Religion in a Changing World: Comparative Studies in Sociology

By Madeleine Cousineau | Go to book overview

There are other means, such as going to an authority who has power, making a change that could be beneficial. But going out to demonstrate and fight doesn't accomplish anything.

But sometimes it works. If the government is afraid of a demonstration they might say, "Okay we're not going to knock down those ranchos because the people are demonstrating." In that sense it might work. So I'm asking if, in your opinion, Christians couldn't demonstrate in such a way.

I don't think so, because those are the weapons of darkness, and I don't have any reason to share in violence, because then I fall away from my mandate in which one would think that I would want to share the kingdom of peace; and God is peace, joy, and love. Violence, destruction, and death is of the Enemy, the kingdom of darkness. Thus I cannot participate in violence.

As can be seen, even when I tried to present how the ends might justify the means, Carmen did not agree. As in the case of having a political position, within the pentecostal view, participation is permissible as long as it does not mean falling away from one's mandate and into the "kingdom of darkness."


CONCLUSION

In conclusion, we can see that pentecostals do care about social problems. They explain them as a result of people having turned their backs on God, and they try to resolve these problems by converting non-Christians. They are willing to participate in politics, as long as they can avoid corruption. However, the political participation pentecostals themselves imagine usually amounts to evangelizing "those in power," moralizing the political sphere, or politically facilitating the advancement of the Gospel. This makes sense given their view that the best way to change society is to bring individuals into proper relationship with God. Furthermore, they can defend their rights through legitimate channels, but shy away from raucous demonstrations that could become violent or "disorderly."

Thus Venezuelan pentecostals want to change the problematic social conditions that surround them but attempt to do so indirectly, by "beating back the Enemy" and facilitating the agency of God in "this world." The attempt to directly change the social structures of this world in accordance with spiritual and ethical values, another possibility within Christian social ethics (represented in Latin America by progressive Catholic movements), receives little consideration.


NOTES

A longer, slightly different version of this chapter will appear in Sociology of Religion (Vol. 59, No. 3), Copyright © 1998, Association for the Sociology of Religion, Inc.; used with permission. The research on which it was based was conducted while the author was on an International Pre-dissertation Fellowship from the Social Science Research Council with funds from the Ford Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies.

1.
To avoid confusion, I will use the term "social" and its derivatives rather than the expanded sense of the term "political." I will confine the term "political" and its derivatives to the more conventional sense of "relating to government."

-183-

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