A Prohibited History Of Pentecostal Social Engagement

A Prohibited History Of Pentecostal Social Engagement

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PNEUMA 40 (2018) 287–305

A Prohibited History of Pentecostal Social Engagement

La Misión Iglesia Pentecostal and Authoritarian Chile

Joseph Florez

University of Cambridge, Cambridge,UK [email protected]

Abstract

This article explores the dynamic intersection of community, conflict, and personal faith among a small group of Pentecostals during Chile’s military dictatorship (1973– 1990). It argues that Pentecostal religious experience did not occur only within the framework of prescribed religious traditions and dogma. It seeped deep into the shad- ows of a powerful military state bent on a radical reordering of the economy and soci- ety; one that was willing to reach unthinkable levels of violence to do so. It concludes that we must examine less emblematic manifestations of pentecostal religiosity to fully understand the forms religion and religious practice took as they were folded into the limitations and complications of quotidian life, recognizing, moreover, that devotional andpracticalimprovisationswerenotalwaysunderstoodasimpiousorimmorallapses. They were often necessary religious innovations used by believers to find meaning in the difficult circumstances of life under military rule.

Keywords

Pentecostalism – Chile – violence – ritual

I am the daughter of a desaparacido (disappeared). My father never returned. He was detained and he never came back … My mother always went to look for him where they said he was detained. The church pro- vided for us because she couldn’t work … It was a painful trajectory for me. Everything was fear, waiting until he came back. When she went to

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2018 | doi:10.1163/15700747-04003004

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look for him, my mom left me in dark places to hide from the military. Those were bitter days, black days.

Carolina,MIPmember

Carolina invited me to take a seat at a small table in front of the church hall and offered me a glass of water. As in most pentecostal churches, the dais and pulpit were decorated very simply with flowers and white tablecloths. Like our sur- roundings, Carolina was quiet and reserved. Even before I met her, I knew her story would be difficult to hear. The pastor of her congregation warned me that the six-hour bus ride might be fruitless because hers was still a “living wound,” echoing the language often used to speak about memories of the Chilean dic- tatorship. He was unsure how forthcoming she would be or if she would speak to me at all. But after several phone calls on my behalf, she agreed to meet. Born in 1960, Carolina has lived in the small town of Antuco, at the base of the Andes Mountains in southern Chile, since her birth. While Carolina was only an adolescent when the government of Salvador Allende was overthrown, she exuded the reserve and timidity that psychologists identify with victims of the regime’s human rights abuses.1 When our conversation drifted to her family, she leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes but did not stop talking. Car- olina’s father was a convert and active member of theMisión Iglesia Pentecostal (MIP—Pentecostal Mission Church). He was involved in the local labor union and had ties to the Communist Party. After the military coup, Carolina’s mother encouraged him to go into exile, but as Carolina recalled, he simply replied, “I am a Christian and I have nothing to hide.” This was the last time Carolina recalls seeing her father. On September 16, 1973 he voluntarily surrendered to the military and, like thousands of other Chileans, was never seen again. “In my innocence.” Carolina told me, “I wondered where God was in all this.”

Carolina’s reflections pose numerous questions not only about the nature of pentecostal engagement in authoritarian Chile, but also about the character of religion as it was employed to understand the reality in which Chileans lived. Her story exposes the dynamic and often conflicting intersections of commu- nity, conflict, and personal faith as they were experienced in the crucible of daily life. This article addresses these issues, focusing on how Pentecostals con- structed their religiouscosmologies and how this framework extendedoutward into the context of the Chilean dictatorship. As Carolina’s story demonstrates, religious experience did not occur only in the halls of church temples or within

1 David Becker, Elizabeth Lira, María Castillo, Elena Gómez, and Juana Kovalskys, “Therapy

with Victims of Political Repression in Chile: The Challenge of Social Reparation,” Journal of

Social Issues46, no. 3 (1990): 133.

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the hours of Bible study classes. It was sieved through the harrowing and trying context of state repression, economic uncertainty, and physical loss. As such, attending to pentecostal registers of action directs attention away from the pre- scribed acts of religious practice and into the complex currents of everyday experience. The various ways MIP members like Carolina negotiated spiritual and physical concerns within the constraints of dictatorial rule open up con- ceptualspace forus toreconsiderthe reifiedand normativecategoriesof pente- costal practice. In line with this, I argue that we must examine less emblematic manifestations of pentecostal religiosity. We must look to localized and unsta- ble configurations of engagement—to the forms religion and religious practice took as they unfolded in quotidian life, recognizing, moreover, that less tradi- tional or idiosyncratic religious practices were not always understood as nefar- ious or immoral lapses. On the contrary, they were often necessary religious innovations believers used to sustain their faith in such trying times.

