Religion and Political Conflict in Latin America

Religion and Political Conflict in Latin America

Religion and Political Conflict in Latin America

Religion and Political Conflict in Latin America

Synopsis

The authors examine popular religion as a vital source of new values and experiences as well as a source of pressure for change in the church, political life, and the social order as a whole and deal with the issues of poverty and the role of the poor within the church and political structures. Exploring areas from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, and Chile, the authors analyze the transformation in popular religion and reevaluate the growth of grassroots organizations.

Excerpt

Daniel H. Levine

Scholarship often follows the flag. When massive national (especially security) interests are engaged or threatened, the rush of public and official interest makes for "quick fixes" and a search for instant knowledge on hitherto marginal issues, groups, and areas. But quick fixes and instant scholarship are at best unreliable, at worst prejudicial and misleading. Lagging behind the pace of events, and often far removed from the experiences and motivations of real people, instant analyses distort reality by ignoring the historical roots of current crises and subordinating long-term explanation and understanding to short-term ideological and strategic interests.

For North Americans, the study of religion and politics is a case in point. Events in our own society have converged with sharp conflict in the Third World to cast serious doubt on long-held assumptions about the link between secularization and modernization and the predominance of supposedly "rational" concerns in politics and policy making. Events as distinct as Jonestown and the rise of the Moral Majority, renewed debate over school prayer and in general the resurgence of religious issues in political discourse have together rekindled attention to the continuing links of religion and politics in the United States. In the Third World, developments in different regions and traditions converge, giving urgency to the search for guidance and knowledge. The renewed political salience of Islam has been underscored by growing realization of the emergent radicalism of the Latin American churches. Increased public attention to Latin American Catholicism has been fed by publicity surrounding the 1979 meeting of the region's bishops at Puebla, by the Pope's polemical visits to the region, and above all by the escalating crisis in Central America in which religious themes and actors have played a notable role.

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