herodian Christians

Image: Paulo Fávero


The alliances of Brazilian religious leaders with the neo-fascist-Bolsonarist power

Herod Antipas (20 BC – 36 AD), son of Herod the Great, both servants of the Roman Empire, was Tetrarch of Galilee during the events leading up to the executions of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth. Antipas continued his father's tyranny, who ordered the cruel slaughter of boys up to two years old, in the city of Bethlehem and its surroundings, according to the account of the evangelist Matthew (2, 16-17), after the passage of the wise men visiting the son of Mary.

To this same Herod Antipas, Jesus of Nazareth, when already on an existential mission to announce his religious and social thought, addressed the following words: “Go and tell that fox that I cast out demons, I perform cures, today and tomorrow”. (Luke 12:32). Therefore, it is necessary to keep in mind that for Jesus, with his praxis of care for those most impoverished and made vulnerable by the Roman imperial power system, Herod was not conceived as just any character, but as a fox that jumps the chicken coops, attacks the helpless, exploits the helpless and despises the abandoned. There is no position in the evangelical account in which Jesus allowed himself to be deceived, nor did he condone with the Herodian power aiming at “conveniences” or “schemes” that favored him in his religious mission.

In 1970, the German theologian Dorothee Sölle coined the term “christofascism” to define a political posture that combines Christianity with fascism, based on the fact that the German Nazi party's relations with the Christian churches contributed to the development of the Third Reich. According to the German playwright Bertold Brecht, fascism would be a historical phase of capitalism, its most naked, truculent, cowardly and treacherous expression.

For Magali do Nascimento Cunha, Christofascism is a “theology of authoritarian power” and is on the rise in Brazil. They are believers guided by their leaders, proclaiming a religion that contemplates the Christian cross only as a kind of magical talisman, and not as the historical landmark of the experience of a poor Nazarene man, who was violently tortured to death on a cross, destined for the worst condemned by the Roman Empire, due to their preaching in favor of justice, the sharing of goods, equality and fraternity among humans. In fact, the Jesus of these faithful is an ahistorical Jesus, a magician who works miracles, a spiritualized and sentimentalized Jesus, faithful to the particular needs of each one.

Still according to Magali, in the Brazilian present time it is possible to openly identify similar postures to what happened at the time of German Nazism, on the part of church movements and their leaders, which provide open support to Bolsonaro with his policies of intolerance, violence and of hatred, having as a point of unity with Bolsonarism the agenda of conservative customs of Christian morals, the automatic alignment with the dogma of the ecclesial hierarchy representing the almighty God, in addition to the fight against communism to guarantee the victory of the Kingdom of the Christian God . As empirical data, we recorded the public manifestations of intensive support, from the therapeutic community Fazenda da Esperança, to Jair Bolsonaro, documented in social networks and on television, expressed by the German Franciscan friar Hans Stapel, founder of the referred community, which we will comment briefly on throughout our brief reflection.

It is important to highlight that fascism, as a political doctrine, is anchored in devotion to an all-powerful leader, mythologized by the ideological manipulation that seeks the homogenization of a people through nationalist and militaristic ideals, in a totalitarian way, imposing domination of the leader and his group, in an authority without limits, with powers of control of public and private life. There is no diversity of ideas and behavior, only uniformity of thought and customs. To this end, he develops a violent practice, inciting aggression against all his opponents who he declares to be enemies of the State. Consequently, fascism is the great supporter and promoter of violence, whether by the actions of individuals or paramilitary militias, an ideology that expands day after day with the arrival of Bolsonarism to power in Brazil, in 2019.

There are plenty of public videos that document Bolsonaro's fascist-inspired political thinking. For example, when he categorized the Board of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB) as “the rotten part of the Catholic Church”; when in lectures for Hebraica in Rio de Janeiro in 2017, during the campaign for the presidency of the Republic, referring to the quilombola communities, he adopted the unit of measurement “arroba”, used to weigh slaughter animals, when making fun of the individuals who are part of those communities. communities; by being in favor of torture, stating in 1999: “Pau-de-arara works. I am in favor of torture. You know that”; in the coup process to accept the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, on April 17, 2016, her declaration of vote was as follows: “For the memory of Colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra (officially convicted by the Brazilian State for the crime of torture), the fear of Dilma Rousseff".