But these religious configurations, for various political, social, and cultural reasons I will discuss later, could not always be practiced or spoken about in public. Hence, there is a prohibited history of religion beneath pentecostal religious transformation. “Prohibited,” as I use it, does not mean repressed, although that is part of it. Nor does it simply mean “hidden” or “ordinary,” as it has often been used to describe popular religion. Rather, the idea I wish to con- vey is an understanding of pentecostal practice that took place below the sur- face of the religious community under study here and, at first glance, appeared to belie traditional pentecostal religiosity. In reality, though, it worked to main- tain and nourish it. It will become clear that MIP Pentecostals’ responses to the dictatorship were not completely determined by the believers themselves. They wrestled with and came to terms with (or rejected) the violent culture of the dictatorship in ways that could not always be fully revealed in pub- lic for reasons of religious tradition, fear of military retaliation, or both. As a result, many of the actions or events to which Pentecostals ascribed religious meaning were not spoken about precisely because they did not fit the accepted narrative of pentecostal faith (as determined by the community) or due to real concerns of state repression. Yet, members that participated in these pro- hibited or clandestine activities or experienced moments of religious regress frame their accounts in a manner that reflects both a clear devotion to God and acts of resistance, acceptance, and conflict. Like Carolina’s account, religion accompanied believers (perhaps with even more force) into the “dark places” in which they sometimes found themselves. The principal aim of this article, which is based on nearly forty oral histories that I gathered from urban and rural members of the MIP, is to explore less obvious forms of religious experi- ence, examining how religious thought and practice found new meaning at the

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crossroads of traditionalism and innovation, the individual and the commu- nity,andprohibitedactsandpublicviolence.Ashasbeenatraditionalhallmark of the pentecostal faith, these configurations were not static acts of worship; they were outward expressions of the tensions members encountered between their faith and the dictatorship. Nor were they always consistent with conven- tional interpretations of the movement. But Pentecostals used them to shore up and reaffirm their values and beliefs, finding meaning in the dense and dif- ficult circumstances of life in authoritarian Chile.

1 The Church of Puertas Abiertas

The Misión Iglesia Pentecostal was formed after a schism with its mother church, the Evangelical Pentecostal Church (Iglesia Evangélica Pentecostal— IEP), in 1952. Early leaders pushed for a revision of the mother church’s princi- ples. The founders, guided by several disaffected leaders of theIEPand a group of young educated members, encouraged a policy of puertas abiertas (open doors) that would rid the church of its “denominational pride” and establish a communion with other churches that shared the same principles.2In his study of the MIP, sociologist Frans Kamsteeg concluded that such a move fostered the construction of a community that “lent itself to an ecumenically oriented vision that would alter its institutional identity and interactions with society.”3 With such an outlook, it is hardly surprising that MIP joined the international ecumenical organization the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 1961; it was one of the first pentecostal churches to do so.

MIP members mirrored their working-class surroundings. Congregants found work as teachers, street vendors, domestic servants, casual laborers, or workers in the factories and industrial parks on the edge of Santiago. Early stud- ies concluded that the major impulse for pentecostal growth came from the string of migrants that accompanied the processes of urbanization and indus- trialization as Chile began producing basic goods in the 1950s and 1960s to offset Europe’s slowing demand for its raw materials afterWWII.4Lacking basic

2 Acta de Fundación de la Iglesia, July 12, 1953, Libro de Actas Misión Iglesia Pentecostal, Santi-

ago, Chile, 5–6.

3 Frans Kamsteeg, Prophetic Pentecostalism in Chile: A Case Study of Religion and Development

(Lanham,MD: Scarecrow Press, 1998), 97.

4 See Christian Lalive d’Epinay, Haven of the Masses: A Study of the Pentecostal Movement in

Chile (London: Lutterworth, 1969) and Emilio Willems, Followers of the New Faith: Culture

Change and the Rise of Protestantism in Brazil and Chile (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University

Press, 1967).

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resources and with little recourse to traditional social structures, the socially dislocated members of society looked to revivalist religion.

Converts were drawn to theMIP’s unique and open character. One adherent from southern Chile described her attraction to the church in the following way: “After the [1960] earthquake, I realized I needed to look for God. The Mis- sion’s doors were always open and I went in one day. They took me by the hand and welcomed me. I have never left.” Another member expressed interest in theMIP’s “openness to the community … to work with everyday problems.” The church’s message appeared to resonate with the marginalized sectors of soci- ety, who were struggling to improve their living conditions and find a stable place in the changing socioeconomic landscape. The church experienced con- siderable growth during the period. It expanded its congregations in Santiago and the southern part of the country. Exact figures for membership are lacking before the 1990s, but interviews with members paint a picture of steady growth during the church’s first two decades, from a few hundred in 1952 to nearly five thousand in the 1970s.

The military overthrow of the democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973 and the radical disjuncture it pro- duced at all levels of society altered the course of the MIP and its members. Soon after seizing power, the junta, led by army general Augusto Pinochet, suspended the constitution and, in the name of national security, all political and civil liberties. The press and media were censored. Political parties were placed in recess; those that supported Allende were banned altogether. Social groups were prohibited. There was a coordinated effort not only to attack the regime’s opponents, but also to threaten, frighten, and repress groups, includ- ing churches that harbored or cared for its detractors. Reports vary, but most observers agree that the number of Chileans that were detained, interrogated, or tortured numbered in the tens of thousands. Ultimately, the regime wanted to do more than exterminate political resistance; it was determined to elimi- nate any outlet or platform from which opposition could spring.

