By way of introduction, let me just say that aside from writing about Latino/a Pentecostalism, I often write as an interloper stuck in the middle of an interesting theological/cultural conversation: traditionalists who just want to let the Bible be the Bible, moderates who kind of like the conversation but often fear the ramifications of where that conversation ends, and outliers, who’ve left their iglesias behind, as they tell me, because they were not or did not feel invited back once they started that conversation. What conversation am I talking about? I imagine, it is the same conversation my white, Asian evangelical and Black church brethren have been having for a generation or more–what is important about faith? What is culture? what is politics? and what have we made of it all? Since I was not raised Pentecostal, as I always tell my Pentecostal friends, I do not have that cultural/theological baggage–I don’t care about dress codes, about high-tension piety, about what kind of music I listen to-or movies I see–I never have, so studying and being a part of a worshipping community that places value on these cultural markers of piety is very different than how I grew up. I think what many Latino/a Pentecostals don’t see is that these religious identities that we adopt, that we choose, do not mean we have left other identities behind–I know that theologically, it is in the vested interests of religious elites to say that we have left one identity and put on another one, but have we really?
Latinos/as are overwhelmingly Catholic, there is nothing wrong with admitting that and there is nothing wrong with that–despite what many of my brethren hold, what they have been taught for more than a century, is that their Roman Catholic parents, siblings, tios and tias (uncles and aunts) are all spiritually suspect and need “saving.” I was born and raised Catholic, and you can ask just about anyone who made this sojourn to Pentecostalism, whether through a dramatic Damascus-like narrative, or, like me, through a painful year-long process of searching, it is, as my colleague Fr. Allen Figueroa Deck has written, “a familial rupture” that separates you from the weddings, funerals, quinceaneras, and family get togethers that have marked our lives for years. Where, if they are anything like the family gatherings I have had–the dancing, drinking, and partying is part of the package. As my colleague tells me, once the music played at the weddings, his Pentecostal mom took her kids and left–before all the craziness ensnared her impressionable young boys. Well I don’t know anything of that high-tension piety, I don’t know what its like to have one’s faith played out on that field–and perhaps one reason why I study this community, is because I am trying to understand how my community lives, how it worships, and if I ever will cross over from the feeling I have had for nearly 20 years, that I am an interloper.
When I started teaching a class on global Pentecostalism this fall, I think the word was out that I was Pentecostal, and one of my students was stunned that I did not show up the first day of class in a long skirt, long hair, and no make-up–to which I added, that “I’d also left my snakes at home.” (You’ll have to keep reading my blog to see that this was a really funny line). No, I told him, I’m not that kind of Pentecostal–I am not sure what kind I am? Traditionalists, I suspect, would not think much of my Pentecostal street cred, moderates también (as well), would think that I am pushing too far too fast, outliers–I think they are just waiting for me to leave Pentecostalism so we can all continue to revel in our Outlier-ness….Not sure, but I hope as you stick around, you’ll find out about the community I am a part of, our history, and as much about my own walk as you’d like to know–or perhaps I am willing to tell you….one never knows which way the epistemological flow of faith will go.
Hell, I may even tell you next time about how conversion may have ruined boxer Manny Pacquiao, and how his Filipino Catholic mom and my Mexican Catholic mom are impatiently waiting for us to come to our senses–and I definitely will tell you what my Dad told me when I told him I was leaving Catholicism to become Pentecostal–disclaimer–leave your high tension piety at home for that one….Adelante!