Thus, right at the beginning of his government, Bolsonaro announced, on March 17, 2019, at a dinner with representatives of the US extreme right, that he had come to power to carry out a project of deconstruction of countless national achievements. He stated: “Brazil is not an open terrain where we are going to build things for our people. We have to deconstruct a lot.” Destroy the social conquests of the progressive policies of past governments: Public Universities, Career Plans for Public Servants, Environmental Protections, Policy to Enhance the Minimum Wage, Bolsa Família, Minha Casa Minha Vida, Luz para Todos, Labor Rights, Samu, Popular Pharmacy , UPA's 24 hours, SUS etc. In addition to the delivery of public assets (Petrobrás, Eletrobrás) to international financial capital.

As a small but concrete example of this destruction, in the first quarter of 2022, already in the fourth year of the Bolsonarist government, the family income of Brazilians fell to the lowest level of the last 20 years. The result points to 77,7% of families indebted. The aggravating factor is that these families are going into debt not to pay for vacation trips, or home renovations, or the purchase of household appliances. They are going into debt to eat. That is, with Bolsonaro and his generals, Brazil retreated to a dark past of poverty, misery, malnutrition and hunger. Something that had been overcome in the first decade of the XNUMXst century. Currently, according to PNAD, there are 20 millions of Brazilians who suffer from daily hunger. A much larger contingent than the hungry people of Galilee in the times of Jesus of Nazareth.

In this Bolsonarist political context, and starting at the head of Catholic religious entities, on June 19, 2019, the Hope Farm effusively welcomed, by the entire religious community, at its headquarters, located in the municipality of Guaratinguetá - SP, inside its official chapel, Jair Bolsonaro, Michele Bolsonaro and Osmar Terra (at the time Minister of Citizenship) under the command of Friar Hans.

Fazenda da Esperança is a therapeutic community, founded in 1983 by the aforementioned friar and the young Nelson Giovanelli, later becoming an association of believers, recognized by the authority of the Catholic Church, called Família da Esperança, whose focus is on the recovery of addicts chemicals, mainly alcohol and narcotic drugs. The recovery method is centered on three points: Christian spirituality, through which recovering persons incorporate values ​​of fraternity; coexistence, through insertion in the therapeutic community, based on respect, responsibility and solidarity; work, as a pedagogical process, through which responsibility is learned, regaining self-esteem and willpower.

Of that visit, at least two communications in the official video that covered the event are very relevant for our perspective. First, when the ceremony in the chapel was concluded, the reporter declared the following sentence: “After the moments of grace that we experienced inside the chapel here at the male center, President Jair Bolsonaro with his wife and entourage were welcomed by the Poor Clares here at the Mater Monastery. Christi”. Therefore, it was not just any moment, but a special event, a moment of grace, according to the theological orientation through which this community is heading. Grace is always a gift from God, something that the Almighty distributes freely to his faithful. It is with this spiritual dimension that the participants in the ceremony of meeting Bolsonaro elaborate their understandings and convictions about that moment.

And at the end of the video, after the visit to the Monastery, Friar Hans expressed himself as follows: “Without a doubt, it was a very special moment. A recognition of the political part. I was also touched by the sensitivity with which he (Bolsonaro) treated the sisters, who one day had written a letter saying “congratulations” (for winning the elections) and promising prayers. He came to say thank you. He was very moved by the blessing that the sisters sang for him. It was a divine moment.” Therefore, this special moment had a very great symbolic force for all members of the Farm, as it was defined by the religious founder of the therapeutic community as “a moment of God”. There is no doubt, as the Friar said. In other words, it is more a matter of faith and less of reason.

Two other publications related to the relationship between Bolsonarism and Fazenda da Esperança, in the person of Friar Hans Stapel, can help in the reflection. Firstly, an Instagram publication by Michelle Bolsonaro, dated November 11, 2020, recording the visit that Friar Hans Stapel made to the Bolsonaro couple, in Brasília, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, in which he registered a total, until that date, with about 175 thousand people dead. Faced with the neglect of the Bolsonaro government, the Federal Senate, on April 13, 2021, installed a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) to investigate the responsibilities and possible fraud committed by federal authorities in conducting the policy to combat the pandemic.