The dictatorship’s oppressive tactics were not limited to overt forms of vio- lence. The leaders turned to new technocrats to reverse what they saw as a half century of errors in Chile’s economic policies. These young economists believed that traditional economic conservatism was not enough: Chile needed a shock treatment to redirect the faltering economy. They quickly embraced an extreme form of neoliberalism. The government slashed public spending and deregulated the banking system and financial markets. A new pro-business labor code was introduced that crippled organized labor. Although the changes appeared to bring about incredible benefits in the form of falling inflation and economic expansion, macro-level indicators hid an altogether different story.

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Unemployment never fell below 10 percent and wages dropped by more than 30 percent in the dictatorship’s first few years. Income inequality worsened significantly. The armed forces repressed opposition to the new policies, and any signs of mobilization in the shantytowns and working-class neighborhoods that were hit hardest by the government’s policies were quickly put down.

MIP leaders, with aid from European ecumenical organizations such as the WCC and the Dutch Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation, established the Servicio Evangélico para el Desarrollo (SEPADE—Evangelical Service for Development) to alleviate the country’s most pressing needs.5From the late 1970s through the mid to late 1980s,SEPADEwas an important provider of emergency aid to local populations. The rationale behind the program grew from a specific reading of the Bible that placed social service at the center of the Christianmission.Tothiseffect,thegrouporganizedsoupkitchens,foodbanks, summer camps for young children, day cares, scholarships, as well as basic skills workshops and leadership courses. Although the organization attempted to meet the most burdensome effects of Pinochet’s repressive policies, its lead- ers also sought to empower transformative action by fostering opportunities for participation in community development that would cultivate a Christian social ethic among Pentecostals.6

Throughout the interviews, leaders and lay members, rural congregants and urban believers, SEPADE workers and those that abstained from such work, all spoke about the dictatorship as a time that marked them personally and spiritually. Time and time again, they reflected on changes in their religious meaning making—most of these experiences occurring outside the walls of the church and the structured social service programs of SEPADE. Everyday life and the church were clearly linked, but religious practices and actions were intimately bound up in the local context in which MIP Pentecostals were situ- ated. As I hope will become clear, MIP Pentecostals’ experiences of the dicta- torship illustrate considerable reconfiguring of their religious imaginaries and practices, but also a high degree of improvisation as they moved through the shifting currents of life in dictatorial Chile.

5 The organization was founded as the Comisión Técnica Asesora (CTA—Technical Advisory

Commission) and later renamed SEPADE in 1978 to reflect a more expansive vision and far

more institutional reach.

6 “Proyecto de desarrollo comunitario integral a nivel urbano y rural—Sumario,” Servico Evan-

gélico para el Desarrollo, Concepción, Chile, 1976.

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2 Resistance from Below: Decentering Pentecostal Practice

The majority of MIP members that I interviewed in Santiago and elsewhere in Chile thought and spoke about the dictatorship with a curious mix of nostal- gia and grief. They drifted toward fondness when talking about the community work they did and the friendships they made, but their moods quickly changed when asked why they became involved in such work. As I have described else- where, they did not view the world beyond the church as morally ambiguous or depraved, nor as an arena that should be avoided altogether. Over the course of the dictatorship many came to see their responses to the broader context of insecurity and suffering as a divine mandate in which the church was called to carry out an evangelizing mission to serve those in dire need. In fact, many (but not all) members of the church understood regular engagement with the world to be an expression of God’s plan. Christian social engagement emerged amongMIPPentecostals as common understanding that service did not stop at the doors of their temples. Their interest in attending to the well-being of the larger community involved the formation of a pentecostal identity that saw itself in contrast to the repressive actions that defined Chile during the period and deeply co-implicated in the possibilities of social transformation.

While this logic situated social change at the heart of Christian mission— answeringGod’scalltoalleviatethesufferingtheyviewedaroundthem—itwas by no means stable or confined to theMIP’s institutional projects or programs. Unlike some forms of “progressive” Pentecostalism, parallel forms of MIPsocial commitment moved along avenues outside traditional religious practice and generated alternative combinations of formerly disparate and often contrary religious, social, and political concerns.7The comments and reflections offered by the individuals I interviewed indicate that less formal, less public acts of reli- gious expression were equally important in their experiences of and responses to the particular historical context.The exact meanings attached to the types of practices varied according to who was speaking, but they generally understood their actions as an extension or outward declaration of their religious devotion. Moreover, their participation in clandestine religious practices that did not fit neatly even within the expanding repertoire of the MIP’s social aid programs created possibilities for the construction of different pathways and activities that could bridge eschatological concerns and the sociopolitical realities of the dictatorship.

7 See Donald Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori, Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian

Social Engagement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007).

