Guardianship council – evangelicals in power?

Image: Tim Board


Evangelicals use the Guardianship Council as a gateway and path to electing councilors

The election, Sunday 1/10, for the Guardianship Council (CT) throughout Brazil, confirmed the advancement of evangelicals in the power structures. Evangelical Churches grow at the bottom of society, unlike the Catholic Church which has always exerted its influence from the top down. Over the last few decades, the various evangelical denominations, from traditional ones such as the Baptist, to neo-Pentecostal, have started to occupy spaces of power in Congress and even in the STF.

The evangelical bench became a political actor in the Legislature, alongside the bullet and agribusiness benches. These are complementary agendas, since agribusiness and the weapons industry are not concerned with a fundamentalist religious agenda, since evangelicals support their projects. According to DataFolha, the proportion of evangelicals in Brazil is around 30% of the Brazilian population. Currently, between 18 and 20% of parliamentarians are evangelicals. But it is important not to forget that they, traditionally, are divided in relation to the Government, but unite, with very rare exceptions, in defending a conservative agenda in matters of customs.

This year, however, the majority of evangelicals want to oppose the Lula government. The Republican Party (PR), with strong influence from the Universal Church, appointed a Minister. Even so, its parliamentarians want to be in the opposition. The Republican Party stated that, even after the appointment of deputy Silvio Costa Filho (Republicanos-PE) to the Ministry of Ports and Airports, he will not be part of the government base (G1, 7/9/2023). We will soon know the outcome of this imbroglio.

This topic related to the political strength of evangelicals reminds me of the visit to Brazil by the North American political scientist and Brazilianist Thomas Skidmore, book author Brazil: From Getúlio to Castelo. He visited Brazil in the early 1990s and sought dialogue with Brazilian university professors and researchers. Thomas Skidmore became known when he led a petition in the USA against the arrest of Brazilian Marxist intellectual Caio Prado Jr by the military dictatorship in 1970. He himself got into trouble when, in 1984, after a seminar, he was summoned to testify at the Federal Police Department and threatened with deportation. At the time, it was defended by several Brazilian intellectuals. Despite this, he was accused by some of being a CIA agent. Outside the university area, I met left-wing activists who believe that any North American citizen is, was or will be a CIA agent. Unfortunately, ignorance is not a monopoly of the right.

During a visit to the UFRJ Institute of Social Sciences (IFICS) in the early 1990s, Thomas Skidmore asked sociologists if anyone was researching the evangelical movement. Nobody: almost everyone was researching the working class and trade unionism. He alerted professors to the importance of researching the evangelical movement which, at that time, no one took seriously. Most researchers were convinced of the priority of studying the working class, trade unionism and related topics. The political dimension of evangelicals was not on the horizon. And if it was, it wasn't noticed.

Over the last few decades, evangelicals have grown horizontally at the base of society, receiving the support and cooperation of their fellow believers and even pastors, not all of whom are scoundrels and corrupt. Over time, they began to grow vertically, occupying spaces of power in the State apparatus. This is due to the influence of Dominion Theology, originating in the USA, according to which it is no longer a question of accepting suffering on earth to have the right to go to heaven. It is about occupying all spaces of power on earth to transform the entire nation into Christians and thus prepare the return of Jesus Christ to our world. I believe that, together with the military, evangelicals would be the first to support a dictatorship in the certainty that a conservative, Christian and authoritarian order would be imposed from top to bottom. There is no shortage of Bible verses to justify this.

The election for the Guardianship Council is not a before premiere municipal elections next year, but it brings indications that should not be ignored. In Sunday's 1/10 election for the CTs, evangelical candidates or candidates supported by them had a significant vote. It is still early to make reliable assessments, with numbers and percentages, but the evangelical advance in voting is undeniable, especially on the outskirts of large cities. Evangelicals use the Guardianship Council as a gateway and path to electing councilors.

Except for isolated cases and activists working in Guardianship Councils defending the Child and Adolescent Statute (ECA), left-wing parties and civil society entities did not organize a list of candidates, nor did they provide guidance to voters. The majority did not know where to vote, and whether they could vote for just one or several candidates. Not even how long a Guardian Councilor's term of office lasts, it's four years. Meanwhile, evangelicals advance, even penetrating the Police, as is the case of the Universal Police Forces (UFP) and the Military Police of Christ.

Once in power, left-wing parties, in the name of governability, prefer to reach an agreement from above with evangelicals, whenever possible. But, starting this year, it looks like the game will change. Evangelicals want positions in power, but at the same time they want to remain in opposition, defending their flags and strengthening their fundamentalist agenda. Recent clashes have been occurring, not in Congress or the Executive, but in the STF, such as, for example, the vote on the decriminalization of abortion. So far, I have not seen any political leader, linked to the government, publicly defend the decriminalization of abortion, clarifying that it is not about encouraging it, just stopping it from being a crime.

The left's traditional disregard for issues of identity and customs, considered in practice as “non-political”, leads left-wing parties and organizations to close their eyes and, in the name of governability, not combat the agenda of patriarchal society, where misogyny, racism and homophobia still predominate. Mutatis mutandis, I have already had the opportunity to draw attention to the limits of governability in the case of the failed military coup attempt on 8/1. If friendliness and corporatism prevail, and no military officer is severely punished for the crimes committed, new attempts at a military coup will come in the near future, it is a matter of time.

Unfortunately, parties practically only operate institutionally, with little and sometimes no capillarity in society. In the 1980s, in the infancy of the PT, many of us shouted the slogan “one foot in the social, the other in the institutional”. Have left-wing political parties become weak today?

*Liszt scallop is a retired professor of sociology at PUC-Rio. He was a deputy (PT-RJ) and coordinator of the Global Forum of the Rio 92 Conference. Author, among other books, of Democracy reactsGaramond). []

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