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Catholic and Non-Catholic Theologies of Liberation: Poverty, Self-Improvement, and Ethics Among Small-Scale Entrepreneurs in Guatemala City

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In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Catholic liberation theology seemed poised to become a mass movement in Latin America, whereas evangelical Protestantism did not seem likely to ever receive broad popular appeal. This paper will explore possible reasons why most of the poor in Latin America preferred to join non-Catholic churches, instead of the so-called Christian Base Communities (CEBs ) or other grassroot groups connected with liberation theology. It does so by a review of scientific literature and by presenting empirical data from field research in Guatemala City. Using a neo-Weberian approach, I will argue that various non-Catholic churches foster elements of asceticism and self-improvement, which provide an important asset for the poor in Guatemala in their quest to better their lives both economically and spiritually.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Cultural Anthropology, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Publication date: March 1, 2002


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