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Social Ethics of Chilean Pentecostals


By Dr. Oscar Corvalan-Vasquez




This article attempts to examine the social behavior of Chilean Pentecostals, not only in terms of their judgment of the world in which they live and the global project of society to which they aspire, but also taking into account that they are part of social groups that also have paradigms of interpretation of reality and, in some cases, global society projects that are at odds with those presented by Pentecostals.

Previously I tried to[i] show how, to the extent that Pentecostals are part of the popular classes, their social behavior, while clearly different from that of these classes, will be influenced and sometimes subordinated by the social behaviors that prevail in the popular sectors.

In particular, it is important to highlight here those behaviors that relate to the way in which both individual and social behaviors resemble and/or differ from those typical of the social classes to which they belong, as a result of numerous contingents of these classes joining the Chilean Pentecostal movement.

In this context, Pentecostals prefer to be conceptualized more as a movement than as a formal Protestant church. Not as a sect or as an organized church similar to those inheritances of the Protestant Reformation or the movements that emerged after it. It should be noted that the Protestant churches that emerged in Germany, Scotland, Holland, England, or Switzerland were churches of the national or cantonal state. Until now, the organizational structure of Chilean Pentecostals is more like a social movement than a structured ecclesiastical organization, which requires its leaders’ years of prior theological study to access hierarchical positions, with pay scales, member records, with a formalized and respected confession of faith, and with an organization for administrative management that controls income and egress. Chilean Pentecostals have almost none of this and they also differ from Pentecostals linked to foreign churches, precisely because they would have the newly mentioned organizational characteristics for historical Protestant churches. The active participation of Chilean Pentecostal congregations in various inter-ecclesiastical bodies also does not make them worthy of the sociological category of sect, which do not relate to any of their congeners. But gradually sets of congregations begin to be structured under the Protestant or Evangelical model, mainly following the Methodist episcopal model.

On the other hand, the examination of social ethics relates to questions such as knowing that it changes in a person's relationship with others in their own community and society after the interpretive paradigm shift that conversion means; and, in particular, to know what the areas of the lives of these people who are affected by a new vision of the world and of people.

The SAR[ii] defines ethics as "that part of philosophy that deals with morality and man's obligations." However, this definition appears as very general. From the point of sociology, what is interesting to study are the social behaviors observable depending on the reasons that humans give about why such behavior.

From the point of view of Christianity, the salvation offered by divine forgiveness is linked to a personal act of conversion. Despite being a personal act, it is understood that conversion must necessarily be expressed in a renewal of personal and social relationships. Such renewal is not a mere consequence of conversion but an essential element that affects the whole of the human being, and not only his religious ideas or concept of God.

It is therefore hoped that new interests, motives, attitudes, expectations, and opinions will be born from conversion, which in one way or another transform the relationships that the converted one holds with those around him, his/her communication, and society as a whole. That is, the speed at which such a change occurs is expected to vary from person to person, but it is assumed to produce an   effective renewal of the patterns of interpretation of social reality and personal and social behaviors arising from conversion.

To the same extent that Pentecostals reject both the kind of dominant relationships in society, in which they occupy a belittled place, their project of transformation of it often differs from that offered by other social groups of their kind, in particular by the non-violent strategy they sponsor. It is therefore important to study the rationality that underlies each of the ethical positions of social groups within the social class and between it and the others.

Consequently, this report is an exploration of, on the one hand, how Chilean Pentecostalism stands with regard to the social and political behaviors historically presented by various groups of Christians and, on the other hand, with regard to the typical social behaviors presented by individuals that constitute the popular classes to which Pentecostals have undoubtedly belonged, since some studies have shown how these in recent decades have transited towards the lower middle classes.


Elements of Sociological Theory


For a better understanding of the social ethics of Pentecostals we will wonder about their relationship with cultural, state, politics and economics, as basic references of the social behavior of every person who inhabits society.

Throughout history as in various contemporary societies, different groups of Christians have presented and present different social ethics. The Sociology of Religion shows how different Christian movements in their historical evolution have different characteristics over time in terms of their relationship with the society in which they unfold.

