God and the Devil in Election

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By JULIAN RODRIGUES*

Bolsonarism places the issue of religion at the center of the dispute: in addition to attacking the secularity of the State, it is a trap for the left

“I explain to you: the devil governs within man, – he is either ruined man, or man in reverse. Loose, for you, citizen, is that there is no devil. None! – is what I say. (…) The devil exists and does not exist. I say so. (...) And these melancholies. There is no devil! (…) There is a human man.” (Guimarães Rosa, Great Sertão: Veredas)

"Please allow me to introduce myself; I'm a man of wealth and taste; I've been around for a long, long years; stole million man's soul and faith; St. Petersburg when I saw it was a time for a change; killed csar and his ministers of him; Anastasia screamed in vain". (Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Sympathy for the Devil)

A specter surrounds the Brazilian elections. It is not the specter of communism, supposedly a terrible threat – which has once again become a prominent part of the repertoire of moral panic driven by the extreme right. Over the past few days, unusually, we've seen it's the old and good Devil (himself Beelzebub even in itself) become a major topic of debate in this electoral contest – which opposes the former metallurgist-president to the former fascistoid militiaman-president on duty.

On August 7, the wife of the militia president, known for her religious fervor, denounced the country, in a service at the Alagoinha Baptist Church in the capital of Minas Gerais, a very serious fact: the Planalto Palace was until recently a place “consecrated to demons”.

He specifically mentioned Michelle Bolsonaro's kitchen in the government building. However, it reassures us. Currently everything is fine because, in the words of the ex-captain's “conje”: “[the Palace is] consecrated to the Lord Jesus; there, I always talk and talk to him (Bolsonaro), when I enter his office and look at him: this chair belongs to the greatest president, it belongs to the king who governs this nation; …for many years that place was consecrated to devils; and today it is consecrated to the Lord Jair Messiah”.

The Lula campaign decided to fight back. On August 15, a text was circulated with the title: Lula is a Christian, he has never closed and will never close churches, accompanied by a photo of the candidate with his hands folded (probably taken in one of his numerous recent interviews), as if the presidential candidate was praying – an evident reframing of a commonplace, habitual, frequent gesture.

Most of the text that accompanied the photo on the Lula networks is not bad at all; responds well to Bolsonarist lies, highlighting Lula's historic commitment to freedom and religious plurality.

However, the vibe of the piece is all in the boom, retreated – sliding into the semantic-symbolic field of the enemy. The central argument is to highlight that Lula is Catholic. But what if he was an atheist, spiritualist or umbanda? Would it be a problem? How would we respond to neo-fascists in this scenario? Does the candidate's religion matter more than his ideas and proposals?

The basic principle of the secular state was not mentioned in any part of the PT's response. It was not emphasized that faith or religion are very personal matters, they are related to the private sphere, to the subjectivity of each individual. Government policies, on the other hand, have a different nature. They cannot be influenced by the personal beliefs of the rulers – they concern the community, they are linked to the public sphere.

This time, neither States nor governments, much less rulers, can claim the right to impose, privilege, harm, encourage or discriminate against any belief or religion. It is also forbidden to stigmatize people who do not have faith/belief - that is, those who refused to cultivate magical thinking and opted for rationality, living in a disenchanted world, thus refusing to talk to or pray to imaginary beings.

Ensuring and respecting the right not to believe is the foundation of any democracy worthy of the name, at least since the bourgeois revolutions.

Returning to the grain. In the final stretch, the post from the PT campaign misses the mark, in my view.[I] In a high-sounding way, it is stated: “God is the one who guides Lula's steps”.

Sounds appealing, quite artificial. It crudely merges politics with religion. It flirts with messianism. Something that is not even compatible with the trajectory and positions of the former president. It sucks, so to speak. Also because Lula has always ruled in a rigorously secular and pluralistic way.

Valley post it seems like some marketer's diatribe trying to please and sound creative, when, in fact, it just sails in the old waters of depoliticization and drowns in an ocean of clichés.

Another important gap in Lula's publicity piece. At no time was the right to non-belief mentioned. Serious error, despite being quite predictable. Agnostics and atheists are commonly and carelessly deleted from the world. Do such bastard citizens not vote? It's okay that people are already very familiar with prejudice. But, we still exist – and we are not numerically as irrelevant as we think.

