New Worlds: A Religious History of Latin America

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This extraordinary book encompasses the time period from the first Christian evangelists' arrival in Latin America to the dictators of the late twentieth century. With unsurpassed knowledge of Latin American history, John Lynch sets out to explore the reception of Christianity by native peoples and how it influenced their social and religious lives as the centuries passed. As attentive to modern times as to the colonial period, Lynch also explores the extent to which Indian religion and ancestral ways survived within the new Christian culture.

The book follows the development of religious culture over time by focusing on peak periods of change: the response of religion to the Enlightenment, the emergence of the Church from the wars of independence, the Romanization of Latin American religion as the papacy overtook the Spanish crown in effective control of the Church, the growing challenge of liberalism and the secular state, and in the twentieth century, military dictators' assaults on human rights. Throughout the narrative, Lynch develops a number of special themes and topics. Among these are the Spanish struggle for justice for Indians, the Church's position on slavery, the concept of popular religion as distinct from official religion, and the development of liberation theology.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It is an ongoing concern of organized religion that the intellectual and cultural advancement of societies has made the laity more difficult to control, more resistant to direction from formal religious authorities. History shows that where religion has found a foothold among indigenous societies, it often comes at the price of violating the cultural and societal mores of those societies. Lynch's trenchant and mature study of the development of the Christian religion in Latin America is a wonderfully realized account of the political and social forces that affected the spiritual formation of these diverse and creative cultures. Catholicism naturally plays a large role in the story; its uneasy alliances with the sometimes coercive governments of Latin America constitute a large part of the tension and drama of this history. Although evangelicalism and Pentecostalism have arisen as competitors to the Catholic Church, radical leftist liberation theologies have posed an even greater challenge to Rome's authority. The quest for religious clarity in Latin America is far from over. This is a superb retelling of a story that needs to be studied. (June)
Christian Century

“John Lynch has furnished an important and intricate piece of the puzzle of the story of global Christianity . . . He practices history at its best . . . For many years to come New Worlds should stand as a key reference point.”—Kenneth P. Serbin, Christian Century

— Kenneth P. Serbin

Christian Century - Kenneth P. Serbin
“John Lynch has furnished an important and intricate piece of the puzzle of the story of global Christianity . . . He practices history at its best . . . For many years to come New Worlds should stand as a key reference point.”—Kenneth P. Serbin, Christian Century
America - Jeffrey Klaiber S.J.
“A masterly, in-depth study of religion in its many forms in Latin America”—Jeffrey Klaiber S.J., America 
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300166804
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 6/26/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 424
  • Sales rank: 1,445,400
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

John Lynch is Emeritus Professor of Latin American History and former director of the Institute of Latin American Studies, University of London. He is the author of more than a dozen books on Latin American topics. He lives in London.

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Table of Contents

Preface xii

List of Abbreviations xvi

Glossary xvii

1 Religion and Empire

The Spanish Church on the Eve of the Conquest 1

Amerindian Religions: Mayan, Aztec, and Inca 6

Mexico: A Mendicant Mission 11

Peru: A Conqueror's Religion 18

Culture and Religion 22

The Struggle for Justice 24

The Portuguese Version 28

2 Christianity in a New World

Justice and Peace for the Indians 32

Idolatry Campaigns 38

Inquisition 45

The Jesuit Way 48

Brazil: Between Europe and Africa 52

The Church and Slavery 56

3 Religion in the Age of Enlightenment

The Enlightenment in the Hispanic World 64

The Church Subservient 67

Expulsion of the Jesuits 72

Priests and People 81

Enlightenment and the Indian World 86

Indian Resistance 90

Missionary Expansion 94

The Church in the Eighteenth Century 98

4 Independence: A Sinful Revolution

The Crisis of the Colonial Church 106

The Ideological Roots of Independence 110

The Church Responds to Independence 114

Papal Hostility 121

The Religion of the Liberators 124

The Post-Colonial Church 126

5 Creating A Latin American Church

Continuity and Change 129

Priests and Prelates 132

Laity and Elites 141

The Romanization of the Latin American Church 147

Reform and Renewal 153

New Evangelists 154

Religion in Brazil through Monarchy and Slavery 157

6 The Religion of the People

Traditions of Belief 161

Popular Religion, Formal Religion 168

Search for the Millennium 174

Millenarian Signals: Argentina 176

Messiahs in Brazil 179

Millenarian Rebels in Mexico 182

7 Church and State in a Liberal World

Protestantism, Positivism, and Catholic Responses 185

The Church and the Secular State 190

Brazil 191

Argentina and the Southern Cone 194

Andean America 201

Central America 220

Mexico 222

Gains from Losses 227

8 New Century, New Challenges

Social Messages 229

Argentine Responses 231

Echoes from Andean America 238

Raising Consciences in Mexico 242

Martyr of the Mexican Revolution 248

Warriors for Christ 250

The Church in 1930: Inheritance and Legacy 252

9 The Church and the Dictators

Brazil: Hard-line Model 254

Populist Dictator: Peron and the Church 259

The Argentine Church and the Military Dictators 266

Complicity 269

Christian Democracy, a Chilean Option 273

Allende: Fateful Interlude 280

Pinochet 282

10 Religion and Revolution

Cuba: A Silent Church 287

Promise and Prejudice in Nicaragua 295

El Salvador: Sanctity in a Time of Killing 306

Guatemala: War in. the Land of Peace 315

11 Difference and Diversity

The Jews in Latin America 324

Afro-Latin American Religions 331

Protestants and Pentecostals 335

12 Between Liberation and Tradition

Liberation Theology 344

Base Communities 351

Council and Conference 354

The Voice of Rome 360

Notes 367

Bibliography 390

Index 399

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