Any account of the modern expansion of Christianity worldwide must pay respectful attention to Pentecostal and charismatic forms of worship. In Latin America, and most conspicuously in Brazil, this tradition accounts for virtually all of the vast growth of Protestant churches in the past 30 years.
But here is a riddle. If, as all the histories tell us, the Pentecostal movement began with a revival in California in 1906, why is it that some of the shrewdest and most historically informed commentary on the phenomenon appears in a Brazilian book written several years before that date? Historical curiosity apart, reading Os Sertões, or Rebellion in the Backlands (1902), by Euclides da Cunha, forces us to rethink the modern Pentecostal movement.
Philip Jenkins teaches at Penn State and is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. He is the author of The Great and Holy War and The Many Faces of Christ.