In the 2010 census, the IBGE recorded 8% of people who identified themselves as “without religion”. In current numbers, there are about 17 million Brazilian men and women. We are not so little after all.

2008 survey, by the Perseu Abramo Foundation,[ii] coordinated by the dear and missed Gustavo Venturi showed that 42% of Brazilians feel aversion to atheists (a similar percentage to those who reject drug users: 41%). Simultaneously, the survey registered that prostitutes and gays are rejected by 22%; and ex-convicts by “only” 21%.

That is: non-belief in God is the personal characteristic that most causes disgust. It's worse to be an atheist than a queer, therefore (what to do when you're a queer and a disbeliever?).

In the context of elections, the theme of the relationship with the Churches and religious leaders, mainly evangelicals, is the subject of controversies, discussions, debates and disputes in the progressive field. There are examples of impressive successes as well as phenomenal errors.

I can't forget the 2012 elections for mayor of São Paulo, when the worm Silas Malafaia stated that he would “crush Haddad”. The PT professor at USP crushed the subject – elegantly and firmly – with a sentence that went down in history: “I do not respond to the underworld of politics”. Ready. Fernando Haddad put the mice back in their respective holes. He became mayor of the capital of São Paulo. He led an innovative government, creating new paradigms for social policies and the guarantee of rights.

Generally, every time we on the left try to appear what we are not, in the guise of “enlarging”, we end up in fact moving away from organic allies, diluting our program and blurring our identity. As a rule, in the end we pay dearly for such upgrades. Either immediately, losing the election on screen – or later, watching the “allies” block the agendas and sabotage the governments.

Not to mention the fact that, in the name of the vague and idyllic idea of ​​broad alliances, we often strengthen conservative and physiological sectors – who hate us and really only want to extract advantage and blackmail while working against us. Michel Temer sends kisses.

What was, for example, the role of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in the coup against Dilma? Edir Macedo had appointed his nephew, the mellifluous Marcelo Crivella Dilma's Minister of Fisheries.

The Universal Church class has always had influence in PT governments. More: Macedo made our president a communist old school, attend the inauguration of that horrible section, example of tacky, the Temple of Solomon. And the next moment, IURD/Record, with its deputies, happily joined the coup d'état and helped to materialize the impeachment without crime of responsibility.

 

Laic Lula, Dilma not so much

At first glance it may sound like a contradiction. The Catholic worker Lula made two more advanced and secular governments than the (presumably) atheist, an organic intellectual of the stature of Dilma Roussef.

Without personalism and shallow interpretations: the economic and social conditions in which the two governments took place were very different. As were the margins for maneuver and the symbolic, social and political strength of the Minas Gerais-gaúcha vis a vis those of the Pernambuco-Paulista.

The former unionist's two governments were able to implement a set of innovative affirmative policies that promoted the rights of women, black men and women, people with disabilities, youth, lesbians, gays, transvestites, transsexuals and bisexuals. Lula held more than 60 National Conferences encompassing all themes with broad and active participation of organized movements and civil society.

Universal, systemic and participatory Councils, Forums, Programs and National Policies were created. The Lula government instituted the Ministry of Women, Racial Equality, and Human Rights; and also the National Youth Secretariat, the Coordination of LGBT Policies. He implemented a strong and avant-garde cultural policy with Gilberto Gil, in addition to several inclusive policies in Fernando Haddad's MEC.

Yes, in that period there was already pressure from religious fundamentalist sectors, which were the base of the government, by the way. It is true that they did not yet have the media-social-electoral-institutional strength that they acquired in recent years. In fact, they grew a lot with/under the approval of PT governments, probably even more significantly during the Lula period.

In 2004 Lula launched Brazil without Homophobia, the first consistent program of policies to promote LGBT citizenship (in Brazil and perhaps in the world). On June 5, 2008, Lula opened the XNUMXst National Conference on LGBT Policies. In addition to being a historic landmark, and a cathartic event – ​​it was the beginning of state recognition of this historically so discriminated population.

In those years, there was already strong conservative religious pressure from religious people. And Jair Bolsonaro was already doing his little shows in Congress, disrupting LGBT events, ridiculing the policies of memory and truth, agitating, creating factoids all the time.

But, at the time, the guy seemed to be just a caricatured character on the Luciana Gimenez show and the humorous CQC. That histrionic captain-deputy had the habit of running for president of the Chamber of Deputies. Their vote oscillated between 0 and 9 votes. Jair was nothing more than an extravagant extremist caricature. Good times.

