Los Angeles, California
The Pew Forum held a telephone news conference with reporters across the country to discuss key findings from a new international poll, Spirit and Power: A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals.
Luis Lugo, Director, The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
John Green, Senior Fellow in Religion and American Politics, The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
LUIS LUGO: Good morning to the West Coast journalists and good afternoon to those who are back on the East Coast. Thank you all for joining this call today.
I’m Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. We’re a Washington, D.C.-based research organization that provides opinion leaders with timely and impartial information on issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs. The Forum is a project of the Pew Research Center, also located in Washington. And, like the Center, we do not take positions on policy debates.
I’m pleased to welcome you to this telephone news conference, during which my colleague, John Green, and I will discuss the findings from our ten-country survey of pentecostal and charismatic publics, whom we together refer to as renewalists. For those of you who have not yet seen the full survey report, it should now be available online at pewforum.org. You should also have in front of you the news release which I think helpfully highlights some of the key findings.
Before we dive in, I would like to mention that the Pew Forum will be making the first public presentation of these findings at the Spirit in the World international symposium on pentecostalism, sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation and hosted by the University of Southern California Center for Religion and Civic Culture. The event begins tonight and runs through Saturday here in Los Angeles and is bringing together prominent international scholars who have tracked the pentecostal movement around the world.
The Forum embarked on this major cross-national survey of pentecostal publics for two reasons. First, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Azusa Street Revival here in Los Angeles, which many consider to be the birth of the modern pentecostal movement.
Second, pentecostalism and related renewalist movements are by all accounts among the fastest growing segments of Christianity, especially in the developing world. At least a quarter of the world’s more than 2 billion Christians are thought to be members of these renewalist groups, which emphasize the gifts of the Holy Spirit such as speaking in tongues, divine healing and prophesying.
Despite the large and growing influence of renewalist movements, there is little quantitative data on the religious, political and civic views of individuals involved in these groups. The Forum decided to address this gap, with the generous financial support of the Templeton Foundation, by conducting surveys of pentecostal publics in the United States and in nine other countries: Brazil, Chile and Guatemala in Latin America; Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa in Africa; and India, the Philippines and South Korea in Asia.
What we found, in short, is that pentecostal beliefs and practices are literally reshaping the face of Christianity throughout the developing world. We also found that, contrary to widespread perception, pentecostals are anything but apolitical in their outlook.
My colleague John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum, is here with me to discuss some of the key findings, as well as to answer any methodological questions you might have. Again, thank you for joining us and, John, I’ll turn it over to you.
JOHN GREEN: Thank you very much, Luis. It’s a great pleasure to be with you all today to cover some of the highlights of our survey findings. What I’d like to do is just follow the press release because I think that it is a useful way to organize these comments. I will elaborate on the release very briefly and then entertain any questions you might have about these or other issues.
As Luis indicated, it is widely believed that renewalists, pentecostals and charismatics are very common around the world and one thing we set out to do was to ascertain whether that perception was accurate or not. Generally speaking, our surveys have confirmed that the renewalist publics are quite large in the countries that we surveyed. For instance in Guatemala, 60% of the population was either pentecostal or charismatic. In the United States that was 23%. In other countries that we studied the renewalist population has reached the point where they can have an enormous impact on the social and political life. We suspect that this is the case as well in other countries that we were unable to survey.
I just wanted to point out that in our initial report, we have taken the broadest measure of “renewalists” and that in the future a more precise definition may produce more nuanced conclusions.
There is a good bit of diversity within the renewalist communities and we tried to capture that in a crude way by distinguishing between pentecostals – that is, self-identified members of pentecostal denominations – and then a more disparate group of renewalists, many of them Roman Catholics, whom we labeled as charismatics. There is considerable diversity within the charismatic category.
