In August 1973, PDC president Patricio Aylwyn, forced out of an easy middling position, came to a crucial realization: He told The Washington Post that if he had to decide between "a Marxist dictatorship and a dictatorship of the military, I would choose the second." With Christian Democrats finally giving up on an alliance with the left, the Chamber of Deputies on Aug. 22, by an 81-47 vote, declared that Allende "from the very beginning has persisted in pursuing total power, with the obvious purpose of submitting everyone to the strictest economic and political control of the State, and implanting thereby a totalitarian system absolutely opposed to the democratic and representative system established by the Constitution."
The Chamber declared that "the Government has indulged not in isolated violations of the Constitution and the law, but has made of these a permanent pattern of behavior, reaching the extreme of systematically ignoring and trampling the attributes of other branches of government." Therefore the legislators reminded military leaders of their oaths to uphold the Constitution and asked them to take steps to "channel government action along legal paths and thereby assure the constitutional order of our country.... If they do these things, [the military leaders] will perform a valuable service for the Republic."
What did all that mean? Allende complained that the Chamber was "promoting a coup d'etat," which was exactly what it was doing. Some three decades later Hermogenes Perez de Arce, a member of the Chamber of Deputies in 1973, sat in his cool, dark office remembering what happened. "We all knew he was violating the Constitution, violating civil liberties, and we believed only the military could save the Constitution." Even some on the left agreed with that; the National Democratic Party, which had supported Allende in 1970, announced a "press campaign directed at the armed forces appealing to them to put an end to the state of economic collapse."
Military leaders had been thinking about their duty for months, and the legislative request concentrated their thoughts. Twice before in periods of political and economic chaos, in 1891 and on Sept. 11, 1924, they had deposed a government. On Sept. 9, the heads of the army, navy, and air force agreed that since Allende refused to resign, he must forcibly be sent into exile, and they agreed to move jointly on Sept. 11. As it turned out, they were acting just in time: Allende supporters the following week planned to assassinate the top generals and admirals, take over radio stations, and eliminate any opposition, using smuggled-in armaments that, according to the PDC's Eduardo Frei, were "superior in quantity and quality to those of the army."
Most of Chile's cultural forces are not very different from what they were three decades ago. One has grown immensely in potential influence during that period: Protestantism. Alberto Dib from the Word of Life Bible Institute speaks of how Chile has changed: "Twenty-five years ago parents"-never expecting to run into a Protestant-"would ask, 'Aren't you Roman Catholic?' Today, you find people in key positions who are Protestants."
Mr. Dib works in the municipal schools, where he and his colleagues teach Bible classes, organize youth meetings, and train students in evangelism and discipleship. They gain attention in the schools through a multimedia presentation of the real-life story of a couple that did drugs, came down with AIDS, became Christians, and died; then Rev. Dib and others speak about the gospel for 10-15 minutes. Word of Life during January and February (Chile's summer) runs a well-maintained, swimming-pooled youth camp 13 miles south of Santiago that brings in 300 students per week. Rev. Dib said the only institutions that stymie him are the universities, where work is very difficult because professors are "very humanistic" and generally hostile to Christ.
A drive around Chile's two largest cities attaches some real places to those census statistics. A "Church of the Kingdom of God" theater-turned-church in Valparaiso proclaims on its marquee, Jesucristo es el senor ("Christ is Lord"). A storefront church in Santiago proclaims that it is the home of Dios y Amor ("God and love"). Another building is the office for a jail ministry-and that's where church growth often starts for Chilean Pentecostals. Three of every 10 persons incarcerated in Santiago's massive, 4,000-inmate prison are said to be evangelicals.
That statistic cuts two ways, revealing as it does many prison conversions but also failure among some who accepted Jesus as Savior to also understand Him as Lord. And yet, Catedral Evangelica de Santiago, the largest Protestant church in Chile, reports that 1,300 of its members have come out of jail and are doing well. The Catedral, flagship church of a fast-growing denomination, La Iglesia Metodista Pentecostal de Chile, has over 50,000 members, taught by 552 pastors and preachers. Nationwide, the denomination claims some 5,000 preaching points and several million members.
Those numbers in a country long dominated by Roman Catholicism seem hard to believe until visitors see Chileans pouring into the Catedral building, conveniently located between the train station and bus depot. At the Catedral on Sundays, some 12,000-14,000 people pack plain wooden benches beneath signs proclaiming Dios Es Amor and Esta es casa de dios y puerta del cielo ("This is the house of God and doorway to heaven"). Attendees on any given Sunday represent one of the four quadrants of the church-north, south, east, west-with those from the other three attending smaller services throughout the metropolitan area.
Why has this denomination achieved such numerical success? "The church preaches the gospel," says Manuel Faundez Maturana, 65, head of Catedral Evangelica's press department. Mr. Faundez, in the Chilean air force for 30 years and then employed training pilots and stewardesses to recognize people with drugs, knows the lowest of the low. He also speaks of the only way for most to rise: "When the man who is a drunkard, an addict, a criminal hears the gospel, he changes." Changed beliefs lead to a willingness to work, and congregational contacts create a network of opportunity: "Church leaders compile a list of jobs available and needed, so a brick worker can be matched to opportunity. Those who want to get interviews can get them."
Pentecostals have generally not built social-services organizations and do not feel they have to; their informality of organization is the exact opposite of Catholic hierarchy. "We have no special programs for employment," explained Jorge Vasquez, a member of Catedral's ecclesiastical tribunal: "In every church those who know teach others about computers, or electricity, or other areas." Addiction and alcoholism? "We have no special programs, because Jesus does the job. In a few weeks, a few months, they change their way of living. We tell them you have to work. God says you have to work. In a few weeks, a few months, they come to understand."
It seems too easy, and the long-range results of living without much of an organization chart are not yet known, but the excitement of rapidly spreading Pentecostalism in Chile is unmistakable. Right now, instead of demonstrating at La Moneda, the presidential palace, some poor Chileans on Sunday afternoons are a few blocks away on downtown streets such as Salida a Nueva York. At one 2 p.m. gathering 70 people (half men wearing ties, half women with dresses to their ankles) waved Bibles and plunked guitars. Men and women took turns speaking about Jesucristo and how His grace changed them-and all the compadres said amen. The mood was relaxed, and visitors could wander over to La Moneda and enter without having to show identification or go through metal detectors.