Sociologist and theologian H. R. Niebuhr has formulated a typology of social ethics of Christianity based on a sociological definition of culture provided by Malinowski, who defined it as "that artificial and secondary environment that man overlays on the natural environment, and which includes language, customs, ideas, beliefs and social organizations, artisanal processes and inherited techniques and values". Therefore, to the extent that these cultural elements also vary in the popular – Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal – sectors with regard to the middle-class culture usually presented by social researchers, they should take great care not to judge the ethical-cultural elements of Pentecostalism only from their own culture.

Given the sympathetic nature of a people's culture, it is impossible for anyone to escape it. So whatever movement or subgroup to which certain people may belong, in one way or another they will be obliged to provide some answer to the elements that make up the culture of their class, group and dominant culture in society.

The typology of social ethics built by Niebuhr distinguishes five[iii] responses that would be typical of various groups of Christians over time, namely (a) the Christ against culture, which refers to the position of groups of Christians who offer a negative response to culture and demand from their members a stark choice between Christ and culture. But here it is worth commenting on whether and to what extent this culture refers to the culture imposed by the dominant groups of the society in[iv] question. This distinction is particularly useful to make in the case of Chilean Pentecostals and is in some way an explanation in itself for their social behavior. b) The Christ of Culture, which corresponds to the response given by groups of Christians who present a recognition of the fundamental concordance between faith and culture, a situation in which the Christ is regarded as a hero of human society. While this stance has not been very common in Christianity, it has historically been illustrated in modern times by the Deutsche Christen of the time of Nazi Germany. c) The Christ on culture, represents a third possible response, where the Christ becomes "the fulfillment of the cultural and restorative aspirations of the institutions of true society", whose most finished synthesis has been represented by Thomism. d) Christ and paradox culture represents a fourth possible response of Christian groups to the culture of their time, where the duality and authority of Christ are recognized, but opposition between them is also accepted, so that a synthesis of both realities could only be post-historical. This synthesis would be represented by Luther and Lutheranism. e) Finally, Niebuhr presents the kind of relationship that calls Christ a transformer of culture, where the previously appointed antithesis does not lead to a separation of the Christian from the world around him, nor in the simple acceptance of the expectation of transhistorical salvation, but Christ is understood as that which makes man his culture and Lutheranism society. This position is inscribed both in the Catholic tradition of St. Augustine and in the Protestant tradition of Calvin.

In the face of the various variants that present the categories of this typology of social ethics of Christianity in various situations in time and geographical space, Chilean Pentecostalism seems more assimilated in its current stage to the option described in option (a), where Christ appears against culture. However, it should be noted that while this religious movement was born with this position, it was due, on the one hand, to the rapid social changes operated in the country as a result of urbanization, partial industrialization, and mining processes and, on the other hand, due to its rapid quantitative growth during the twentieth century. In the present century (unsure of this – perhaps “century” this religious movement is in a mutation, either towards the vision of Christ and paradox culture (Lutheranism), or, in some cases, towards the transformative Christ of culture (Calvinism).

            In particular, the rapid social, economic and political changes experienced by the country since the 1960s have led to swings in the social and political ethics of Pentecostals that lead to the thought that their aversion to national and/or popular culture has not been total but partial. For a few decades of the twentieth century, they locked themselves in what was a necessary strategy for the consolidation of the movement, to be able to then break into society, with a new model of social organization, given by its increasing institutionalization and improved observed socio-economic status. These factors can also be seen in the evolution of the non-Pentecostal popular sectors.

Just as Pentecostals are imbued with the culture of the country's urban and rural popular sectors, from which they came, as heirs to the Protestant Reformation and the Methodist movement, they are also marked by the positions and attitudes historically assumed by these groups of Christians, whether in front of the state, or in the face of the dominant culture in their own social groups. It is therefore appropriate to review what attitudes Christians have historically assumed towards the state.