The presence or not of Lula at the opening of the first National Conference on viadas, sapas, trabras, and a whole strange fauna (at that time the term was not used queer) is said to have been intensely debated within the government. There were people whispering in the president's ear: “don't go”, “the subject is controversial”, “the churches are against it”, etc and such. That bureaucratic cowardice disguised as prudence, an indelible mark of acolytes and even of some well-meaning ones.

However, encouraged/advised by the giant Paulo Vannuchi (the best Minister of Human Rights this country has ever had) following his instinct and historic commitment to the oppressed, Lula did go there. And it rocked. She raised our multicolored flag, kissed and hugged the most charismatic transvestite from Paraíba in the world, the unforgettable Fernanda Benvenutty. The rest is abundant iconography and beautiful stories.

In summary: the Lula administrations had an excellent relationship with Christian leaders and churches, and at the same time with religions of African origin, with indigenous peoples, with Arabs and Jews. It promoted religious, ethnic-racial, sexual, cultural plurality (remember Gil/Juca and Pontos de Cultura?).

State secularism, recognition of diversity and the rights of all people were paradigms consolidated in Lula's governments.

Before you accuse me of “passing the cloth”, I admit it. The Lula government did break state secularism in an important episode. In 2008, an agreement was signed between the Brazilian State and the See of Rome (known as the Holy See), which formally recognized the legal status of the Catholic Church in Brazil, validating, for example, religious teaching and officializing tax immunities, privileges to Catholic priests, among other treats.

Considering the general picture, however, Lula's eight years constituted a true civilizing milestone in the theme of state secularism.

Dilma's election in 2010 brought the prospect of even greater progress. After all, she was the first woman to chair our land brazil, experienced political cadre, a socialist militant.

However, however, however, however, the 2010 electoral dispute ended up inaugurating the manipulation of what later became known as moral panic.

José Serra, from the PSDB, despite his progressive trajectory, crossed the border of the good old “civilized” dispute between neoliberals (PSDB) and social democrats (PT). The guy sponsored a disgusting, far-right campaign, full of vile lies – targeting the issues of sexual and reproductive rights (which many, to this day, mistakenly call the agenda of customs, or worse, identity).

The Serra campaign, at the time via e-mail, massively disseminated rumors (ancestors of the current fake news) calling Dilma a lesbian, guerrilla, murderer, abortionist, atheist, communist, a horror...

Such an extremist offensive by the toucan candidate induced Dilma Rousseff to make a mistake, a kind of programmatic turn that came to influence not only her future government, but also the parameters under which debates related to these issues would take place afterwards. Trying to dispel rumors that she had no faith in God, Dilma Rousseff attended the traditional mass at the sanctuary of Aparecida on the October 2010 holiday. On the occasion, she highlighted having a strong religious background.

At the same time, still on the defensive, the PT campaign released a “Letter to the people of God”. In it, Dilma made all possible concessions and gestures to religious conservatism.

At the time, he stated that he was “personally against abortion” (which was probably not true, since, in addition to being a socialist woman, Dilma Rousseff, in 2009, said that “as public health, we believe that [abortion] has to be practiced in conditions of legality”.

In that letter, the PT candidate declares that, once elected president, she will not do anything that “offends the family”. Regarding the bill that criminalized discrimination against the LGBT population, the historic PLC 122, Dilma Rousseff promised to only sanction “articles that do not violate freedom of belief, worship and expression”, adopting almost the same position as the fundamentalists – as if the bill defended by the movement contained anti-religious or restrictive passages to freedom of expression.

The future president chose to uncritically adhere to the discourse of the evangelical fundamentalist crowd. Let us not forget, however, the role of Santa Madre, our ICAR. Part of the Catholic summit stood out in opposition to LGBT and women's rights and against the PT. The then bishop of Guarulhos, Luiz Gonzaga Bergonzini, even sponsored a massive distribution of pamphlets that were anti-Dilma.

Elected president, Dilma Rousseff froze pro-LGBT policies (the gay kit episode is iconic). In the first blackmail of the hypocritical right, her government gave in. The ironic thing is that, despite having appointed the largest number of women ministers in history, Dilma Rousseff has made very little progress in the feminist, anti-racist, LGBTI, indigenous and human rights agendas in general – although she has accomplished very important things, such as the Casas da Women and measures to combat femicide.