Nonetheless, the two groups together tell us a great deal about the impact of renewalists around the world. And one thing we found was that renewalists of all sorts have very distinctive religiosity. These include classic beliefs regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit as well as practices that are associated with that tradition, such as prophesying, faith healing and speaking in tongues.
The individuals we surveyed reported that these types of practices were very common in their churches and in their religious communities. We did find, however, considerable variation in the exact practices reported.. For instance, speaking in tongues, one of the hallmarks of classic pentecostalism, was not as common as many pentecostal theologians would expect or would insist upon.
The distinctive religious beliefs and practices of renewalists does not mean that they are lacking in Christian orthodoxy. For instance, pentecostals and charismatics have a very high view of the authority of Scripture, were regular worship attenders and uniformly believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation.
So renewalists are distinctive both in their special practices and beliefs and also in the intensity of their Orthodox practice and belief in terms of the broader Christian tradition.
When it came to social and political attitudes, renewalists were distinctive in some respects and less distinctive in others. They tended to be quite conservative or traditional on moral beliefs such as sexual behavior, the consumption of alcohol, divorce, and so forth. Indeed, in all of the countries surveyed, large majorities of renewalists held what would be seen as traditional positions on these moral questions. It is interesting, however, that in many of these countries the majority of the general population also held these traditional beliefs. Only in the United States was there a sharp difference between the beliefs of pentecostals and other renewalists and the beliefs of the broader population.
But even in those countries where majorities of the population held very traditional beliefs, renewalists tend to hold those beliefs more intensely and more extensively. However, the application of these traditional religious beliefs to politics varied a great deal from country to country. For example, on the question of whether AIDS was God’s punishment for a moral sexual behavior, for example, there were sharp divisions among renewalists and a great deal of variation from one country to another.
When we move beyond traditional morality, there was a good bit more variation in the attitudes of renewalists. For instance, many renewalists favored free market economics. But, at the same time, they also favored government programs and social welfare to provide assistance to the poor and the needy. And the exact connection of these beliefs to politics varied a great deal from country to country. So, we have a religious community with very distinctive religious beliefs and distinctive moral concerns, but which is linked to politics in different ways in different countries.
Finally, as Luis pointed out just a moment ago, renewalists are not disengaged from politics. A large majority around the world believe that pentecostal and other renewalist groups should be active in day-to-day politics. In this regard, they resemble the other members of their respective countries I think this finding will surprise a good many people because historically, at least in the United States, pentecostals were seen as being apolitical. Whether or not that was once true in the United States, it is no longer the case, and it is certainly not true in the countries that we surveyed around the world. In many respects, pentecostals and charismatics see an opportunity to influence the social and political life of their countries.
I think I have covered the highlights of the study. And there’s a great deal of meat here, a great deal of detail and we would be happy to entertain your questions.
LUGO: Thank you, John. We will now open up the lines for Q&A, if the operator will please provide instructions on that.
CONFERENCE COORDINATOR: We’ll take our first question from Adelle Banks of Religion News Service. Go ahead please.
ADELLE BANKS: Hi. I was wondering whether it’s correct to say that your survey shows that speaking in tongues is no longer a mark of distinction for many charismatics and pentecostals, but instead experiences with healing and exorcism are more of an indicator.
LUGO: Very good. I think that is precisely correct in these countries, Adelle. I think divine healing may be the most consistent hallmark of these renewalist movements throughout the world.
As John mentioned, there is also widespread experience with speaking in tongues in churches throughout pentecostal and charismatic circles. But in terms of particular individual practice with speaking or praying in tongue, as John indicated in six of these ten countries 40% of the members of these movements say they never speak in tongue.
So I know that historically that has typically been the way that these movements have been approached. But I do think that based on these findings we need to rethink that considerably. John, do you want to add anything?
GREEN: Yes, I think that the classic Pentecostal belief that speaking in tongues was the real evidence of the Second Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not widely accepted around the world.
