The view of Latin America as a Christian continent could hardly have been disputed less than two decades ago. The countries south of the Rio Grande presented a fairly homogeneous picture—they were Roman Catholic. And in that context there was no place for an “official” recognition of Protestantism as having a genuine Christian “mission.”

The role of Roman Catholicism in the conquest and colonization of Latin America is well known. Contemporary historical research has shown that many of those who came to the New World in the sixteenth century were motivated by what they regarded as a great Christian ideal, namely, that of rebuilding in these lands the Holy Roman Empire. They looked with nostalgia back to the days when Rome had given cohesion to the life of the nations. And they longed to return to that epoch, not in the same old world but in the one that had recently been discovered. America was to be the milieu for the expansion of Christendom! Therefore the conqueror was accompanied by the priest and the sword by the cross.

That is how Christianity came to Latin America—placed at the service of a political system, identified with the Spanish empire, linked up with the conqueror’s cause. Is it any wonder that Christianity should have become synonymous with the culture that, having come from Spain four centuries ago, took root in these countries during the colonial period? It was only natural that as time went by almost no one would dare to suggest that the Roman Catholic Church did not have property rights over these countries. The dominion that the Constantine mentality had here from the sixteenth century until quite recently is a phenomenon that can easily be explained on the basis ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.