Classical sociologist Max Weber argued that Christians' positions in front of the state have varied from a[v] position of absolute repudiation of the Roman Empire’s public authority over early Christians, to a positive assessment of public authority, including that non-believer, as in today's so-called Lay States. Weber also built a typology on the Christianity-State relationship, which is summed up in the following four situations: (a) absolute repudiation  of ancient and medieval Christianity to the Roman Empire, which was seen as quasi-eternal during ancient times; (b) complete political indifference, and therefore passive tolerance of the violence of the state apparatus, including cooperation in all those obligations that do not affect the religious sense of salvation, such as the payment of taxes symbolized by the phrase "give Cesar what is Caesar's"; (c) estrangement from concrete political life, invocating that political participation carried with it the sin of worship of the emperor, but recognizing that despite how sinful authority (believer or atheist) was necessary and permitted by God to correct men, who, having failed God, should humbly accept the burden of authority.

In contrasting this typology with the contemporary situation of Pentecostalism, it can be seen that, in the means that the extent to which the first two situations described in the typology corresponded to a period of eschatological expectation of Christianity, typical of the first half of its century in Chile, it assumed that it was attitudes of total repudiation towards politics, is of full indifference. However, as will be seen below, these positions have not only been fueled by their situations of eschatological expectation, but also by the attitudes and expectations of the classes marginalized from the political by the ruling classes of the time.

On the one hand, the totalitarian (and anti-biblical) aspirations of the motto so often repeated among Pentecostals, "Chile for Christ", is imbued with a theocratic view of the world where the values of Pentecostalism would even permeate the political power that manages society, a situation that is incoherent the frequent political self-marginalization.  Indeed, if Chile were to enter or were Pentecostal, the institutions of culture (universities, high schools, schools, etc.), the State (Ministry, Municipalities, etc.) and the economy (factories, funds, banks, etc.) would have to implement a Pentecostal ethic that reflected the values of Christianity thus reinterpreted. But, to the extent that there are no alternative cultural, political, and economic models to offer to society, that motto has no possibility of being made and is rather an element of ideological type or evangelizing motivation.

On the other hand, various groups of Christians in the world have presented various types of relations with the economy (such as the Amish in Paraguay) that have not achieved a viability for the whole society in the long run. But a religion of salvation, such as Pentecostalism, generally adopts the aspect of a social revolution, since it aspires to a new communication based on new social principles or norms, such as that of charity and universal solidarity, principles that contradict the prevailing hegemonic competitive capitalism.

Tensions with the economic can sometimes take various forms, such as opposition to interest and usury, favoring of alms and a life reduced to strict basic needs, or anti-consumerism, or hostility to trade that does not please God, as is often the case with alcohol and tobacco among Chilean Pentecostals. However, the most conflicting thing in the Christianity-economy relationship is presented in the latent opposition between the a-cosmic principle of love and the rationalization of modern life, whose most tangible manifestation is constituted by the struggle that occurs in the market for rational calculation.

In this regard, Julien [vi]Freund argues that the notion of capitalism clashes with the contemplative and asocial tendencies of religions of salvation – such as Pentecostalism – because the pursuit of profit would divert the religious being from inner (contemplative) life. Max Weber argues, for his part, that "mystical religiosity follows an opposite path to that of the rationalization of the economy".[vii]

Probably here lies an important distinction between Pentecostalism as a revival and as a church. Throughout history, churches as organized social structures have found ways of agreement and coexistence with economic structures, currently – in some cases – to use for their purposes the interests of capital invested by the largest and most structured churches. But this situation would hardly apply to Chilean Pentecostalism.

On the one hand, it can be said that Protestant Puritan ethics succeeded in consistently mastering the contradictions between religious life and economic interest by renouncing the universality of love to make one's work a form of service to God. However, it was not Reformed Calvinism that gave rise to Pentecostalism in Chile, from which it inherited only a few moral features of Puritanism, which it still retains, but under no circumstances its economic ethics.[viii]

On the other hand, one has the case of mysticism, a situation in which man does not consider himself an instrument of God's will to change society, but a mere instrument of His Grace, the purpose of which would be to reach a state close to the divine. This attitude involves completely giving up the world and turning its back on the requests of everyday life, so that, by silencing all human interests, God may speak to the soul of the person. Thus, the goal of the mystic is to find God's rest, an experience that turns out to be more incommunicable the deeper it may be.

