Will wonders never cease? In the midst of an unprecedented avalanche of negative media against traditional religious values and the groups espousing them, a strongly pro-traditional religious values story made the cover of the most recent Time (April 15, 2013). Titled “The Latino Reformation,” the story’s subtitle, “Inside the new Hispanic churches transforming religion in America,” describes how the tremendous upsurge in Latino “born-again” evangelicals is transforming not only Latino culture, but American Christianity. The reporter, Elizabeth Dias, profiles some leading Latino evangelical churches to chronicle the transformation being wrought in Latino and American Christianity.
Time points out that while Latinos made up 17 percent of the U.S. population in 2011 they will be 29 percent of the population by 2050.
Millions of Latinos came to America seeking a better material life for themselves and for their families. Once they arrived, many were “evangelized” and had their spiritual lives transformed by evangelicals, and have become Pentecostals, Baptists and other denominations of evangelicals by the hundreds of thousands. For example, there are 40,800 churches in the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, 3,200 Latino Southern Baptist churches and 2,500 Latino Assemblies of God.
These Latino converts say their faith is “very important in their lives” at much higher percentages (92 percent) than the general U.S. population (58 percent). They are also more socially conservative, with 70 percent of Latino evangelicals “opposed to abortion in all or most cases” as opposed to 41 percent of the general U.S. population. Time also points out that Latino evangelicals are opposed to same-sex marriage by a 66 percent to 25 percent margin.
As evangelicals of all ethnicities evangelize and as Latino evangelicals become a higher percentage of the increasing Latino population, traditional, evangelical Christianity in America will inevitably assume a new, more Latino profile. The Southern Baptist Convention alone expects to double the number of Hispanic Southern Baptist churches by 2030.
And the Latino transformation of American Christianity is part of an international trend in which Latino Evangelicals are transforming Latin America as well. Time’s article reports that evangelicals have more than tripled in Latin America between 1996 (four percent) and 2010 (13 percent).
This phenomenon is just one dramatic part of the transformation of the worldwide Christian faith. Christianity, especially evangelical Christianity, is on the march in Africa and Asia. Unless extraordinary revival breaks out in Europe and North America, the majority of Christian disciples worldwide will be Asian, African, or Hispanic, not Anglo or European, by 2050.
A reformation indeed.
Dr. Richard Land is president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.