On her instagram, Michelle posted: “Today I received a visit from Friar Hans Stapel, founder of Fazenda da Esperança in Guaratinguetá – SP. Entities like Fazenda da Esperança make a difference in the lives of these Brazilians who need help”. How much contradiction of the first lady: entire families in need of help to combat covid-19 (as of today, May 22, 2022, 667 Brazilians have already died), and at the time the executors of Bolsonarist necropolitics, intentionally, did of the pandemic a source of shady business, as well demonstrated the report of the CPI of the Senate, approved on October 26, 2021.

According to reports from authoritative people, whose source anonymity is guaranteed, the aforementioned visit to the Bolsonaro couple was not the result of a decision by the ruling collective of Fazenda da Esperança, causing great discomfort to several members of the therapeutic community, as well as to members of other Christian movements. Catholics who are sympathetic and supportive. For example, DHS stated that "these photos posted on Michelle's instagram were too much for us, because we didn't know anything, we were quite disappointed". EP, another supporter of the Treasury, recorded: “I will confront Friar Hans at the first opportunity I get, because he should respect above all the Ideal to which he belongs”. And yet another expressed himself this way: “It's all very new for us here, but I know that those who are silent, consent”.

On April 26 of this year, the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo published the study by CEBRAP (Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning) and the NGO Conectas Human Rights in which religious communities, in the Bolsonaro government, became the main therapy for drug addicts, even without control or evaluation of attested results. According to the study, religious therapeutic communities “receive a large volume of public funds, sometimes financed simultaneously by various spheres of federal, state and municipal power and parliamentary amendments”, as is the case of Fazenda da Esperança. Perhaps such elements will help to better understand this web of relationships.

Finally, there is the last public demonstration by Friar Hans Stapel in intensive support of Jair Bolsonaro on the occasion of the presidential audience with Catholic leaders held on May 18, at 05:16 pm, at the Planalto Palace. At the conclusion of his speech of just over eight minutes, Stapel told Bolsonaro: “I really appreciate your courage in defending life. We are together".

It so happens that, five days before this public demonstration by Hans Stapel, on May 13, at a graduation event at the Military Police Academy in Barro Branco (SP), Bolsonaro shouted loud and clear: “My big dream as President of the Republic is to approve the exclusion of illegality (license to kill). This is my dream. And I pray to God that this will happen. We have to reduce the lethality, but it is that of the good citizen, not the bandit”. That is, for friends, life; for the enemies, the license to kill, as occurs in the various dictatorships, as happened with Jesus of Nazareth, considered a bandit by Herod.

Faced with this latest public support, at the said ceremony, from the founder of Fazenda da Esperança to Bolsonaro, a new batch of reactions were presented by some of his companions on the spiritual journey. PR expressed it like this: “Impressively sad. How does one manage to reconcile Bolsonaro's modus operandi with the Christian message? Also because he is an educated person with international experience. Maybe the way is to question Pope Francis”. CI commented: “Bolsonaro leaves his followers naked. Friar Hans is naked, like all those who, even today, support Bolsonaro, with all the evidence of indecorous and immoral actions and speeches by his government ". LM stated, “It's really unbelievable. It is shocking that someone still defends, blesses, legitimizes the nefarious actions of this genocidal government.”. MS stated: “It is a loss, considering the good that the Farm can do to society. This requires the absolute necessity of independence of works of a religious nature from the relationship with political ideologies”. GP wrote: “It's like this. No one in the management has the courage to face Frei and many others do the same. Does the end justify the means?”. EL said: “My God! I don't even have anything to say. That is inadmissible. Will the frei be able to wake up?”. FR added: "Total disappointment". DHS concluded: “We are speechless, speechless. It will not be easy from now on for the work. There has to be a personal twist to find the point that unites us. It will not be easy!".

In a recent article on the Brasil 247 website, the philosopher Márcia Tiburi, living in self-exile, after suffering death threats from Bolsonarists, stated that fascism, as the maximum expression of capitalism (as stated by Brecht, see above) is driven by hatred of the enemy. Hate is the method that allows treating everything as a mere thing (reification of life). In the fascist world, there must be no openness to the different and vulnerable other, so that symbolic and real violence can be guaranteed and, with it, submission and inequality. There is no love in fascism. He's all capitalization of hate. Therefore, we must ask ourselves about our ability to develop an intelligent, mature and courageous love, which is not consistent with fascism, but which is capable of confronting it properly. Our future depends on our ability to respond to this challenge. This is our political scope.

*Alexandre Aragão de Albuquerque Master in Public Policy and Society from the State University of Ceará (UECE).


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