Finally, we find asceticism as a human attitude where religious ethical activity is accompanied by the awareness of being an instrument of divine will, since the ascetic considers that it is God who directs his activities. Asceticism can take radical forms that lead it to flee the world, break with family and society, renounce personal possessions and any political, artistic or even aesthetic interest;  or, you can adopt an attitude of commitment that leads the ascetic to exercise his religious activity in the world, such as puritanism that is considered an instrument of God's will to exert his influence in the world, trying to glorify God through  professional activity, family life, and by the rigor of his conduct at all planes of life, considering that his actions in the world are tasks or duties that God asks him to perform instead.

In the face of the newly described typology, it definitely seems to us that Chilean Pentecostalism rarely reaches mysticism, and that, may rather, its position ranges from that of the radical ascetic fleeing the world and that of the committed ascetic that combines the rigor of its behavior with a permanent witness to what he considers to be God's will in the different planes of life.

More specifically related to the social ethics of Chilean Pentecostals, below is a schematic analysis of the relationships developed by Pentecostals within the family, their friends and their co-workers, on the one hand, and, with regard to their participation in neighborhood, trade union and political organizations on the other. In this regard, the author wonders about the implications of Pentecostal positions regarding the participation he might have in the process of re-democratization of the country. Finally, this report concludes with a brief analysis of the characteristics of Pentecostal religiosity in relation to popular religiosity.


Pentecostal conversion and ethics


As noted above, the objective of this work is to examine what changes in the relationship between the Pentecostal and the other individuals and groups with whom it interacts directly or indirectly. Consequently, the behaviors of the Pentecostal with regard to their friendships, family, neighborhood and work will be examined first, and then social conduct with regard to their social and political participation will be observed.

According to a study by Juanita Polhnys, cited by Hans Tennekes,[ix]conversion to Pentecostalism can have different references and consequences for men and women.[x] When a man converts, he immediately conflicts with the patterns of behavior set by the sexist conception typical of the popular sectors. The fundamental change is that he stays much longer than before at home, as a result of the breakup with his friends, whom he previously encountered daily at the bar, the underground, or the football field. In this way it runs out of traditional friendships when it becomes, which is a radical change in a popular environment where prestige and possibilities for personal development are linked to the number of friends you have. However, the new Pentecostal believer is not isolated from friendships, for he has lost his old relationships, now as with the friendship of the brothers of his congregation.

As for relations with family members, it has been observed that in the new Pentecostal believer a radical change operates. The treatment of his wife and children becomes more considerate and affectionate, and the man assumes a set of household tasks and duties – related to the management of the house and the education of children – that he had never assumed before; but mainly, the convert actually takes seriously now his responsibility to provide for the livelihood of his family, a situation often lacking in the popular media and aggravated by alcoholism prevailing in that environment.

In the case of women, conversion often implies a change rather of qualitative character, in such a way that a more harmonious relationship is established between her and her husband. In this case the wife adopts, however, a subordinate role that the traditional model of values gives to women. But it is noted that the husband exercises his domination very differently from the usual popular media around him, so it is not strange that she sees her husband more positively than her neighborhood congeners.

Thus, with the conversion to Pentecostalism, traditional models of relationship prevailing in the popular sectors are altered, wherever man dominates fully, whether women are the head of households and accept one man after another only to the extent that she is supportive in maintaining the home. The Pentecostal man, for his part, usually renounces the prerogative of dominant that the traditional model confers on him of the man-woman relationship in the popular sectors, to enhance a set of values and virtues that make the stability of the family group. Man, however, does not question his domination and subordination of women, which, per cent, is once again a way of reinforcing the traditional conception of a couple and traditional morality that – often – rejects divorce and in some cases birth control.

This change in male-female relations and the behavior of Pentecostal women in popular sectors of a marginalized commune of Gran Santiago has been investigated by Sonia Montecinos,[xi] marking an important precedent for the study of the new social ethics of couples converted to this Christian doctrine.

As for the relationship of the Pentecostal man with his friends, the change that occurs in himself gives him a new legitimization of the values that condition his daily behavior, to the extent that he is more concerned about what God will think of his actions than what his friends or non-believer neighbors will say. However, the loss of social control previously exercised by friends over the new believer, now with renewed values, is exercised by the other believers of the congregation to which he is associated.


