Conservative Christians in Latin America
The vast majority of Latin Americans would identify themselves as Christians by religion. But within that uniformity, there are in fact many strands of beliefs and practices, some of which are oppositional to each other. Here is what is an admittedly incomplete and superficial listing of important issues
Many of these issues are divisive in nature, in which one is necessarily forced to take a position. Taking a position necessarily puts one in one camp against the other camp. To refuse to take a position may be taken to be a tacit acceptance of the status quo, which is a position in itself.
Since there is such a vast array of issues involved, it is very difficult to characterize any individual person along these different dimensions. Nevertheless, there are certain commonly accepted terms that characterize a set of these attitudes. For example, to call oneself a 'conservative Christian' is to set oneself apart from non-Christians as well as the liberal, progressive or socialist Christians. This is similar to the use of terms such as Marxist, Peronista, Radical or Aprista to define your political leanings.
We will now refer to some survey data from the TGI Latina study. This is a survey of 46,244 persons between the ages of 12 to 64 years old in seven Latin American countries conducted between 1999 and 2000. When presented with the statement "I consider myself to be a conservative Christian," 19.5% of the survey respondents said that they completely agreed with the statement. The following table shows the demographic breakdown of these responses.
|Geodemographic Variable / Class||% Completely Agree with
"I consider myself to be a conservative Christian"
|Age / Sex
|Education (number of years completed)
12 years or more
7 to 11 years
6 years or fewer
(source: TGI Latina, 1999-2000)
Geography: The incidence is lowest in Mexico, where the influence of the Church had been significantly reduced and restricted constitutionally after the Revolution in the early 1900's. Surprisingly, in the three countries (Argentina, Brazil and Chile) in which brutal military dictatorships were actively supported by conservative church leaders in the 1980's, the incidences are just slightly higher than in Mexico. Conservative Christians have the highest incidences in the other three countries (Colombia, Peru and Venezuela) which have been under nominally democratic, but unstable, governments.
Age/Sex: Within men, conservative Christians are more likely to be found in the older people (age 45 and over). Within women, the youngest ones (12 to 19 years old) are conservative, but there is a big drop once they become independent adults (20 to 24 years old). The highest incidences of conservative Christians are found in women 45 years or older. These older skews for conservative Christians does not augur well for the future as there are fewer successors within sight.
Education: The incidence of conservative Christians is an inverse function of achieved educational level. In most Latin American countries, higher education is more pragmatic and secular in nature.
Socio-economic Level: The incidence of conservative Christians is an inverse function of socio-economic level. From one point of view, this is unsurprising since socio-economic level is highly correlated with education level. From another point of view, it is surprising to find that conservative Christianity is far from being the last bastion of the privileged elite.
(posted by Roland Soong on 11/26/00)
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