The Rise of Pentecostalism in Modern El Salvador
From the Blood of the Martyrs to the Baptism of the Spirit
Studies in World Christianity
272 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 10 b&w photos, 1 map
- Published: August 2017
El Salvador has experienced a dramatic religious transformation over the past half-century. In what was once an almost exclusively Catholic nation, more than 35 percent of the people are now evangelical Protestants, mostly identified as charismatic or Pentecostal.
While having some roots in Protestant missions from North America and Europe, the religious renaissance overtaking El Salvador is both homegrown and closely related to the nation’s social, cultural, and economic upheavals. Since the end of the Salvadoran Civil War, the traditional social order—which was established in colonial times, ruled by elites, enforced by the military, and supported by the Church—has been overturned. Once a world of haciendas, plantations, and old merchant firms, El Salvador is now home to new factories, shopping malls, fast food restaurants, and call centers. Modernization has brought new ideas too—about asserting individual rights and making choices, forming communities, voting in elections, consuming material goods, employing technology, and engaging with global culture.
The Rise of Pentecostalism in Modern El Salvador explores how this vast social transformation has opened the gates to runaway religious creativity and competition. In weaving together the lively and complex story, author Timothy Wadkins employs the scholarly tools of historical reconstruction, theological analysis, and ethnographic interviews, as well as the results of a pioneering national religious survey. The outcome is a comprehensive and detailed picture of El Salvador’s religious renaissance against the backdrop of El Salvador’s fitful path toward modernization and democratization.
Introduction: The Eruption of the Spirit in the Land of the Savior
Chapter 1. La Nueva Familia de Fey
Chapter 2. The Preferential Option for the Spirit
Chapter 3. The New World Order
Chapter 4. Spirit-Filled Ascendency in the New World Order
Chapter 5. Surviving the World
Chapter 6. Consuming the World
Chapter 7. Engaging the World
Chapter 8. Managing the Spirit
Conclusion: Spirit-Filled Christianity and Modernization in El Salvador
This thoughtful, engaging, and surprising book opens up the world of Salvadoran Pentecostalism. Carefully researched and clearly written, it highlights the strengths, weaknesses, and tensions that have developed in important Pentecostal movements in the encounter with modernity. Particularly stimulating is the analysis of megachurch pastor Mario Vega’s esteem for Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero and of Vega’s growing commitment to social justice.~Todd Hartch, Professor of History, Eastern Kentucky University
Wadkins’s detailed research and in-depth analysis is presented in an engaging format and is both refreshing and insightful. From a sociological and theological point of view, he describes the historical path of Pentecostalism in modern El Salvador with great skill, providing the reader with historical background, a literature review, transcribed interviews, and careful analysis along the way…This book is recommended to scholars and lay readers alike who are interested in Pentecostalism and historical and ethnographic research.~Shaun Joynt, Reading Religion
Profound religious changes have been remaking Latin America for years. If you want to understand those changes—and even more if you think you already understand them— The Rise of Pentecostalism in Modern El Salvador is a must-read. Wadkins reveals a new socially engaged, even liberationist, branch of Pentecostalism that may reshape evangelical Christianity in our lifetimes. He draws on deep research, strong interpretive work, and interviews with Salvadoran pastors and evangelical leaders to offer new insight that will contradict much of what outside observers thought we knew of religion in Latin America. Some will agree with him, others will be inspired, and others will argue vociferously with his findings. But you do not understand contemporary Latin America until you come to terms with Wadkins’ view of the deep religious and cultural changes happening in the face of modernity and neoliberalism in El Salvador.~Richard L. Wood, University of New Mexico, Author of A Shared Future: Faith-Based Organizing for Racial Equity and Ethical Democracy
Grounded in detailed historical and ethnographic research, this book makes an outstanding contribution to our understanding of the roots and current expressions of Pentecostalism in El Salvador. Timothy Wadkins also describes in lucid prose the growth of the Catholic charismatic movement, the reasons Liberation Theology failed to connect with the very population it was seeking to empower, and various expressions of socially engaged Protestantism.~Donald E. Miller, Leonard K. Firestone Professor of Religion, University of Southern California
This book is commended as outstanding not only for its deep insights into Salvadoran Christianity, but because of its sympathetic yet critical perspective on Pentecostalism globally.~Allan H. Anderson, Journal of Ecclesiastical History
Wadkins’ book The Rise of Pentecostalism in Modern El Salvador is a fine ethnographic study of Catholic and Protestant Pentecostalism in an understudied country: El Salvador... the information presented is very useful for historians, political scientists, sociologists, and anthropologists studying the rise and evolution of Pentecostalism in Latin America.~Henri Gooren, Exchange Journal of Contemporary Christianities in Context