And in some of these countries, even among classic pentecostals the level of speaking in tongues was much lower than one might expect given their doctrinal position. So I think the comment Adelle made is quite accurate that these communities are now defined more by other types of spiritual practices than by speaking in tongues.
BANKS: Thank you.
LUGO: Thanks Adelle.
CONFERENCE COORDINATOR: We’ll take our next question from Chrissie Thompson from The Washington Times. Go ahead please.
CHRISSIE THOMPSON: Hi. How do you think the Renewalist movement has influenced Christianity in general and how would you say it has influenced American politics?
LUGO: Let me take the first part of that, this is Luis again, and I’ll have John address the second part on the politics.
I was, to be very frank with you, skeptical of some of the numbers that have been thrown around by some folks estimating the number of charismatics and pentecostals. But I have to say, in the ten countries we looked at very closely, the numbers seem to stand up. I don’t think it’s too far fetched at this point to seriously entertain the question of whether Christianity is well on its way to being pentecostalized throughout the world, and certainly in the developing world. These numbers clearly jumped out.
When you have countries that are majority renewalist in places like Guatemala and Kenya, Brazil at about 50%, et cetera, it has a huge impact and if you look more specifically at the impact it’s had within Protestantism, obviously, it’s even more pronounced than that. So I do think that it’s not an overstatement to suggest that renewalist movements are reshaping, as I said earlier, the face of Christianity throughout the world.
The implications for politics in the U.S., John.
GREEN: Well, the renewalist movements have an effect on American religion that is somewhat analogous to what Luis just described for other countries around the world. Perhaps the impact has not be quite as large because the United States has a much wider range of religious groups, including a large secular population.
In terms of politics, one of the findings of our study that I alluded to earlier was that these groups are connected to the political process on a country-by-country basis, reflecting the particular political parties and issues that are relevant in each of the particular countries.
In recent times, renewalists in the United States have tended to be more conservative in their politics and their traditional moralism has led them to support Republican candidates. So for instance, classic pentecostals would have to be counted among the prime constituencies of George W. Bush.
Now, whether that particular relationship will continue into the future remains to be seen because, as our survey indicates, American renewalists have diverse views on a wide range of topics. So for instance, if American politics were to become as focused on social welfare issues as it was a generation ago, then it may very well be that many of the renewalist communities would be less Republican and more Democratic.
But for the moment, we see in the United States one way in which renewalists are connected to the politics, which is through traditional morality. In some of the other countries, there’s a much different pattern with and renewalists are connected to parties on the left rather than on the right.
LUGO: If may chime in, I think that part of the reason for the differing patterns is due to the fact that the emphasis in many of these countries is different. As John pointed out, the countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America are predominantly conservative in their social outlook. In Kenya and Nigeria opposition to homosexuality is basically at 100%. So you’re dealing with a fairly conservative context there and therefore the kinds of social issues that have defined the American culture wars and are deeply contested here are not playing the same kind of role in those more conservative countries. So consequently, Pentecostals and others will emphasize economic issues, civil rights issues, et cetera.
I compare the renewalist population to the African-American community in this country, which tends to be quite socially conservative but tends to vote democratic because their vote is driven by considerations such as civil rights and economic development, rather than by the culture war issues that motivate their evangelical counterparts. These two groups vote for different parties even though they share many of the same convictions on matters such as same sex marriage, for example.
THOMPSON: Thank you very much.
CONFERENCE COORDINATOR: We’ll take our next question from Chris Herlinger from Ecumenical News International. Go ahead please.
CHRIS HERLINGER: Gentlemen, very interesting survey. I appreciate hearing the news about this.
Two questions, if you could just clarify maybe a bit this question of the renewalist movement and Catholicism, I’m not quite clear … I haven’t looked through the entire report, so maybe there’s a little bit more information about that.
Second of all, it’s sort of astonishing to think in 40 years time a country like Guatemala has gone from conservative Catholicism to Catholicism influenced by liberation of theology, and now to this. Can you give me some idea why or just speculate why it is that there’s been this transformation in such a relatively short amount of time?
