US Hispanics undergoing a 'Latino Reformation'
Hispanics in the United States are becoming evangelicals at a rapid rate Time Magazine reports this week.
"Latino evangelicals are one of the fastest growing segments of America's churchgoing millions," said Elizabeth Dias, the author of the report.
Time calls the phenomenon "The Latino Reformation".
Dias's account is Time's cover story in its April 4 edition.
"They call themselves Evangelicos," Time's managing editor Richard Stengel told MSNBC."They are Latino Americans who have embraced an evangelical form of Protestantism."
"They have forsaken Catholicism for all kinds of reasons," he said. "They look at a kind of charismatic Protestantism as a way of becoming more American, of assimilating.
"Its changing the church, the country and it's fascinating," said Stengel.
The Time article also indicates that Hispanics are turning to evangelicalism because they believe it gives them a more personal relationship with God than Catholicism. There is no priest as a "middleman".
Currently 62 percent of the approximately 52 millionHispanics in the U.S. are Catholic according to a 2012 Pew poll.
Stengel predicted that by 2050 half will be evangelical.
"It is difficult to track the groundswell of these new Protestants," said Dias in a background story. "They often meet in storefronts or living rooms, and language barriers complicate the census process."
After Dias began noticing a number of Hispanic churches in her travels around the Washington, D.C. area she decided to investigate. She attended two of the largest congregations located in suburban Maryland.
"What I discovered signaled a Latino Reformation", she said."Both churches were doubling in size every few years.
Dias met with many of the people attending and listened to their stories.
"To the mainstream American culture, and even other white evangelical churches, they were invisible", she said. "But they were hiding in plain sight."
"The story of both churches repeats itself across America", added Dias.
The rise of Hispanic evangelicals appears to be influencing the current political debate over immigration.
The common view is that evangelicals oppose granting rights to illegal immigrants. However, ABC News reported this week that evangelical leaders in several states are producing an advertising campaign aimed at changing the minds of conservative Christians on immigration reform.
ABC noted that one of the reasons for the push for immigration reform among evangelical leaders could be the large increase in Hispanics attending their churches.
The senior pastor of a Houston church, David Fleming, told ABC that the current immigration system isn't working.
He also cited humanitarian reasons for the need for Christians to embrace reform.
"These people speak English, they work hard, they pay taxes," said Fleming. "They are great neighbor. They are friends of ours."
"We live together. We serve together. We serve together. We are all in this together."
Another significant influence of the Hispanic evangelical movement is its imact on future elections.
Stengel noted that Hispanic evangelicals are "extremely" social conservatives.
MSNBC commentator Joe Scarborough indicated that this fact could contradict the idea that moving undocumented Hispanics into the mainstream of society will be a boon to the Democratic Party.