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Questions about pentecostal political actions represent a central theme of studies of the movement in Latin America. More often than not, scholars and observers have gauged the movement’s influence in the region through its polit- ical impact. As Virginia Garrard-Burnett notes, even the lack of Pentecostals’ direct political participation “has been understood to be itself political—either an apoliticism that translates into complicity with governments in power, whether they are benign or deviously authoritarian, or an ex nihilo political disengagement still waiting to be awakened either to serve democratic or non- democratic purposes.”8 Most studies have failed to look beyond public acts of political expression, ultimately overlooking how pentecostal values and beliefs move between the church and the world, just as Pentecostals do every day.

For some time, however, anthropologists have argued that any analysis of religious resistance should consider less organized, everyday strategies people use to challenge dominant power systems. Daily life presents many oppor- tunities for protest. In her study of Zionist churches in South Africa during Apartheid, for example, Jean Comaroff suggests that religious institutions pro- vide marginalized individuals with such a space. Comaroff sees Zionism as a “systematic counter culture, a modus operandi explicitly associated with those estranged from the centers of power and communication.”9 In other words, Zionists construct alternative, almost subversive logics to defy the systems of power that have marginalized them. These tactics are not always visible when viewed from the dominant perspective or paradigm. Other scholars also argue that we need to move away from explanations of religion that view it as a cir- cumscribed domain. Jeffrey Rubin and David Smilde claim that “religion has no natural domain or function and virtually anything humans do or create or confront can potentially be given religious meaning if it is linked discur- sively and/or through practice.”10While these same observers are quick to point that this does not mean that everything is religious or that all experiences are addressed through religious practice, their claims do suggest that religious meanings, discourses, and practices can and do occur largely outside codified

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Virginia Garrard-Burnett, “Toward a Pentecostal Hermeneutics of Social Engagement in Central America?: Bridging the Church and the World in El Salvador and Guatemala,” in New Ways of Being Pentecostal in Latin America, ed. Martin Lindhardt (Leiden: Brill, 2016), 187.

Jean Comaroff,Bodyof Power,Spiritof Resistance:TheCultureandHistoryof aSouthAfrican People(Chicago,IL: University of Chicago Press, 1985), 191.

Jeffery Rubin, David Smilde, and Benjamin Junge, “Religion and Lived Citizenship in Latin America’s Zones of Crisis: Introduction,”Latin America Research Review49 (Special Issue, 2014): 14.

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expressions of belief. Moreover, any space, any practice in everyday life could be infused with subversive religious meaning.

A rich array of recent case studies highlights the active and perhaps con- tradictory nature of pentecostal agency, suggesting that Pentecostals can act in ways that diverge from theistic frameworks when they deem necessary. Enrique Desmond Arias, in a study of a violent favela in Rio de Janeiro, demonstrates how religion and violence can sustain each other in the face of insecurity. In one evangelical Assembly of God congregation, he observed how Pentecostals sanctioned the actions of a paramilitary protection group that provided secu- rity through extortion and violence. The church linked the paramilitary group’s enforcement with the vigilance and word of God in order to help the com- munity resist the growing influence of the drug trade in the area.11 Edin Abu- manssur’s work is also worth mentioning. Analyzing a pentecostal church in the outskirts of São Paulo, he found “criminality is not always read a negative way and the believer is not necessarily a model of behavior” because life on the periphery can force unintended exchanges and social interactions.12While these examples do not suggest any inevitable or causal links between religion and social activism, they do make it clear how religion can become intertwined into local subjectivities that precipitate,limit, and altertheir confluence. Pente- costal attitudes toward society, in other words, should be interrogated through the interplay of religious discourses or frames and complex social contexts. In each of these cases, we see religion providing not abstract values but discourses and practices brought together in concrete but inconsistent ways to address daily problems.

As I have mentioned throughout this article, the religious worldview that sustained MIP members’ actions cannot be studied without reference to the wider context of dictatorship. After all, Pentecostals were not completely in control of their lived realities. Even while the continuous and empowering presence of God was a defining element of pentecostal life, the intensity and character of this relationship was mitigated by circumstances that, depending on the specific situation of the individual, were constituted and shaped by the broad social and cultural currents in which they were situated. In the period under study, the most obvious constraint on this relationship was the dicta- torship itself. The contours of authoritarian Chile for marginalized groups like Pentecostals included radical neoliberal economic reforms, repression, grow-

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Enrique Desmond Arias, “Violence, Citizenship, and Religion in a Rio de Janeiro Favela,” Latin American Research Review49 (Special Issue, 2014), 164.

Edin Abumanssur, “Faith and Crime in the Construction of Social Coexistence in the Out- skirts of São Paulo,”Social Compass62, no. 3 (2015): 408.