LUGO: Excellent question, Chris – several questions actually.
HERLINGER: I’m sorry.
LUGO: No, that’s fine. I should point out that we have included an appendix to this survey report, which was done by Brian Grimm who is the religious demographer at the Pew Forum, and that he has looked at census data and other kinds of data, as well as our surveys, and provides a rundown for each of the ten countries included in this study. And you will see, in Latin America without any question, fewer and fewer Roman Catholics…
LUGO: …fewer people identified with the Roman Catholic Church, the growth in evangelical and pentecostal movements and, in Latin America in particular, some turn towards secularism.
So there’s no question that that’s the pattern in many of these predominantly Catholic countries. But let’s get to the question of terminology here because it’s very important. In the executive summary on pages 1 and 5, we provide a box, which describes what we mean by these different terms.
And, as John mentioned, we’re using the term pentecostals to describe those Christians who belong to classical pentecostal denominations in churches, as well as newer pentecostal denominations in churches. And we’re using the term charismatic to define those Christians who accept many of the beliefs and practices of pentecostalism, but who remain within more mainstream denominations.
I think one of the very interesting findings of this report is that the pentecostal movement is not only having a huge impact through the growth of pentecostal churches, but also through the impact it is having on older, established churches such as the Roman Catholic Church, where significant percentages now describe themselves as charismatic.
I think that’s a very, very significant development and does suggest the question, which we did not probe in this survey, of whether that may lead over the long term to a more ecumenical relationship, as it were, between Protestants and Catholics in Latin America, spearheaded by renewalists in their midst.
GREEN: Let me just look a little bit to the American context, as the renewalist movements have had a great impact on Roman Catholics in this country. We find in this survey that one-in-three Roman Catholics identify in one form or another with the renewalist movement.
Now exactly what this means for Catholic belief and practice remains to be investigated; what we do know is that most of the people who identify as charismatic Catholics still regard themselves as Roman Catholics. What we see is a certain merging of theological perspective and practice. So in that sense, it allows the Roman Catholic Church in the United States to have a broader reach at the grassroots than it has in the past.
LUGO: I should mention just by way of historical background that when the charismatic renewal began to emerge in fairly significant numbers in the 1960s, the Catholic Church actually welcomed it with some caution. And there is now a Vatican approved network of worldwide Catholic charismatic renewal, which is quite significant within the church.
I read recently within the last month or two that pentecostal leaders and the Roman Catholic Church have agreed to open a significant theological dialogue on what they each mean by baptism and gifts of the spirit. So just like the Catholic Church has had ecumenical relations with Lutherans and discussed the doctrine of justification by faith, Rome is also engaging the pentecostal community on these issues concerning the gifts of the spirit.
CONFERENCE COORINATOR: We’ll take our next question from Rachel Martin from National Public Radio. Go ahead please.
RACHEL MARTIN: Hi, everyone. I’m actually just going to rip a little bit off from the previous question, but just to crystallize this, is there an actual evangelical portion of this? Is it prophesying that’s increasing the numbers? What is actually making it grow?
GREEN: There is a good bit of proselytizing going on in pentecostal and charismatic circles. Renewalists have always been flexible about institutions and their ideas and practices travel easily across denominational boundaries.
Part of this pattern is classic evangelism, part is less evangelism than the spread of these types of spiritual practices to nondenominational ministries, through television and radio programs and in the vast popular literature on spirituality.
In the United States at least, and I think this is probably true in many of the countries that we surveyed as well, there is an increasing amount of contact between Christians of various traditions. Renewalist practices and doctrines have been spread in many cases by person-to-person contact. In addition, groups that hardly recognized each other a generation ago, let alone cooperated with each other, now have regular contact in the United States and in many of these other countries. So there are many different paths by which these practices and beliefs spread.
