Sunday, January 29

From Catholic influence to evangelical shadow

Mexico is a country with a deep religious heritage in its culture. The Mesoamerican roots are deep, as well as its imbrication with Catholicism contributed by the Spanish missionaries. This cultural miscegenation largely explains the features of our identity. Anthropologists observe notable syncretisms between celebrations, festivals and popular commemorations in the traditions, knowledge and behaviors typical of what is Mexican. Without a doubt, the greatest of all is the cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the most important Marian dedication on the American continent. A dark-haired Virgin with indigenous features, a kind mother who consoles and accompanies the poorest and most marginalized in such an unequal country. It is no coincidence that his sanctuary, north of Mexico City, is visited by more than 20 million pilgrims each year. The Guadalupe cult is now expanding into the southern United States.

The Catholic Church is one of the most important institutions in the country. In the 19th century and part of the 20th, the Church faced the modernization of the liberal sectors of the country. Under the concept of just war, the Catholic Church was involved in two civil attacks that it lost: the War of the Reform in the 19th century and the so-called Cristero War, in 1926. The latter was the armed uprising of Catholics against the first governments emanating from the revolution of 1910. This explains why Mexico has one of the most restrictive laws on civil liberties towards the Churches. A sharp separation is established between them and the State. Religious actors cannot be involved in public policy and are prohibited from participating in electoral processes; Churches cannot own television media, nor can their ministers hold public office. Despite legal impediments, the Catholic Church has a de facto enormous impact on the public agenda and has close ties with power and its elites. The episcopate is one of the most conservative in Latin America. The bishops were literally scolded by Pope Francis, during his visit to Mexico in February 2015, who reproached them for being princes and not pastors.

The emergence of Pentecostal evangelicals, as in almost all of Latin America, has represented the politicization of the religious factor. Its incidence grows among the popular sectors. The Pentecostal foray into politics introduces a conservative and theocratic morality. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador seems to understand this cultural political slippage. He declares himself a Christian and a follower of the Jesus of the poor and helpless. Despite being Catholic, he has made an alliance with evangelicals. He repeatedly uses religious references in his political discourse. It seeks to rely on the Churches to recover lost values ​​in the popular social fabric that has succumbed to violence and the co-optation of organized crime. He feels like the savior of a shattered country. This position has been widely criticized for adopting supposed political-messianic attitudes.

Mexico is a country with more than 55% poor. Due to its border with the great North American market, it is a settlement territory for drug trafficking and organized crime groups. Cruelty and violence reach faith in the cult of Santa Muerte –a Catholic heresy–, various narco-satanic cults and ties that reach the Catholic Church itself, through narcolimosnas. The links between religion and violence are dark and impenetrable.

The latest population census indicates a persistent decline in Catholics: 77.7% of the population calls themselves Catholic; 11.2%, Protestant or Evangelical Christian; 2.5% claim to be a believer without religious affiliation; and 8.1% declare themselves without religion. The reconfiguration of the religious factor in contemporary Mexico is a fact en route.