After all, excluding conjunctural factors, the government of a woman with a socialist trajectory was more permeable to the pressures of religious conservatism than the government of the former Christian trade unionist. Dilma was much more backward than Lula, in short.

So that there is no doubt: in the first Lula government, the then Minister of Women, the wonderful former dean of UERJ, Nilcea Freire, even presented a bill to decriminalize abortion to the National Congress, among many other of her pioneering initiatives, as the First National Policy Plan for Women.

Already in the Dilma Rousseff government, the iconic feminist, teacher and also former guerrilla fighter Eleonora Menicucci – a personal friend of the president, took over the women’s rights portfolio and ended up overshadowed, fulfilling, strictly speaking, only the thankless task of easing pressure from social movements , helping to justify sameness and setbacks. In fact, the Dilma Rousseff period was much less porous to the agendas of women and LGBT – not to mention indigenous, black people, young people (the list is extensive) than Lula’s governments.

 

Evangelicals against Catholics? Lula vs Bolsonaro?

Between 2003 and 2016, the political, ideological and institutional strength of conservative evangelical leaders seems to have proportionally grown more even than the number of adherents of their churches.

According to the IBGE, the 23 million evangelicals in 2003 became 60 million in 2016. This crowd has increasingly leaned to the right, although this phenomenon is complex, diverse, with countless cuts.

The latest IPEC poll (August 15) gives Lula with 44% and Bolsonaro with 32%. It happens that among Catholics, Lula goes to 51%. And Bolsonaro reaches 47% considering only the evangelical population. Lula jumps 7 points among those who declare themselves Catholics and Bolsonaro grows 15 points among evangelicals. A much more significant advantage, a robust asset of the current president.

When Michelle went after Lula and raised the religion factor to the heart of the electoral dispute, she knew what she was doing. Bolsonaro has difficulties to embody the Christian fanatic character, it doesn't match, he has another chip. However, the former captain can count on the talents of his consort, the beautiful Michelle. Very intelligent, the president's wife managed to guide the presidential race momentarily. She achieved the feat of leading the religion issue to the epicenter of the electoral battle.

The campaign management and Lula himself felt the blow at first. They still haven't found, in my view, the best way to counter the effects of the evangelical-reactionary wave that Jair Bolsonaro's wife set off.

In his first event in the official campaign, Lulão responded frontally to the Bolsonaros, denouncing the manipulative intent of the speech that evokes religion in order, in the end, to deceive the people.

But Lula did it using biblical language. She described the current president as a “Pharisee” (synonymous with hypocrite, fake, something like that). Until then, okay. But, in the sequence, Lula slips up and says: “if anyone is possessed by the devil, it is Bolsonaro”. In other words, he ended up letting himself be captured by the enemy's trap, accepting to lead the debate through this swampy mystical-religious terrain. He even got into an argument about who, after all, would be the Bad Thing.

In these times when “cockroaches fly”, it's always good to go back to basics. We don't just want to win this election. We want to change Brazil. We do not surf on opportunism, nor disrespect the beliefs of the people. Our identity is left-wing, secular, pluralist, diverse, progressive, humanist, transformative. So, when in doubt: analysis of concrete reality, straight talk. Politics in command. Always bet on raising the level of consciousness of the masses.

The PT never won an election by manipulating the faith of workers. The PT has never won an election pretending that it is not a transformative, anti-racist, peripheral, peasant, feminist, libertarian, democratic, popular, secular, pro-LGBT, internationalist, Latin Americanist, environmentalist, indigenist, diverse and pro-diversity party.

Lula is not going to gain anything if he wants to compete with Michele or Jair Bolsonaro who has the primacy of branding his opponent as demonic. Leave Tinhoso alone, dammit. We will defeat neo-fascism in the field of politics. With clear ideas and a lot of ideological debate. Rational. Logical. Secular. Programmatic. Pointing to the future, to the country we want.

* Julian Rodrigues, journalist and teacher, is a Human Rights and LGBTI activist.

 

Notes


[I] https://lula.com.br/lula-e-cristao-nunca-fechou-nem-vai-fechar-igrejas/

[ii] https://fpabramo.org.br/2010/08/04/em-nome-da-diversidade/

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