LUGO: Rachel, there is a chart in this report on the incidence at which renewalists share their faith on a weekly basis, and it is staggering. When you look at the percentages, 60% to 70% of these folks were sharing their faith at least weekly, it is quite remarkable.
One can almost say that renewalists could teach evangelicals something about evangelism because these folks are as engaged as they come. I was tempted to use this caption for that chart: “No wonder they’re growing.” These folks not only talk the talk, they walk the walk if these results are to be believed.
Let me just add something else in addendum to that; if you look at chart that concerning conversion, there are more recent converts among pentecostal churches and among other churches. So clearly, they are growing and retaining their own people, but are also attracting an awful lot of new converts from Catholicism, secularism or other traditions.
GREEN: Not to prolong this particular discussion too much, but one can imagine two levels of conversion. There are people who change their religious perspective, say from Roman Catholicism to a pentecostal church, but then there are people who remain Roman Catholic and change their practices and their orientation. Both of those things seem to be going on.
CONFERENCE COORDINATOR: We’ll take our next question from Jody Sanchez from PS Productions. Go ahead please.
JODY SANCHEZ: Hi. Forgive me if you addressed this before I joined the call, but I’m wondering if you have any data on converts from Islam, and if so, are there any observations to be drawn there?
And secondly, often in Latin America and Africa pentecostal churches are accused of preaching an American gospel called “money church.” I’m wondering if there’s anything in the findings about these pentecostals’ views of economics and how different American pentecostals are and if there’s anything that could shed light on that perception versus what pentecostals truly believe about money.
LUGO: John, why don’t you begin with “health and wealth?”
GREEN: There is evidence of the “health and wealth” phenomenon is in our survey and we found it to be very common. Renewalists all around the world really do believe that God has promised them health and prosperity as a product of their beliefs and religious practice, so it’s a very common belief.
It may very well be an American idea, and of course, pentecostalism’s origins were in America idea as well. But people all around the world have adapted it to their own particular circumstances and it is now a very common belief among renewalists.
But we have to put this in context, these are groups to whom the experience of God is a very real thing that reaches into all aspects of their life and not just in their religious life. These are individuals that don’t compartmentalize the world the way that that many would in the West.
They also see, for instance, God playing a similar role in politics. So the health and wealth idea needs to be seen in the context of renewalists’ perception of God’s actions in all aspects of life.
LUGO: In terms of conversion from Islam, there is not much evidence here. In the places like Nigeria, the country we surveyed with largest portion of Muslims – obviously, India also has huge numbers – there is very little evidence, some, but not much. Most of the conversions there are still coming either from other Christian traditions or from animist or traditional African religions. Although, as I often say, given the way both Islam and Christianity have successfully spread throughout Africa we will soon run out of animists in Africa, and that’s one of the interesting questions in a place like Nigeria, where else is growth going to come from either for Islam or Christianity if it’s not at each other’s expense? So this is an issue, which given our interest in religion and world affairs, we’re paying very, very close attention to.
The numbers on Nigeria more broadly, are quite interesting and show fundamental splits on some questions between Christians and Muslims. It is a vitally important and strategic country for the United States and for the global community. And aside from moral issues, where Muslims and Christians are on the same page, on questions such as the war on terrorism or the use of force by the United States there are huge 50-60 point gaps between Nigerian Christians and Nigerian Muslims. It’s also true that for some of these questions about whether individuals want their countries to be explicitly Christian, you get higher numbers in places like Nigeria than elsewhere.
So clearly, the relationship between Christianity and Islam, globally speaking, is something that we have to pay very careful attention to; these are the two largest, most dynamic religious traditions in the world and in places like Africa they are coming in very close contact with each other on a daily basis. So I think this has huge implications for world affairs in the 21st century.
CONFERENCE COORDINATOR: We’ll take our next question from Jane Lampman from The Christian Science Monitor. Go ahead please.
