Dignity is my central argument and I contend that dignity is the driving force behind Pentecostal practice inside of the prison and jails I studied.
I’m following the story of the spread of Pentecostalism in the jails and favelas of Rio de Janeiro as told by Andrew Johnson.
We’ve seen how Pentecostalism adapts to the local environment and produces local leaders. But what’ the appeal of Pentecostalism in the first place?
As a sociologist Johnson argues it’s about the transformation of identity,
“Pentecostalism resonates so deeply with inmates like Carlos because it oﬀers a belief system and a set of practices that enable an inmate to embody a new, publicly recognizable identity and a platform for prisoners to live a moral and digniﬁed life both in prison and after they are released.”
Johnson witnessed firsthand how,
“Through their actions the Pentecostal pastors and volunteers literally embodied their belief that regardless of whether the inmates in Rio’s prisons were innocent or guilty of the crimes of which they were convicted, they were human beings worthy of redemption and deserving certain fundamental rights.
Faith in Christ enabled these desperate men in appalling conditions “to reject annihilation and aﬃrm a terrible right to live.”
No government or social program can meet a prisoner’s deepest need. Only in Christ can they become a new creation—forgiven and set free to live a new life in him in the fellowship of God’s people behind bars.