Pentecostalization, Politics, and Religious Change in Guatemala

New Approaches to Old Questions


  • Timothy J. Steigenga Wilkes Honors College of Florida, Atlantic University



Pentecostalization, Guatemala, democracy, development, conventional wisdom, religious change


Reflecting on survey data on religion and politics collected in Guatemala in the 1990s, this article argues that broad claims about the links between Pentecostalism, politics, and development are over-stated. A focus on Pentecostalized religion offers more nuanced findings by highlighting the religious beliefs, practices, doctrines, and discourses that are the most salient factors impacting political, social, and economic outcomes. Pentecostalized religion in Guatemala has identifiable tendencies, but it is not the same everywhere and it can have fundamentally different and even contradictory trajectories even within the same context (i.e. patriarchy/gender equality, civil society/uncivil society, economic mobility/levelling mechanism). Furthermore, as a conversionist religion, Pentecostalism presents social scientists with a moving target, as we attempt to interpret the impact of ongoing religious changes. The impact of these religious changes is less likely to be measurable at the level of politics and society than it is in the day-to-day lives of converts. Pentecostalized religion is certainly political in the sense of mobilizing opinions and impacting discourse, but its impact is not easily characterized in sweeping terms as good (or bad) for democracy or development in the context of Latin America.

Author Biography

Timothy J. Steigenga, Wilkes Honors College of Florida, Atlantic University

Dr Timothy Steigenga is a professor of political science and chair of the social sciences and humanities at the Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University. He is the author/editor of six books, and numerous other publications on religion, politics and immigration.


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How to Cite

Steigenga, T. (2014). Pentecostalization, Politics, and Religious Change in Guatemala: New Approaches to Old Questions. PentecoStudies, 13(1), 9–34.