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ing inequality, and widespread insecurity. Nor were the repressive measures of the military government the only limitations placed on pentecostal religious practice. A great amount of stress came from within the community of the MIP itself. The church’s demand to adhere to the norms and values it believed should guide religious and moral life ran head first into the realities of the dictatorship from which many individuals, particularly the younger members, had formed their identities. For some, this created a spiritual crisis.13 For oth- ers, it produced radical reinterpretations of thought and practice that collided with the exigencies of the community.These members navigated their religious concerns and engaged the limitations of their church and the sociopolitical cli- mate of Chile as they thought best fit their particular situations. At times, these actions fit neatly into the worldview put forth by the church, but more often than not they occurred within the interstices of this relationship.

This interpretation moves us beyond an understanding of Pentecostals as “bounded, coherent social actors” operating within circumscribed spheres, ratherthanas“decentered”individualswithfluctuatingneedsanddiscourses.14 All of these studies paint a picture of a movement that is highly variable and difficult to pin down—one that is continually changing and in constant flux. It is precisely because of this instability that I suggest that researchers interested in pentecostal religious transformation, that is, in how Pentecostals alter and shift their thoughts and practices, refocus their investigative lenses to look at dissonant and incongruent forms of religious action. This means setting aside such questions as “What is a pentecostal?” or “What is pentecostal practice?”— concerns, I might add, that believers do not themselves express—in order to pose equally and perhaps more revealing questions about the subtle, creative, and even illicit ways religious thought and practice were interwoven into every- day experience. Lived religion happened in those moments.

3 Everyday Spirituality and the Search for Hope

Beneath the very public manifestations of the MIP’s social engagement (through SEPADE) existed another religious substrate of worldly interaction and emergency aid. A few practices will illustrate what I mean here. In 1973, the founder ofSEPADEtold me, a young pregnant woman appeared on his doorstep

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By 1990, the church had lost nearly half of its membership.

David Smilde, “Public Rituals and Political Positioning: Venezuelan Evangelicals and the Chávez Government,” in Practicing the Faith: The Ritual Life of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christians, ed. Martin Lindhardt (New York: Berghahn Books, 2011), 308.

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and handed him a piece of paper. My informant did not reveal the source of the message in our interview, but he did acknowledge that it had come from a close friend in Uruguay. The unfamiliar woman was a member of the Tupa- maros (also known as the Movimiento de Liberación Nacional-Tupamaros— Tupamaros National Liberation Movement), a left-wing urban guerrilla group known for political violence in the 1960s and 1970s.15 Following the expansion of the Uruguayan government’s anti-insurgency policies and the military coup in June 1973, many Tupamaros sought asylum in neighboring countries. Like so many others, this young woman had come to ask for refuge and theMIPleader obliged. In the years to come, many other Tupamaros followed to the point that the man’s youngest son, Arturo told me he felt he “lived with strangers for most of [his] childhood.” In the months leading to the Chilean coup, members of theMIPrented houses for the Tupamaros, but when fear of military retaliation became too dangerous, the operation was expanded to include otherMIPfami- lies in Santiago. By 1975, members were delivering food to the variousTupamaro refugees by hiding it beneath the driver’s seat of his or her car so that it would not be found should the police stop them. These members told me that their actions were a part of “God’s plan.”Their faith and resistance to repression oper- ated in tandem, rather than running contrary to one another. This practice was denounced by more traditional sectors within the church, although according to the leader I mentioned earlier, it was a tightly guarded secret within the com- munity and never discussed in public. It goes without saying that these actions, especially after the coup, carried with them great risk. This practice, undoubt- edly unusual among Pentecostals, exposed certain explicit contradictions and questions about the nature of pentecostal religion in general and the MIP in particular.

Such actions demonstrate that spirituality and faith were indexed to a longer history of resistance and solidarity. It is similarly clear that MIP members pos- sessed a good deal of practical knowledge when it came to working within the confines of military rule, and they had their own ideas as to how the state’s oppressive measures operated and could be flouted. When I asked members what the consequences for their actions might have been, many nonchalantly

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The Tupamaro movement collapsed in mid-1972 under mounting pressure from the Uruguayan military and almost completely disappeared as a political force after the mil- itary coup d’état in June 1973. Many Tupamaros fled into neighboring countries such as Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. Fernando López explores how local leftist movements such as the Tupamaros, and governmental responses became transnational issues in his book The Feathers of Condor: Transnational StateTerrorism, Exiles, and Civilian Anticommunism in South America(Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016).

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replied, “probably torture, maybe death.” Any response to the actions of the regime, which in their opinion had destroyed their lives, was concerned with their faith and that reality. As Jon Wolseth points out in his study of religion and gang violence in Honduras, “social actors, regardless of the risks involved, crafted mechanisms to cope with their surroundings and maneuver through the violence of everyday life.”16 Drawing on the work of Michel de Certeau, Wolseth argues that these mechanisms do not necessarily transform the vio- lence around them; they just make it more manageable. The type of action discussed here, however, was more than “making do” or the “myriad of creative tactics that the marginalized classes use to consume and re-present cultural forms.”17 MIP Pentecostals did not simply internalize the meanings and prac- tices of resistance and solidary for their own purposes; they drew on a long history of marginalization and communal aspirations for something better to form novel combinations of Christian responsibility and defiance.