JANE LAMPMAN: Hello. I noticed that in the study you dealt with views on separation of church and state, religious freedom and so on. And following on just what you were discussing, I was surprised than in Nigeria, Christians said they wanted their country to take steps toward being a Christian country which doesn’t seem too practical.
I wonder about all this elbowing of religions that’s going on now as we become more globalized, how you see the perspectives of pentecostals and charismatics and whether they will be a stabilizing force or whether you foresee heightened difficulties given their intense beliefs.
GREEN: It will vary country by country and region to region. In many of the countries we’ve looked at, such as in Latin America, the renewalists were much less interested in having their government take steps to turn their nation into a “Christian nation” and there is much stronger overall support for the idea of the separation of church and state.
But in other places, such as in Africa, renewalists are much more evenly divided on the idea of Christianizing the nation through political means.
LUGO: Also, U.S. pentecostals if I may add.
GREEN: In the United States, pentecostals fit more into the African pattern. There is a great deal of potential of tension between American renewalists, liberal Christians, and secular people, much as there is potential tension between African renewalists and Islam.
One suspects that this kind of division may be the key factor in the future in many parts of the world. But I think it will depend a great deal on the local context – how strong the perceived opponents of the renewalists are and also what mechanisms those countries have to diffuse such tensions.
LUGO: I would refer you, Jane, to question 33 in the toplines which will give you a lot more detail on this. We asked people to rate certain problems in their country and one of the questions we asked was about the conflict between religious groups and how big an issue that is.
And as John said, in many of these places, pentecostals are no more inclined towards religious conflict than anyone else. There are a few countries that stand out where the population as a whole, including pentecostals, says that religious conflict is a very big problem.
And we mentioned Nigeria, which came out, along with India, as being the highest with more than eight-of-ten respondents, including pentecostals saying that it is a big problem. India, of course, is the other interface of Christianity with a major world religion, actually two: Islam and Hinduism. When you take those three world religions and you add them together, you’re talking about a huge percentage of the world population.
Kenya also came out fairly high. Kenya, if you look at our demographic profile, also has a good number of Muslims, so the Muslim question is big there.
We also see it, however, in some Christian contexts. In Brazil and Guatemala the majority of the population says that the religious conflict is a very big problem and what they’re reflecting tensions with the more established Roman Catholic Church.
So, I think there are some hints here that there is at least the widespread perception that conflict between religious groups is a very big problem and, given what you said about globalization and growing immigration and so forth, I think that the 21st century will be characterized by an ever increasing interface of religious traditions across the globe and we know from experience that that does not always have happy consequences.
LAMPMAN: Okay. Thank you.
CONFERENCE COORDINATOR: We’ll take our next question from John Dart from the Christian Century. Go ahead please.
JOHN DART: Yes. Hi. Good morning. I wondered if you could be a little more specific on what the biggest surprises from your research were. I’m also interested in the numbers of total population of pentecostal and charismatic Christians if you were able to extrapolate from the ten country examples that you had. Also, if there were things that seem to have contradicted what had been well-accepted research about renewalists.
LUGO: Well, if not research, at least widespread perceptions about renewalists. Let me say a couple of things and I’ll let John jump in.
I think you mentioned one already that we underscore that in the release and in our comments, and that’s the extent to which this movement, which originated not far from where I’m sitting 100 years ago, the has impacted Christianity throughout the world.
We expected that there would be a good number of pentecostals who were members of classical Pentecostal churches such as the Assemblies of God. We also expected to find a considerable number of what are called neo-pentecostals or neo-charismatics who are part of new and very vibrant churches such as the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in Brazil, which is not only spreading extensively to Brazil but is also sending missionaries throughout the world. That is also a very interesting aspect that we need to look at further: the extent to which Southern Christianity is evangelizing across the South but also to the North in a reverse missionary movement.
But certainly I would say that perhaps our biggest surprise was the extent to which pentecostal beliefs and practices have found a hospitable place within non-pentecostal churches.
