evangelical belt

Image: Anderson Antonangelo


Moral panic as a power strategy

A year and a half away from the presidential elections, evangelicals are now at the center of the dispute for electoral support. Nothing new on the front, since this segment of the population that in 2010 represented 22% of the population and, today, should reach the order of 30% of the Brazilian population. This group has been guided in the political environment by agreements between media leaders, such as Silas Malafaia, Edir Macedo, Estevão and Sônia Hernandes, RR Soares, etc. Not that these leaders mean all Brazilian evangelicals, but precisely because these leaders are the ones who have access to a strong and accessible media network.

We recently learned that Bolsonaro called Silas Malafaia, Abner Ferreira and a few other evangelical leaders to promote what he called an evangelical belt in the Senate, with the intention of doubling the presence of evangelical politicians who position themselves in favor of his political agenda. In the same week, on April 11th, hundreds of people took to the streets to declare criticisms of the STF, in defense of “freedom” and the end of “communism”. The name of the march was: “March of the Christian Family”.

This movement to appeal to the protection of the family so that anti-democratic leaders have popular support is nothing new. Between March 19 and June 19, 1964, editions of the Marcha da Família Com Deus Pela Liberdade took place. The two marches, in addition to the proximity of names, also share a strategy: to create moral panic. Summoning the most genuine feeling of protecting the family and creating the narrative that it's not about politics, it's about defeating family destroyers.

Obviously, we could argue that the one who guarantees the rights of people and, therefore, the protection of the family is the State and not the churches. Here is a node. The State manifests itself in the lives of most evangelical people in a violent, inaccessible and exclusive way. In any urban periphery in Brazil, we will see an evangelical church that will share space with the lack of quality education, quality health, decent housing and police violence. And how can we talk about the Secular State, the division between religion and politics with people whose only possibility of humanization takes place in the church?

And the most cruel thing about this equation is that it is precisely the lack of rights that guarantees the rigging of religion by unscrupulous politicians who make up the famous evangelical bench. It's a feedback system that we need to implode. And in this account that the parties have made for 2022, the center and the left have also been moving. The question we have to think about is what is the movement strategy? As a left-wing evangelical person, I have been thinking a few things about this. In my opinion, what we need to learn from evangelicals is that doing politics with leadership moves interests. With the base of the evangelicals, a project for the future moves! I'll keep the base and I think there's time for us to set the tone of this dialogue.

The pedagogy of popular reading of the Bible inspires me, and with it, the popular movement that we have already seen succeed with the base ecclesial communities. For me, what we need is to connect with the religious base of this country through our scars, the lack of doctors at the UBS, the lack of work, housing and education. And for us to see that these evangelical people have these needs, we need to remove the lens that makes all evangelical fascists.

The greatest tool of religious fundamentalists is to appeal to fear, to moral panic and to the halter vote. The tool of popular politics is hope, collective struggle and dialogue. This dialogue involves entering a church and understanding why these people are there, why that environment welcomes and humanizes them. And do we provide this welcoming space to these people? The provocation remains, for us to continue in the fight for democracy in our country.

* Simony of Angels is a doctoral candidate in anthropology at USP. She is a member of the Collective “Evangelicals for Gender Equality”, of the Evangelical Black Women Network.


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