Guided by their self-understanding as members of a marginalized group, MIPPentecostals searched for ways to counter the unswerving force on the dic- tatorship, although the structural violence of neoliberal economic measures and state repression limited the ways they could act. The young MIP Pente- costals felt this most acutely and were intimately familiar with the restrictions placed on their identities by the regime. These were part of the very fabric of their upbringing, as they came of age during a period of Chilean history defined by social and political quietism. They also spent their formative years deal- ing with the implementation of neoliberal economic reforms. Those who were born in the late 1950s and 1960s witnessed the privatization of basic public ser- vices and the demands of a new consumer-driven society. They bore the brunt of economic transformation. The unease that the youth expressed was double. Not only were they forced to witness the suffering of their neighbors, friends, and families who formed their social networks, they also struggled to come to terms with their own inability to imagine a future beyond the dictatorship. There was very little social or political space for these young people to express their grief, anger, and discontent. The specter of military reprisals diminished the social space available to them, truncating a formerly vibrant social life as well as the ability for collective political action. The suppression of public spaces and limited capacity to express their identities forced young people to forge a culture steeped in a collective identity of subversion and repression.

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Jon Wolseth, Jesus and the Gang: Youth Violence and Christianity in Urban Honduras(Tuc- son,AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2011), 132.

Michel de Certeau,The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), xv, and Wolseth, Jesus and the Gang, 132.

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Although MIP social development programs offered a church-sanctioned alternative for young men and women to be present in public, many were not content with such activities. Take the story of Pedro from the población(shan- tytown) La Victoria in Santiago. Pedro’s grandparents were part of the origi- nal land seizure that formed the local community, where he continues to live today. In his childhood, he was struck by the “lack of bread” that seemed to afflict everyone in the area. Beginning in the 1980s, he began to attend Bible study classes organized by the MIP. He remembered intense debates among the older members about scriptural interpretation, but ultimately found the experience useful for “getting to know how [his] daily thoughts related to the Word of God.” This soon led to his participation inSEPADE’s development pro- grams as a volunteer. “I was supercanuto, dude,” he told me.18“I walked around with the Bible and everybody in the neighborhood knew I was an evangelical. I was doing God’s work in the community.” The social practices of the MIP refo- cused the primary and traditional objective of the pentecostal worldview— evangelization—into community interaction. The nature of this relationship came to mean very different things to many different people within the church. Beneath this motivation, though, was another deep-seated and fundamental reason why members attempted to address the needs of the community. The social practices of members like Pedro drew their meanings from and found support in their kinship with the community and identification with the shared experiences of dictatorship in Chile.

Heightened interaction with the community also carried with it increased exposure to other ideological currents. Pedro told me that throughout his social work, the term “political did not mean anything more than social; more than any one ideology it was a fight against injustice.” What I find most interesting about his story, however, was his ability to interweave what have usually been considered disparate ideological domains into a logic of Christian social praxis. By the late 1980s, Pedro was participating more heavily in the community. He was part of the unidad de combates (a clandestine neighborhood civil defense group) as well as the administrator for the André Jarlan community center.19

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The termcanutois often used interchangeably withevangélico, albeit with a negative and mocking connotation. It is sometimes appropriated by Pentecostals in colloquial conver- sation.The epithet is taken from the nineteenth-century Spanish missionary Juan Bautista Canut de Bon Gil, who, after converting to Protestantism, became well known in Chile for his proselytising efforts throughout the country.

André Jarlan was a French priest killed in his room at the Catholic parish house by police in La Victoria in September 1984. He was known throughout the community for his spiri-

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Near the end our interview, he confessed that he carried and hid guns in the church when the military conducted random searches of the neighborhood. When I asked him if he felt that was part of God’s plan, he replied: “It was for the community’s protection.” Moreover, even in these situations that were obvi- ously prohibited by both the church and the government, he felt accompanied by the Spirit. “I prayed,” he told me, “that God would not abandon me, that he would keep me safe, and I asked for his approval.” His story is by no means unique; countless Chileans no doubt experienced similar moments. What is novel is Pedro’s belief that illegal activities did not preclude or diminish his ability to seek divine empowerment.

Other members, around the same age and in similar communities, engaged in such practices. Arturo, the son of one of the church’s founders, admitted to hiding guns for communist friends in the classrooms of the Evangelical The- ological Community in Santiago.20 The son of the MIP’s president during the period recalled his experiences in this way:

It was the first time they put curfews on during the protests … and that day, well, they put the curfew and cut off the electricity … it was all very dark, we were carrying some logs to put on the other corner to stop traf- fic and the police arrived, but afterward we discovered that it was the Air Forceand they arrivedat the passagesand surprisedus all. My brotherwas around the corner and they grabbed him there with three or four others and beat him up. When they let him go I went to look for him. Luckily it wasn’t more serious, but they did cause a lot of damage. They entered the church and broke glass, scratched the cars that were in front of the church. That could not happen. God does not endure so much violence against his people. We had to do something, that’s why we went to the protests.

