278: On Earth as It Is in Heaven by Virginia Garrard-Burnett

by Gerard


278.08: Garrard-Burnett, Virginia, ed. On Earth as It Is in Heaven: Religion in Modern Latin America. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, Inc., 2000. 250 pp. ISBN 0-8420-2585-5.

Dewey Construction:

  • 200: Religion
  • 270: Christian Church history
  • 278: Christianity and the Christian Church in South America
  • +08: Church history

Normally, reading 250 pages isn’t a daunting task. A couple days, some classical music, and boom—another book bites the dust. This one, however, took a little more oomph to get through. Virginia Garrard-Burnett’s On Earth as It Is in Heaven is a collection of scholarly writings on religion in Latin America. It deals with church-state conflicts, folk Catholicism, new Christian beliefs, and religious pluralism in South America. Exciting, right? I know. Here we go.

The first chapter in this collection put the brakes on any optimism I had. The statistical analysis of Guatemalan parish occupancy in the mid-19th century was entirely mind-numbing. If you can get past one, though, there are a few gems here, but only a few. The pieces written in an embedded journalist style were, of course, more engaging that the others. In addition, I picked a few interesting historical tidbits along the way. Apparently, while the US was languishing in the throes of the Civil War, the Mexican state of Chiapas was gearing up for one as well. There is also an interesting parallel here with one of my earlier books (Turn Right at Machu Picchu): Christianity, it seems, is never able to completely dominate when it enters a culture. As with the Inca, the Mayans (and their descendants) blended the new teaching with their own religion to create a sort of folk Catholicism that has lasted to this day.

I worked my way through it, though. This is not the kind of book you run down to your local indie store to gobble up. This is the kind of book from which you pull a chapter to use as a citation in your master’s thesis (although, you should really go back to the original publication if you can). It would also work well as the textbook for a junior-level college course. Religious studies folks, go ahead and get it; everybody else, just move on. What is exactly what I intend to do.