The Participation of Pentecostal in the Neighborhood and in Its Work


While it is difficult to establish degrees of participation in Neighbors and Trade Union Boards during the 1973-1989 Dictatorship, due to restrictions on citizen participation imposed in that period, it can be said that earlier and then after the Dictatorship has proved quantitatively lower than its class congeners but more significant in terms of holding responsibility for the positions entrusted to them within the local or trade union organization. Indeed, given the high degree of alcoholism prevailing in the so-called low town, the position of treasurer of the syndicate was often entrusted to a Pentecostal because it has been abstinent. Also on the Neighbors' Boards, given the leadership experience developed in some Pentecostal church, especially among women, who held senior positions, they have done so with greater dedication. This is because Pentecostals enjoy some degree of greater prestige in the neighborhood or in the workplace, because they are responsible and fulfilling their obligations.

On the other hand, Pentecostals often make a stark distinction between neighborhood, trade union and political organizations, anathematizing the latter. The participation that they find most obvious and less conflicting with their religious values is the neighbor, who is precisely the one that goes for the improvement of the environmental conditions of the neighborhood in which they live and in favor of the most disadvantaged. On the latter point, the near-permanent crisis in the country's popular sectors and its consequences, especially on children, has led many groups of Pentecostals to come together to create basic organizations to meet their most pressing needs such as food and education. This was particularly effective during the period of the Dictatorship. These tasks of service to others are clearly understood as typical of Pentecostals, but they will move away from neighboring organizations to the extent that they appear in their eyes as politicized or in the service of a particular political party.

             In the field of work, the participation of Pentecostals also has specific characteristics. First of all, it should be noted that the author has repeatedly observed in numerous Pentecostal congregations that the unemployment rate among these believers turns out to be lower than that prevailing among his neighbors and congeners. This is because the Pentecostal community often acts as an extended family in solving labor, family or other problems presented to the congregation member, collectively assuming the challenge presented by each problem. This is manifested, for example, that when one of the believers asks for prayerfully support in order to find work, the Pentecostal community not only prays, but takes action in the workplace or occupation of each one so that his or her brother can find work so that he can  cover his personal needs and family responsibilities.

As the faithful Pentecostal is less affected by the scourge of frequent umemployment among popular sectors, along with a Puritan ethic that leads him to carefully manage his family income – prioritizing his basic needs – he does not necessarily share criticism of the social system of groups of his kind who are hit hardest by social injustices. This leads him to be more reluctant to participate, for example, in cessation unions or casual workers; or join the company's union with a less politicized attitude. However, in periods of open social and labor participation, this author found in a study carried out in the Province of[xii]Concepción, which has traditionally had one of the highest percentages of Pentecostals in the country, that the participation of Pentecostal believers in business unions was similar to that of the other workers thereof.

While the opinion that Pentecostal co-workers generally have is positive because they are people responsible for their work and who can be trusted, the relationship is not entirely harmonious to the extent that Pentecostals are often subtracted from workers' social activities, mainly because of alcohol consumption.

The opinion of the inhabitants on the Pentecostals is also not unanimous, but it is generally mostly favorable, given the exemplary family and neighborhood life they lead. Unfavorable opinions relate to the intolerance of some, their lack of information about what is happening in the world, and their persistence in frequently participating in religious services and cults. Many are also shocked by the emotionality manifested by Pentecostals in their cults and the references they make in their preaching to the sins they committed before their conversion.

The isolation of Pentecostal from the environment in which it develops is almost inevitable consequence of its way of life, which for the common people is incomprehensible or even unacceptable. On the one hand, the people who live with them recognize that Pentecostals are honest, laborious, good husbands and fathers; but on the other hand, these same people can manifest attitudes of contempt because they do not often engage with them in their traditional forms of social sharing. The alternation of life offered by Pentecostal often turns out to be an integrist, since it encompasses all areas of the individual's life, looking at those who offer limited participation to the Pentecostal community. But the isolation that these believers impose on themselves shows a fundamental sociological notion, which consists in strengthening contacts with their own community to alleviate the effects of the rupture it has made with the traditional environment of Chile's popular sectors.