I was personally surprised by the extent to which charismatics were present in Roman Catholicism or Protestantism, the extent to which it has penetrated those particular traditions is really remarkable. That was surprise number 1.
Surprise number 2, I think, is on the politics. John and I are political scientists and the Forum mostly focuses on religion and politics, that’s why we did the survey in the first instance. And I think we were all taken aback given the widespread perceptions of how these folks were apolitical and non-engaged, by the extent to which renewalists adopt a fairly political point of view. They want people to express their views on public life. They want political leaders who have strong religious convictions. It’s not unlike what we’ve grown used to in this country from evangelicals and what our surveys have shown over and over again.
And I think there are few other surprises which we can get at. Maybe you want to mention a couple that were surprising to you, John, or were those the main ones?
GREEN: Well, those are the major ones. Let me just emphasize that the title of our study is “Spirit and Power” and that captures, I think, some of the things that surprised us. As Pentecostals themselves might say, they are one in the spirit. Although hardly monolithic, they have very distinctive beliefs and practices that set them apart from other Christians and other people in countries all around the world.
But when it comes to power, the things are much more contingent. This is a group that is much more interested in politics and public affairs than we anticipated, but that interest manifests itself in different ways around the world. Renewalists are connected to politics in ways that are peculiar to particular political systems in the countries where they reside. In sum, we have a religious group that is quite distinctive in religious terms, but not uniform in the application of their religion to public affairs.
LUGO: I would say, continuing along those lines, that these are folks for whom the world of spirit is remarkably alive, day in and day out. You see in their views on demons and spirits, on exorcism, on communion with God, that these folks are very supernaturally oriented. And I think what’s surprising here is that that does not lead to unworldliness in their mentality, and the fact that they’re very “this world oriented,” even on things like the health and wealth gospel. They have a strong belief in that, but it in no way diminishes from what they tell us about their commitment to social justice for the poor for instance, or a role for government in meeting some of those needs and the need for Christians to be involved in that, so that they keep throwing curves at us in this unpredictable way.
I think we also mentioned speaking in tongues, which I think is very important theologically. For most people is the way they have defined pentecostalism. But, if that’s the case, half of pentecostals around the world are not pentecostals because they say they never speak in tongues.
So clearly there are other things, including social orientation, a focus on the supernatural and healing, rather than speaking in tongues, that more and more are defining the face of pentecostalism around the world.
CONFERENCE COORDINATOR: We’ll take our next question from Laurie Goodstein from The New York Times. Go ahead please.
LAURIE GOODSTEIN: Hi. Thank you. It’s a very interesting survey. I’d like to hear from you any skepticism that you might have about the legitimacy of your categories, for one thing this very disparate group that you acknowledged together: the charismatics. I’m wondering if people who are Catholic charismatics, if their primary identity and their political affiliation really is more pentecostal, are they classified with the charismatics or with the Roman Catholic Church?
LUGO: That’s a question of identity. And multiple identities are a very important issue here. John, why don’t you address that.
GREEN: I wouldn’t use the word “skepticism,” but I would use the word “caution.” There’s much to be learned by looking at the nuances in this category. And the charismatic category is the place that needs to be the most fully investigated because it does include a wide variety of people.
Some of our preliminary evidence does suggest that on some matters, Catholic charismatics do indeed differ from Protestant charismatics. And some of the Protestant and Catholic distinction that we’re used to thinking about still pertains.
But particularly among charismatics, we see this problem of multiple identities. Most Catholic charismatics apparently still think of themselves as Catholics as well as charismatics. And sometimes have very positive views of pentecostals and the Protestants.
How those multiple identities apply to particular issues and religious beliefs needs to be explored further. So I would say that the spirit of your question is exactly right.. The charismatic category needs to be looked with a great deal of caution. As a matter of fact, in many of our tables you’ll notice that the pentecostals as we have defined them are really the most distinctive group and the charismatics, while following a similar pattern, usually show more diversity. And this may be because of these multiple identities.
