Mexico’s popular culture is Catholic, but its politics and state are secular. Vast majorities demonstrate both immense respect for the Roman Catholic Church and firm opposition to the political involvement of religious leaders or symbols. During the recent presidential campaign, Vicente Fox Quesada raised hackles by waving the flag of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
When Rodney Woo became pastor of Wilcrest Baptist Church in Houston in 1992, the all-white congregation averaged 200 worshipers. Faced with a declining membership, and situated in a neigborhood that was changing its racial composition, the congregation set out to invite people of color to church.
In the early 16th century, Martin Luther, assisted by enterprising printers unhandicapped by copyright laws, swamped the market with five pamphlets for every one put out by his Catholic opponents. Other Protestant writers poured out their own flood of sermons, treatises, polemics and devotional writings. For more than three decades Protestants dominated the recently invented printing press.
The woman sitting next to me on a five-hour bus ride from Puebla to Oaxaca, Mexico, opened her Bible to the “Segunda Epístola de San Pedro Apóstol”—2 Peter. The “1” of the first chapter was circled and various verses were underlined. This was a well-used Bible. I asked, “¿Es cristiana?” She nodded and immediately asked if I was.
After a large Sunday dinner, family and friends gathered in the living room of my grandmother’s rambling house for the event that made me a Christian. Lifting a silver bowl filled with water, the preacher said some ritual words, made some promises and then baptized me.