Religion in Latin America: A Documentary History

Article excerpt

Religion in Latin America: A Documentary History. Edited by Lee M. Penyak and Walter J. Petry. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2006. Pp xxiv, 423. Paperback $40.

The authors have compiled a wide-ranging array of views of religion in Latin America. The result is one of the first anthologies to offer a long overdue perspective on the diversity of religions, not all of them Christian. This marks a major advance from focusing on the region as Catholic, with some Protestant groups present, or as a great Pentecostal challenge to Catholicism.

The main strength of the book is that it conveys a sense of religion as a lived experience. This is especially evident in the colonial and national periods, which are crucial for understanding the central place of religion. The selection of documents is much less satisfactory for the contemporary period (say, from 1950) and gives little sense of the current vitality of the Catholic Church or of the diversity of its Pentecostal challengers, which includes Bishop Edir Machedo's Universal Church of the Reign of God, now present also in the United States. …