Research Publication Title

The Role of Religion in Contemporary Paraguay as Seen Through Denominationalism, Leadership, Culture, and Globalization

Presenter Information

Laura WhitworthFollow

Major

Sociology

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Stephanie McClureDr. Bradley Koch

Keywords

Sociology, Religion, Identity, Culture, Paraguay

Abstract

Religion plays a significant role in Latin America. The country of Paraguay is heavily influenced by the continued presence of Christianity. This project explores the role of religion through the construction of identity within culture, denominationalism, leadership roles, and globalization from the introduction of modern technology. One’s identity shapes their beliefs, actions, and social groups and in this case, Paraguayan’s religious identity was tied directly to their cultural identity. Chaves, a sociologist of religion, states that “religious beliefs… are socially efficacious only when they become mobilized and institutionalized structures of authority,” (Chaves 770). This research analyzes how religious culture has become the de facto culture of Paraguay and as people are shaped by religion and organized into social structures, the country develops a distinctive identity that is internalized and reproduced. I conducted eight, in-depth and semi-structured interviews with religious leaders who are currently in positions of authority within the Protestant and Catholic Churches in Paraguay. I found that denominationalism accounts for division in that religious and culture identity, as Catholics and Protestants have distinct practices and values and therefore are not as united as the common culture suggests. Christian churches’ leadership structures proved to be important for impacting how religious elites implement their principles and beliefs on their congregations. Finally, the way in which Paraguayans examine their own culture was enlightening as it demonstrated the current practices of their society, their historical understanding of its foundation, and the glimpse of what is to come. While Paraguay is one small country in South America, they are becoming ever more connected to the rest of the world and thus, affected by foreign and external influences. The themes in this qualitative research have revealed essential influences in the creation of the Paraguayan identity and how they relate to a globalized world.

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The Role of Religion in Contemporary Paraguay as Seen Through Denominationalism, Leadership, Culture, and Globalization

Religion plays a significant role in Latin America. The country of Paraguay is heavily influenced by the continued presence of Christianity. This project explores the role of religion through the construction of identity within culture, denominationalism, leadership roles, and globalization from the introduction of modern technology. One’s identity shapes their beliefs, actions, and social groups and in this case, Paraguayan’s religious identity was tied directly to their cultural identity. Chaves, a sociologist of religion, states that “religious beliefs… are socially efficacious only when they become mobilized and institutionalized structures of authority,” (Chaves 770). This research analyzes how religious culture has become the de facto culture of Paraguay and as people are shaped by religion and organized into social structures, the country develops a distinctive identity that is internalized and reproduced. I conducted eight, in-depth and semi-structured interviews with religious leaders who are currently in positions of authority within the Protestant and Catholic Churches in Paraguay. I found that denominationalism accounts for division in that religious and culture identity, as Catholics and Protestants have distinct practices and values and therefore are not as united as the common culture suggests. Christian churches’ leadership structures proved to be important for impacting how religious elites implement their principles and beliefs on their congregations. Finally, the way in which Paraguayans examine their own culture was enlightening as it demonstrated the current practices of their society, their historical understanding of its foundation, and the glimpse of what is to come. While Paraguay is one small country in South America, they are becoming ever more connected to the rest of the world and thus, affected by foreign and external influences. The themes in this qualitative research have revealed essential influences in the creation of the Paraguayan identity and how they relate to a globalized world.

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