The Conditions of Political Participation


The difficulty of analyzing the conditions of Pentecostal participation in the political life of the country during the period of dictatorship has been obvious, since for seventeen years Pinochet's Dictatorship suppressed citizen political participation. Therefore, this section refers to both the period before and after the 1973-1989 Dictatorship. A second warning, referring to the fact that rather than analyzing the numerical or percentage participation of Pentecostals in such or such a political current or political event, the author is interested in exploring the compatibility of the Pentecostal worldview with the way of doing politics that has prevailed in the country, as well as comparing the participation of Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals from popular sectors.

First of all, it should be noted that the worldview of a Pentecostal sometimes leads him to visualize political activity as antagonistic to the religious activity that he practices, to the extent that, on the one hand, he has time to devote to religious worship, and on the other it constitutes a world plagued by conflicts that he tries to avoid by having effective instruments to treat them.

But it should also be noted that the separation between religion and politics is not unique to Pentecostals but is a characteristic feature of the popular sectors. According to Tennekes,[xiii] most people believe that religion and politics are incompatible and believe that churches should stay out of political-partisan activities. Moreover, in fact, Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals of popular sectors have a rather negative idea of what political activity means, whether they are in opposition or in the government of the country. This seems to be related to a deep sense of having been repeatedly used by politicians to strengthen their respective interests and positions in the structure of power. This without the support of the popular sectors has been accompanied by an effective improvement in the living conditions of the marginalized.

Secondly, in the case of Pentecostals there seems to be greater misinformation as to what happens in the society in which they live, since they use most of their free time in the activities of the congregation or church of which they are part. They often simplify social problems and associate them with a lack of responsibility, energy, perseverance and dedication on the part of those affected by them, without being able to visualize the structural causes that create reluctance, malnutrition, unemployment, alcoholism and other social diseases. In this way, the lack of information about the facts that make up social reality leads them, more often than their congeners, to move back from political participation.

Third, given the evangelical worldview that permeates Pentecostal thought, the prevailing ideas among them regarding how to produce profound socio-economic transformations are rather moderate. But in this attitude, they are also no different from their class congeners. Together with the other popular sectors, they show interest in social changes occurring within the law and opposing drastic, radical, force and violent measures. However, in the event of disorder or social chaos, Pentecostals are likely to have more to lose than their neighbors or co-workers, in the way that the puritanical and ascetic life they practice has often allowed them to acquire a house and some means that make life more bearable. The sacrifice with which they have acquired these means makes them adopt a more conservative position than he who has nothing to lose in the event of revolt and repression, but his own life. The Pentecostal finds the loss of life for political struggle for better living conditions unjustified, even if he might be willing to offer it for religious reasons.

Fourth, Pentecostalism, as a movement of protest against the system of values and unjust relations prevailing in society, breaks with the social hierarchy and with traditional values of inequality, to create communities where everyone is brothers and sisters who are supportive and responsible for each other. Relationships with sociality are visualized as conflicting, while within the community the same spiritual values and concerns are shared that lead them to a much more harmonious relationship than with non-believers.

Fifth, the socio-political passivity of Pentecostals also comes from their religious vision of the surrounding world, since they think that social injustices are the product of corruption at all levels of individuals who do not live according to the religious norm they profess. This is more understandable when one thinks that the environment in which Pentecostals live prevails in physical, mental and social diseases, alcoholism, intra-family violence, neighborhood crime, malnutrition, widespread poor family relations in the popular sectors. In this way, they visualize that outside the solidarity of the Pentecostal community, neither Chilean society nor the local community have alternative social relations that offer them better than those they already have in their religious community.

Sixth, Pentecostalism doubly rejects materialism. On the one hand, aversion to materialism is typical of movements of salvation such as Pentecostalism. On the other hand, as part of the popular sectors share with them an attitude of rejection of materialism. The living conditions of the poor are such that they would be unworkable if only by the popular religiosity that permeates all the acts of their lives. In the case of Pentecostal groups, they also face the growing demand of proselytizing political groups, which cannot be fulfilled without neglecting their religious commitments.

Finally, as a condition linked to the worldview of Pentecostal lies his belief in individual salvation. In emphasis placed by the missionaries who brought the gospel to Chile in individual salvation has led to a contempt for the collective and for the responsibilities of the religious man in front of his non-believer brother. In this regard, it is striking that people who have seen radical changes in the behavior of believing individuals cannot visualize fundamental changes in relations between men. That is, there is a lack in visualizing the social dimension of the power of the Gospel that is proclaimed.

