Submitted on Tuesday, 1/17/2023, at 12:58 PM

The Conversation – In a widely shared article, Barba, an assistant professor of religion at Amherst, describes the history and beliefs of an often overlooked population that plays “an increasingly important role in national politics: Pentecostals, evangelicals’ theological cousins.”

“Though Pentecostals are diverse, all share an emphasis on the Holy Spirit, or God’s presence in their lives,” writes Barba. “Yet this also leads to disagreement within the movement about what they believe the Holy Spirit empowers them to do in the real world, especially in activism and politics.”

The professor traces the history of the Pentecostal movement (which takes its name from an event in the Bible’s Book of Acts) back to Los Angeles in the early 1900s, and cites statistics suggesting that, today, “about 4.5% of U.S. adults are members of Pentecostal denominations.” 

“African American and Latino Pentecostals have a long history of grassroots political mobilization on issues like labor and immigration,” Barba writes, but “[s]ince the 1980s, white Pentecostals and evangelicals have played a key role in carrying the religious right’s agenda forward.”