For these young people, there was no contradiction between supporting sub- versive political practices and attending to their religious duties. In many situa- tions, they were one and the same. Robert, another youth from Santiago, spoke about this through his music. He told me:

20

tual guidance as well as his social service work, and his death is still commemorated today. Ascanio Cavallo, Manuel Salazar, and Oscar Sepúlveda, La historia oculta del régimen mil- itar: Memoria de una época, 1973–1988 (Santiago, Chile: Uqbar Editores, 2008), 492. The Comunidad Teológica Evangélica (Evangelical Theological Community) is an ecu- menical seminary founded in 1966 by theMIPand several other Protestant and evangelical groups in Chile.

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We always played in the church and different churches. We also went to solidarity events, suddenly the union would say, for example, that the avenida matta is on strike. And we went to support with our music. One time we weredoing that, and it wasSeptember11 already,wewerenear the church and people started to set fires. We were passing through a street and we felt a super strong explosion because there was a bomb on a bus … The police approached us and told us get “to the wall,” shit communists … I was scared. In the end they took us prisoner … I said wow, here we go, I was thinking that there were so many police, so many guns and they left us in a nearby precinct … I got out two days later … I did it because God called me. He called me to support people.

Older and more conservative members of the church looked on with concern, but as Pedro assured me, “even though our pastors knew, we knew they were never going to give us up.” In these young people’s logic, by virtue of “doing God’s work in the community,” they were able to translate their radical religious practices into a worldview that was given divine sanction.

This type of engagement was not limited to idealistic youth. Older members also worked within this frame. They used their ability to claim divine sanc- tion to demonstrate their status as members of the community. By proving they were on the path set forth by God, they were able to invoke God’s pro- tection from harm. This was the case of Maria. Born in southern Chile, Maria is a homemaker and has been a member of a congregation in Santiago for over fifty years. Her story echoed many of the sentiments I described earlier. She was heavily involved in a range of SEPADEand congregational social outreach pro- grams such as the comedores (soup kitchens) and talleres (workshops) during the period. Her husband was a mechanic who worked on cars for members of the community. While he was not directly involved with local politics, many of his clients were members of the Communist Party. Immediately after the coup, he was forced to flee to Bolivia. After this experience, Maria’s engagement with the community also radicalized. She volunteered to hide a copy machine in the back of her house that local political dissidents used to produce flyers and pamphlets to oppose the regime. Maria freely intermingled religious practice and community-driven work but could not conduct them in public. “We died of fear in the first years,” she told me, “one could not even talk to other peo- ple you did not trust … Our lips were sealed.” She did her work in the name of the Lord and her community, both of which contributed to her interpretation of the Gospel, but was constricted by the limitations of the dictatorship. She stressed that her “community could not be separated from [her] work … it was part of [her] existence, just like religion, the two were mixed.”

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The military’s restructuring of the economy and society likewise attempted to undermine or at the very least diminish class interests and community iden- tity. Over the course of my fieldwork, however, it became exceedingly clear that it had quite the opposite effect onMIPPentecostals. Members that engaged in the type of practices I describe above consistently felt a certain sense of pride about their demonstrations of faithfulness and loyalty to the community in hard times. Several of my informants told me that even during the most dif- ficult years of the dictatorship, the communities cared for each other, sharing whatever they had. One member spoke about the period as “a redefinition of the people of God and community.”The history ofMIPsocial thought and prac- tice parallels and uncovers the history of the communities that surrounded its churches. It reveals the history of people’s ultimate values and what they con- sidered to be their most important concerns. Even to this day, the residents of many communities in Santiago and throughout the country continue to exercise what Jacqueline Adams calls an “ethos of solidarity”—a community steeped in shared attempts to survive and resist oppression.21 By answering God’s call to serve their communities, even in ways that could not always be expressed publicly,MIPmembers reconfirmed their place among their friends and neighbors. These actions, although not sanctioned by the church or the regime, exposed their hopes and fears, simultaneously reminding them of their spiritual obligations and their shared history of marginalization.Through these prohibited acts the men and women of the MIP consecrated their devotion to God; they acknowledged his power by directing it into their communities.

4 The Subversive Power of Prayer

Pentecostal clandestine religious practices were no less a declaration, affir- mation, and consecration of the pentecostal way of being a Christian and of expressing their devotion to God than was giving testimony in church or street preaching. On the contrary, in many instances they complemented more tradi- tional pentecostal practices and were understood to firm up one’s testimony of God in much the same way. Even everyday acts of resistance that might appear outside the traditional pentecostal character could be rationalized in this frame. One member expressed her irritation with military police in this way. Marcela, a convert to Pentecostalism in 1960 and the daughter of a ten-

21

JacquelineAdams,SurvivingDictatorship:AWorkof VisualSociology(NewYork:Routledge, 2012), 253.