CONFERENCE COORDINATOR: We’ll take our next question from Adelle Banks from the Religion News Service. Go ahead please.
BANKS: Hello again. Two quick things. One is whether “renewalist” is an umbrella term and where that comes from. Also, how do you see the U.S. standing out from the rest of the countries surveyed?
LUGO: I’ll answer the first part. And John will answer the second on the U.S.
The term renewalist is widely used, the World Christian Encyclopedia, for example, will often use that term as an umbrella term to include folks who have been influenced by pentecostal practices and beliefs whether they are in the pentecostal churches, the Roman Catholic Church or Protestant churches.
So the term has been used, but again, we say very upfront that it’s an umbrella term. And sometimes, as John pointed out, charismatics and pentecostals will look very similar. Sometimes they depart from each other. So one does have to be careful with this and it is used for simple elegance of expression, rather than saying “pentecostals and charismatics” every time. We adopt the umbrella term of renewalist particularly when there’s not much difference between the two groups; where there are differences we point that out in the report.
What about the U.S., John?
GREEN: Well, one way in which the United States differs from the other countries we surveyed is that the renewalist population is smaller than in many of the other countries.
We found that only 5% of adult Americans fell into the pentecostal category. But almost one-in-five, 18%, fell to the charismatic category. If you look around the world there’s considerable variation. But in some countries, particularly in some of the countries in Africa, the pentecostals are the much larger group.
So there are some differences in the relative mix of renewalists around the world; the United States is on one end of that variation. Also the context varies enormously. American renewalists operate in a very different kind of country than do their counterparts in Africa, Asia and Latin America.. I think that helps explain a lot of the differences. The United States is a country which has a very large secular population. Some of the other countries have secular populations as well, but generally not to the same extent.
LUGO: The only exception to what John had said about seculars is South Korea, in which 50% of the people identified as having no religion, which is secular by any standard, U.S. or European.
BANKS: Okay. Thank you.
LUGO: Let me wrap up by addressing a question that was asked before that we did not give sufficient attention to. What are the sources of success for this moment? Why is it growing so quickly? Earlier, we suggested evangelism.
From looking at the sociological literature on this, I have basically identified two or three key elements to the growth. And I think all three of them find confirmation in our result. I should mention that Professor Dan Miller of the University of Southern California is here in the room actually. And he has done some very, very good sociological work in this area. There are a lot of ways of getting at this phenomenon and the sociologists are doing some very good work here.
One thing that you see everyone pointing out is how this is a religion that generates a very intimate and joyous sense of communion with the divine. And there’s no question when you look at several of our questions concerning worship styles and personal practices of devotion, that pentecostals are dependent on that for their adherents.
There is also the issue of adaptability to local cultures. You see sociologists speak about that a lot, especially in places like Africa. There is adaptability in Pentecostalism such that when an African converts from animism to Pentecostalism, they don’t leave behind the world of spirit. They don’t become little René Descartes running around. The spirit and the body are intimately connected in many of these traditions and pentecostalism is very, very successful in making that link.
Third is the lively sense of community. Many of these folks who become pentecostals are internal migrants within their own countries, in places like Guatemala for example. Pentecostalism is second to none in providing people with a sense of community when individuals find themselves disoriented because of internal changes in their country. Look at the questions here on small group participation, such as Bible studies, prayer groups, et cetera. These all have very high percentages of pentecostal participation compared to other Christians.
Clearly, pentecostals they are building instant community in this large, growing, urbanizing community throughout the developing world. I think all three of those elements find ample confirmation in our survey.
Well, that concludes our news conference. Thank you for joining us today. Please note again that the survey is available on our Web site pewforum.org. If you have further questions or need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact Burke Olsen in our office at the Pew Forum at 202-419-4564 or Fenton Communications at 415-867-1166.