world,” said Luis Lugo, the director of the Pew Forum. “And with religion playing an increasingly prominent role in global affairs, we need to pay closer attention to pentecostalism – arguably the most dynamic religious movement in the world today.”

According to the World Christian Database, at least a quarter of the world’s 2 billion Christians are thought to be renewalists, an umbrella term referring to pentecostals and charismatics as a group. Still, little is known about their religious, political and civic views. To address this gap, the Pew Forum — with financial support from the John Templeton Foundation – recently conducted surveys in the United States, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, India, the Philippines and South Korea.

The surveys find that renewalists…

  • Are prevalent:

    In every nation surveyed except India, at least 10% of the population can be described as renewalist; in three countries (Brazil, Guatemala and Kenya) membership in the renewalist movement approaches or exceeds 50%. In the U.S., the survey showed nearly one-in-four people (23%) are renewalists. Nearly three-in-ten U.S. Protestants interviewed indicated they were either pentecostal or charismatic, and more than three-in-ten U.S. Catholics can be classified as charismatic. In the three Latin American countries, more than three of four Protestants are renewalists.

  • Have distinctive experiences:

    In seven of the 10 countries surveyed, at least half of pentecostals say that the church services they attend frequently include people practicing the gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as speaking in tongues or prophesying. In all 10 countries surveyed, large majorities of pentecostals (ranging from 56% in South Korea to 87% in Kenya) say that they have personally experienced or witnessed the divine healing of an illness or injury. In the United States, 62% of pentecostals and 46% of charismatics say they have witnessed divine healings, compared with 29% of the U.S. population as a whole and 28% of non-renewalist Christians.

  • Are intense in their beliefs:

    In eight of the 10 countries surveyed, majorities of pentecostals say they share their faith with non-believers at least once a week. Charismatics tend to be somewhat less evangelistic. Pentecostals’ active evangelism is consistent with their views on salvation. In every country except South Korea, at least 70% of pentecostals completely agree that belief in Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved from eternal damnation. This view also is common among charismatics and other Christians, but here, as in other areas, pentecostals often stand out for the intensity of their belief.

  • Support political engagement:

    In nine of the 10 countries, at least half of pentecostals and charismatics say that religious groups should express their views on day-to-day social and political questions. In the U.S., nearly eight-in-ten pentecostals (79%) say that religious groups should do so, compared with 61% of the public as a whole. “That’s interesting, because pentecostals were once thought of as non-political, at least in the United States. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore,” said John Green, the Pew Forum’s senior fellow in religion and American politics. More than half (52%) of American pentecostals say that the government should take special steps to make the U.S. a Christian country, compared with only 25% among Christians overall.

  • Are morally conservative, with a few twists:

    The percentage of pentecostals who say that abortion can never be justified ranges from 64% in the U.S. to 97% in the Philippines. Majorities of pentecostals in nine countries (all except the U.S.) say that drinking alcohol can never be justified. While majorities of pentecostals in three countries (Guatemala, Kenya and South Korea) say that AIDS is God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior, majorities in five countries (the U.S., Brazil, Chile, South Africa and the Philippines) do not believe AIDS is God’s punishment. In five countries (Guatemala, Kenya, Nigeria, the Philippines and South Korea), pentecostals are more willing to allow women to serve as pastors or church leaders compared with other Christians.

On Friday, Oct. 6, Lugo and Green will make the first public presentation of the survey findings at “Spirit in the World,” an international symposium on pentecostalism. Funded by the Templeton Foundation and hosted by the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, the Los Angeles event brings together international scholars who track the social, political and economic impact of pentecostals around the world.