At the end of the dictatorship, we must ask ourselves: in the face of these conditions of the social and political participation of Pentecostals, what can be expected of them in a process of post-dictatorship democratic openness? There are indications that lead to alternative hypotheses of political participation. Leaving aside the surprising convergence of conservative Pentecostal groups to join the Catholic Church in its claims to politicians in the face of the legislation of equal marriage and the right to abortion, which constitutes a very particular form of ecumenism, there have been repeated failed attempts to build a presidential candidacy of some evangelical leader. In fact, the vast majority of Pentecostals do not accept that churches should support a particular candidate.

Secondly, it is not possible to confuse the political participation of Pentecostals with religious acts linked to political authority on duty, such as the so-called evangelical Te Deum. This corresponds to the tendency of Lutheranism to respect civil authority and does not constitute a political alignment. Indeed, the (lack of) internal structure of the Pentecostal movement is a plot against the possibility of forcing a specific political alignment. There is no hierarchy that can impose a political order, since pastors do not depend on remuneration from a central structure but are due to the tithes of their community. Any member of a congregation may protest conduct that he considers unjust or inappropriate of the religious leader, can even withdraw without any social or economic sanction, since he can always find another congregation in a positive way willing to welcome him.

Before the dictatorship, Pentecostals in their relations with politicians at the time are not remembered today. The leaders at the time were left with the feeling that they were often used. At best they got support from politicians to gain the legal personality of the church, which was not legally superior to that of a local football club or a society of friends, so it could have been dissolved. But this changed with the post-dictatorship democratic governments that have legislated to improve the legal status of evangelical churches. However, to the extent that both local and faithful pastors feel daily various forms of contempt for representatives of ruling classes for their problems, needs and aspirations, it is doubtful that they can identify with their political positions, even if they do not manifest it openly.

Thirdly, it is difficult to see a coupling between the religious aspirations of Pentecostalism and those seeking a more radical social transformation of society, precisely because its religious worldview leads to a differentiation between political activity and religious worship. Moreover, it would not be possible for any political group to actually offer a social organization alternative that would operationalize in society the values that are lived in the Pentecostal community.

Fourth, if some Pentecostal groups were again tempted to negotiate a barter of support to certain political groups in exchange for some favors to build their temples, churches would be prevented from making a genuine commitment to the political affairs of Chilean society, since it is about working because it lives the values of the gospel that are observed in the Pentecostal community.

Fifth, if Pentecostals came together to participate in the political game as a single movement – which is highly unlikely – they would have to fight all the dominant political side boarding and its links to the economic apparatus, which keeps the role of the state and the private sector separate but intimately linked, a situation that requires a political project that Pentecostals do not have and that if they try, it is unlikely to succeed.

Sixth, one can present the hypothesis that Pentecostals, who argue that they "do not want the world to enter the church", but if they want the values of churches to enter the world to change it in the image of Pentecostal communities, they could be enthusiastic about the possibility of gaining experience in the political transformations of society, participating with some of their leaders in a democratic and popular party that had the vision of incorporating them as partners and not as a petty vote-picking strategy.




The case study conducted shows the change of vision and mission in the lives of people who adhere to a Pentecostal community. While fifty years or more ago these people belonged to the lowest social strata, today middle-class people are increasingly adhering. Undoubtedly the ethical practices of each other are relatively different. But the idea persists that Pentecostal begins a new life and that its ethical behaviors in the familiar, labor, economic, etc., must evolve positively.

In addition, in the future, authors such as Fidiakova see in the[xiv] greater schooling of young Pentecostals a possibility of openness to political participation, it is a long way to go, since the oldest and institutionalized Pentecostalism seems to be stagnating in its growth, which today would be more at the risk of free Pentecostals, local communities with low institutionalization, as well as certain middle-class groups that, because they have no popular basis, could hardly achieve lasting political objectives.

