Religious practice, religious change: Evangelicals and Catholics in Santiago de Chile's civil society
Neckelmann Correa, Maureen
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Religious life in contemporary Chile is marked by both a sustained growth of Pentecostal churches and by an increase in those without religion affiliation. These developments suggest that Chile is an interesting case study for exploring religious change. This research aims to understand and interpret how religious change is experienced among religiously involved individuals, and how the formerly dominant Catholic and recently powerful Pentecostal churches are reacting to this changing environment. The thesis draws on social differentiation theory; viewing secularisation as the specification and specialisation of the religious sphere and not its disappearance in modern societies. The thesis undertook explorative qualitative comparative case study, including ethnographic interviews, participant observation and secondary data analysis as its main methods. The Catholic Chapel of Del Carmen and the Zelada Temple of the First Methodist Pentecostal Church of Chile, two churches located in Santiago´s city centre, were selected in order to understand how the two main denominations in the country were changing in an urban and modernising location. The thesis is organised into six chapters. The first presents and discusses the main versions of the secularisation theory and the public role of churches, in order to locate my cases in the sociological discussion of religion in modern societies. I further locate discussion in religiosity in Latin America, and in Chile in particular. In the second chapter I reflect on the methodological aspects of the research, namely the research problem and research objectives, and the rationale and choice of an ethnographic approach. I also review the main research methods: ethnographic interviews, participant observation and secondary data analysis. The third chapter provides a descriptive analysis of the particular field of this research, namely the municipality of Estación Central and the two churches where fieldwork took place, in Santiago, Chile. I describe this location as an appropriate place to observe religious change and its consequences, given its urban character and the social mobility of its inhabitants. Chapter 4 is the first of three ‘findings’ chapters. It focuses on the intergenerational transmission of religion, and examines how the new generation of Evangelicals - the most commonly used term to refer to the main branch of Latin American Protestants - are problematising and adapting certain religious practices within this new social context as a means of integrating in contemporary Chilean culture. In Chapter 5, I analyse how both the Pentecostal Methodist Church and the Catholic Church engage, in different ways, with leadership challenges emerging from a changing environment. I suggest that Weber’s idea of charisma is useful to understand the contrasting but also the similar processes that both churches are undergoing. Chapter 6 analyses the problem of how religious-based morality is exercised in the context of an increasingly secular society. I discuss how religious individuals conceive and practise the moral teachings of their churches, revealing contrasts between Catholics and Evangelicals. At the institutional level, I argue that the Catholic and Evangelical churches reflect different approaches to the public role of religion in a secularising society. The concluding section reflects on the findings as a whole and seeks to understand the ways in which they contribute to and are reflective of the emergence of a vibrant civil society.