Brazilian churches in U.S. assimilating and recruiting through English

While Brazilian-American evangelicals are following the trajectory of other ethnic groups through their 1.5 (those who immigrated to the U.S. while still children) and 2nd generations assimilating and moving into the evangelical mainstream, Brazilian spiritualist groups are becoming multi-cultural and English-speaking even before the second generation comes of age, according to research presented at the Seattle meeting of the Association for the Sociology of Religion in late August. Rodrigo Serraro of the University of South Florida conducted a comparative study of the intergenerational transition in Brazilian evangelical and Afro-Brazilian spiritualist churches in Florida and found significant differences. The Brazilian evangelical churches are relying on their 1.5 and 2nd generation members and leaders to make the successful transition to assimilate to the evangelical mainstream.

In the congregations Serraro studied, the use of English can be a source of conflict, with the first generation resisting it while youth groups of these churches embrace English. He found that the use of English was accompanied by the culture of American evangelicalism—including using contemporary music—for the second generation. Second generation Brazilian churches and ministries are increasingly stressing evangelism directed at Americans rather than just Brazilians. For the spiritualists, the use of English is very important even for the first generation members (because they are more recent arrivals in the U.S., there are not many second generation spiritualists yet), with 95 percent of these churches having at least one English service. This was not the case even ten years ago, but since then using English has become seen as a way to spread spiritualist teachings. The use of English is often targeted to Americans who have Brazilian spiritualist spouses, according to Serraro. But the spiritualists have not assimilated in other ways—they expect American converts to integrate into Brazilian culture, such as in styles of music and food.