            Finally, it is necessary to point out some important differences between Pentecostalism and popular religions, which have direct implications for the daily life of believers and non-believers.  In popular religiosity the cosmos presents all kinds of gaps, that is, the ordination of reality within a picture of a coherent system is very partial, since the inexplicable is attributed to destiny, which appears as a blind and meaningless higher force to which man would be subject. On the contrary, in Pentecostalism reality does not appear as chaotic but everything has its place in a coherent picture where God's providence explains the inexplicable and confers intelligibility on what is meaningless.

Moreover, the kind of universal priesthood lies in which Pentecostals believe offers them free access to the creator, without mediations of saints, souls, or other objects of faith, who, by mediatizing the intercessions of the faithful, come to obscure their understanding of acts of faith, and ultimately keep the people in ignorance and superstition. It has often been used by the ruling classes to continue benefiting an unfair social system that exploits the popular sectors. Pentecostalism would have managed to be a new version of popular religion more autonomous and far from scholars. But also, as a popular movement he is more concerned with the experience than with the doctrines present or passed. (Lehmann, op.cit.).)

Therefore, if Pentecostalism has been able to free believers from superstition and dependence on material objects of faith, including the authority of the once undisputed of the representatives of the hegemonic Catholic Church, it could have the potential to free from an unjust social order, or at least offer the possibility of applying a new social ethic based on the power of the gospel they proclaim, changing the social relations of exploitation, corruption and upset them in more supportive, honest and just relationships, committed to the social welfare of the suffering human being.

Finally, Lehmann (2012:427) and other authors have highlighted the predominant role that Pentecostalism is coming to play in the composition of Christianity in the world and in Latin America in particular. This would imply an ethical articulation between eschatological hopes and the promises of gratification in the here and now, whether in health or better quality of life. Part of the success of Pentecostalism would be to dominate its self-financing. It remains, however, open the role that neo-Pentecostalism characterized by the so-called gospel of prosperity will play in Chile, since so far it is far from having influence that it has had in Brazil, where if it plays an important but[xv]sometimes undesirable political role.



[i] Circle of Reflection and Evangelical Studies, CREE, November 1986.

[ii] Royal Spanish Academy.

[iii] Christ and Culture, pp.40-43

[iv] In a way presented by the musical work "Jesu Cristo super estrella".

[v] Economía y Sociedad, pp.325fff.

[vi] Sociology by Max Weber. Pp. 262-3.

[vii] Max Weber, Op. Cit.

[viii] The first Pentecostal leader W. Hoover (Pentecostal Evangelical Church) emphasized the spiritual and not social doctrine of the Methodist Church, from which he came.

[ix] Pentecostal growth in Chilean society (1985) CIREN. Iquique.

[x] Montecinos, Sonia. (2002) "Walking in the Spirit: Perspectives of Gender of the Pentecostal Evangelical Movement".

[xi] Montecino, Sonia (2002) New femininities and masculinities. A gender look at the evangelical world of La Pintana", in Public Studies, 87. Pp.73-103.

[xii] Corvalán V., Oscar (1973). Evangelicals and Social Strike: sociological study of segments of Pentecostalism. Grade Memory. Institute of Sociology. University of Concepción.

[xiii] Op. Cit.

[xiv] Fediakova, Eugenia (2012) "Evangelical youth in Chile; a new model of the evangelicalism?”, in Mansilla, M.A.; Orellana, L. (2012). Religion in Bicentennial Chile. Ed. RELEP. Conception. Chile. pp. 103-128

Fediakova, Eugenia (2013) Evangelicals, politics and society in Chile: leaving "the refuge of the masses" 1990-2010. CEEP editions. Concepción, Chile.

Fidiakova, Eugenia (2008). "Religion, politics, citizenship: paradigm shift in evangelical churches in post-Cold War Chile", Bicentennial, Santiago, pp. 71-98.

Fediakova, Eugenia (2012) "Separatism or participation: Chilean evangelicals versus politics" Journal of Political Science / Vol. XXII / No. 2 / 2002 /

Lehmann, David (2012) “The Religious Field in Latin America: autonomy and fragmentation", in Auroi, Claude and Weekend Aline. Latin America 1810-2010. Dreams and Legacies. Imperial College Press. London. Cap.16.

[xv] Burdick. J. (2005). Why is the Black Evangelical Movement Growing in Brazil? Journal of Latin American Studies, 37,2, 311-332.