- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2006

A majority of Pentecostals and charismatic Christians think religion should find a place in politics, according to a poll released yesterday.

In nine of the 10 countries surveyed, a majority of Pentecostals and charismatics, together called renewalists, said religious groups should not stay out of political matters, according to the poll by Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. In the United States, 79 percent of Pentecostals supported religious expression about social and political issues, compared with 61 percent of all Americans.

“Historically, at least in the United States, Pentecostals were always seen as being apolitical,” said John Green, Pew Forum’s senior fellow in religion and American politics. “Whether or not that was once true in the United States, it is no longer, and it is certainly not true in the countries that we surveyed around the world. That gives them the opportunity to influence the social and political life of their country.”

At least two-thirds of Pentecostals surveyed placed importance on their political leaders being strong Christians. In addition, 52 percent of American Pentecostals said the government should work toward making the United States a Christian country.

Mr. Green said renewalists’ morals have led them to support conservative Republicans, but they might become less Republican if social welfare issues once again come to the forefront of American politics.

In addition to the United States, the Pew Forum conducted surveys in Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, India, the Philippines and South Korea. In every country except India, at least 10 percent of the population belongs to the renewalist movement.

“I don’t think it is too far-fetched at this point to seriously entertain the question whether Christianity is not well on its way to being Pentecostalized throughout the world, certainly in the developing world,” said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum. The group estimates at least 25 percent of the world’s 2 billion Christians belong to the renewalist movement.

Mr. Lugo said renewalist groups’ success partially stems from their enthusiasm for evangelism. Majorities of Pentecostals in eight of the countries surveyed said they share their faith with non-Christians at least once a week.

Sherri Doty, statistician for the General Council of the Assemblies of God, said her Pentecostal denomination promotes evangelism as part of its three-fold mission. “[The denomination’s] primary reason for being is to be an agency of God for evangelizing the world,” she said.

In addition, Mr. Lugo said Pentecostals provide a strong emphasis on community that is “second to none.” He also cited renewalists’ sense of communion with God and their emphasis on both body and spirit as key to their success.

“This is a religion that generates a very intimate and joyous sense of communion with the divine,” he said. “When an African converts to Pentecostalism from animism, they don’t leave behind the world of the spirit. The spirit and the body are very connected in many of these traditions.”

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