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ant farmer, experienced some of the worst socioeconomic repercussions of the government’s policies. “We lived in a población en tránsito [a temporary hous- ing development] … Early one morning, the police banged on my door and demanded to enter and inspect the house for guns. My children were sleep- ing and they woke them up to turn over their mattresses. I could not stand the violence; there was no reason for it. It made me feel angry and impo- tent … I had to fight. I asked the Lord for strength and I spat on one of the officers.” Actions like Marcela’s, usually considered outside the standards of a “good” Christian, were, in a way, an announcement that Pentecostals shared the feelings of frustration and impotence that so often accompanied life in such communities.The continuous practice of home searches, summary arrests, tor- ture, and disappearances in the poblaciones throughout Chile was meant to dislocate the community networks that had been so significant to the rise of Salvador Allende. Military forces tried to do so, as part of their campaign to defuse the threat of social solidarity in the communities by inducing or coerc- ing residents to adopt individualistic practices that ran counter to their own history. But Pentecostals claimed these experiences as their own. It became a religious and social issue.

Ritualized practices like prayer reconfirmedMIPmembers’ feelings of being allied with their community, just as it enabled them to physically overcome the obstacles and difficulties in which they found themselves. I came across many examples of this during interviews, but one story in particular illustrates this point. Felipe grew up in a congregation of theMIPin Santiago. Like many of his pentecostal peers he struggled to reconcile his beliefs with the context he saw around him and began to look for alternative practices to apply the principles he was taught in church and the SEPADE programs. When he turned eighteen in 1984, he joined the Youth Socialist Party in his community. His participa- tion with this group led him into several dangerous situations, including being arrested at the age of seventeen for “subversive” behavior. His actions met with unequivocal disapproval within theMIP, but this did not lessen or diminish the close relationship he enjoyed with God. On one occasion, he was forced to con- front the police during a surprise search of the neighborhood. He describes the situation as one of imminent peril:

WediditwiththeconvictionthatGodwaswithus,thatGodaccompanied us. And if you do not believe in miracles, I can attest that on more than one occasion God freed us from having been captured, tortured, beaten … One of the cases in a raid, the population was raided from time to time … in that raid we were taken to a place for an identity check and I was sev- enteen years old but by that time I had already been detained, I already

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had a file that tied me up politically, then when they made that raid the police put us in rows. The police requested that all those who had been arrested step out of line. No one left the line but I was very afraid. How was I going to leave when my companions did not leave? At that time, I spoke to God, I asked for his help. They let us out after a couple of hours. There I knew the mercy of God.

Here God appeared as an inaudible, external force, “liberating” Felipe and his companions from more serious consequences for his actions. Apart from exem- plifying how Pentecostals sometimes found themselves in precarious situa- tions outside the church, Felipe’s comments also illustrate how talking with God was for many Pentecostals not simply a discursive exercise, but rather a practice that carried embodied ramifications for the community. Praying was a ritual practice that Pentecostals easily extended beyond strictly individual, private contexts. Through prayer MIP Pentecostals called upon an internal, personal connection with a divine Other to respond to impending danger in their communities. In itself, his action is not surprising or novel. Yet, in Felipe’s description, there seems to be no clear-cut distinction between the domains that pentecostal practice can traverse. He does not distinguish between his participation in socialist activities, his solidarity with his peers, and the pre- ponderance of God’s power to intervene in those same situations.

My aim throughout this article has been to examine the less public expres- sions of MIP Pentecostalism and the logic that sustained it. It was a religious worldview that paralleled and gave embodied consequences to the contradic- tions and ambivalences of life in Chile during the dictatorship, but also one that operated just below the surface of the formal expression of the church. I have argued that MIP Pentecostals traversed social and ideological domains, some- times with ease, sometimes with dire outcomes. While their actions and prac- tices could not always be revealed to the wider community or, as was often the case, were received with a certain level of disapproval, these boundary cross- ings were nonetheless intertwined with an enormous and all-encompassing desire to “do God’s work” by attending to the suffering of their community. MIPPentecostals drew deeply on their personal relationship with Godandthe cultural networks that had defined their social lives to sanction and give cre- dence to practices that would normally have been considered contrary to and indiscernible in traditional pentecostal praxis. Acting under a divine mandate allowed Pentecostals to engage the changing currents of Chile without con- tradiction. Their actions, even if considered along the margins of pentecostal religious belief, were attempts to sustain and nourish their wider communities

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while in the midst of transformation. If their actions appeared inconsistent, it was only because they did not operate along conventional registers of pente- costal social thought and action.

There is little doubt that these kinds of religious actions are difficult to pin down. For reasons not completely determined by religious actors themselves, they often retreated into the shadows and margins of more noticeable and archetypal religious practice. In observing the hidden and peculiar MIP Pen- tecostalism of the periphery, it is important that definitions of what it means to be a pentecostal be revisited. Normative readings of the pentecostal phe- nomenon as governed by public expressions of faith obstruct a fuller under- standing of the social, cultural, and historical dynamics of religious practice as it was worked out in the daily lives of members who struggled to find mean- ing in the harrowing moments of the dictatorship. Pentecostal religious change became the site of a much longer history of struggle; it expressed a wider set of concerns and ultimately extended them out into a world in crisis.

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