Militia theological state

Image: Kushnir


The lack of brakes on religious advances over the State has led to its kidnapping and put at risk the freedoms of social groups that are minorities.

Brazil is on its way to becoming a theological militia state. Theological because increasingly what underpins general sociability is religion. A militia member because he creates his own mechanisms for building order that do not involve the idea of ​​a Republic and fewer and fewer people know the concrete meaning of the concept.

In general, the evangelical religion is radicalized in practices and discourses (but not only Catholicism as well) and, in addition, Christian morality has taken over political institutions, electing politicians linked to the religious agenda or supporting other actors who will intensify the themes of customs and guide the country's decisions to the point that it is possible that at some point it could transform the fragile republican representation into political theology.

When discussing theological excesses in Brazil today, it is immediately attributed to the fact of the growth of Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostal religions. But far from that, other elements must be taken into account to address the topic. The roots of Brazilian political Christianity are so ingrained in our culture that we don't even question ourselves.

There were practically 400 years of monarchy; Portuguese and Brazilian, where political persecution had a religious basis: decimating Indians and persecuting Afro-Brazilian culture is the practice, not the exception of our history. Persecuting, disregarding rights and deterritorializing Indians was the practice of our march west; converting them to Christianity was the limit of our benevolent practice.

Therefore, it is not a question of reducing the issue and talking solely and exclusively about evangelical growth in Brazil. On the contrary, the evangelical, faithful in itself is a person who deals with their problems and hardships of daily life. The problem is the meaning of history: before, the influence of religion in politics showed a tendency to decrease and recognize separation. At some point, between the end of the XNUMXth century and, mainly, the beginning of the XNUMXst century, the trend was reversed and there was a greater demand from the theological manifestation of the Brazilian State.

Religious leaders who today represent a clearly conservative political project in Brazil have acted to attribute moral measures to institutions. Subject to these leaders who use their social and moral status to gain leverage, popular participation and demonstrations of mass radicalization can be seen more as consequences of the positions of messianic leaders; symptoms of things, which as causes of popular radicalization – but this is a limit that should not be exceeded, if this leadership manages to win unconditional popular support, we will indeed have republican changes.

It is important that we look closely at the causes of recent social radicalization and increased coalition around the theological perspective. These causes are more linked to the social and political crisis in which Brazil is immersed. It is more due to lack of choice than to choice or agreement. Social needs are a practical problem that every believer is facing and resorting to the possible and the impossible to survive. In general, the sociability crisis is so great that the social representation of the Churches has gained space among the existing centers of aggregation.

In industrial capitalism, the workers' organization changed the representation system in favor of a social state. Forms of sociability revolved around factory work. Nurseries, schools, unions, clubs, etc. they organized themselves around the discipline of work in the factory. With automation and the transition to a service society, sociability has dispersed. Even in sociological studies there were theses defending the end of the centrality of work in social life.

These interpretations got the theme right, even manipulating the criticism. Obviously, work never lost its social centrality. Defenders of such absurd size targeted criticism of workers' rights and the withdrawal of social protection. In a way, they succeeded. Work lost consistency, was fragmented and with this, the forms of worker organization and the state network around the protection of workers and work also lost solidity. As a consequence, the socialization that was formed around working relationships mainly organized according to factory dynamics ceases to exist.

The agricultural world and the manufacturing world place people in the same time and place, working for entire days together. Sociology called this the division of social labor. The contemporary world has made spaces more flexible and fragmented people’s proximity. Other forms of socialization gained space. Churches as we know them today are different from the traditional Church. This allows us to understand that evangelical churches are gaining ground in Brazil because they offer more than simply spiritual comfort. Evangelical churches are concerned with the economic and social well-being of their believers and create social support networks.

The great merit of these Churches is to restore sociability around concrete demands and practical life. Schools, daycare centers, bazaars, job recommendations, business, dating, relationships; everything became a matter for the Church. The sacred and the profane mix because there is no longer a separate place for politics, work and worship. Worship is for the spirit as well as for the economic, loving and political aspects.

Democracy defends the free expression of beliefs and values. However, one of its main critical points is that democracy can be confused with the exclusion of the freedoms of social groups that are minorities. To prevent injustices from happening in the name of specific values ​​held by the majority, civil rights are guaranteed for minorities. We call radicals those who do not recognize the rights of these minorities. And at this point, part of the evangelical pastoral elites considered radical have a political project that inhibits the rights of minorities.

This project implies the expansion of power and domination that involves the assault on the State, electing more and more politicians who represent their worldview. By gaining a political majority, they can confuse the population to the extent that they mistake the fact of elections and voting as being the foundation of democracy. It is not democracy when the majority approves the oppression and restriction of the civil liberties of minorities. In this case, it violates the fundamental rights of minorities (which is the second and main pillar of democracies), disguising democracy through a dictatorship of the majority.

For this project to have space, radicals grew politically in Congress and in state positions, such as seeking to help believers pass exams for the judiciary. In addition, agreements and participation in governments and coalitions. It is estimated that in a few years 30% of Brazilian society will be evangelical, added to Catholics, we are the main Christian country in the world with more than 80% of the population. As the Catholic Church is quite bureaucratized, it has less flexibility than evangelicals and there are differences.

Neo-Pentecostal Churches strengthen their social base by creating institutions that provide services to the State. It is normal for NGOs and OCIPs created by Churches to provide services to the public sector. Daycare centers, schools, social policies, all of this is on the radar of evangelical institutions that, in return, share their political support for leaders. This mechanism has strongly fueled the ability of religious mechanisms to control the social base and allows evangelicals to grow even among believers of other religions.

The kidnapping of the State adds another serious problem: the lack of brakes on religious advances over the State. The democratic right and part of the left have fueled this process, accepted it and entered the game without measuring the consequences. In exchange for political support and an eye on votes, many governments have supported this practice and contracted with public money services that are within the Churches, or worse, encouraged this paid practice to gain votes and trust among pastors.

In the USA, any institution that wants tax exemption has to stay away from the electoral dispute. Churches are institutions of social interest in Brazil that are exempt from taxes and that, consistently, could not actively participate in elections. However, they not only actively participate but nominate candidates or even pastors run for office and occupy public positions. When they are elected or when they have significant votes, this increases their social value which makes them win more and more contracts with governments that have an eye on this political base. This is a huge conflict of interest that society has not discussed and is clearly malfeasance. A director of compliance of any company would be scandalized by such a conflict of interests – in the public sector it would be even more scandalous and in Brazil the standardization and silence about it are deafening.

Prevarication creates the possibility of social niches dominated by messianic political leaders disguised as pastors. Not all pastors play this game, but to separate the criminal from the honest it is necessary to impose laws that separate things. Because the growth in scale of this process already threatens democracy.

The fact that leaders from various political spectrums flirt with this practice demonstrates that the system is out of control. Considering religious support and maintaining political niches controlled by NGOs linked to the scheme of institutions that kidnap citizens through the sociability offered in Churches is a dangerous game on the part of democrats who thus put democracy itself at risk.

Another point that requires attention in this dispute for territorial control is the formation of militias. To counter the power of drug trafficking, especially in needy communities, religious leaders have joined forces with militias. Unlike drug trafficking, militias have sought business in areas under their control that go beyond drug use and the defense of social 'values'. This, in addition to churches, brings elements of pacification and popular support that are sought in contrast to communities taken over by drug trafficking based on funk dances and violence.

There is already more private security in Brazil than public security. Not to mention the fact that some public agents resort to private jobs to supplement their income. According to the national public security forum, there are more than 600 thousand registered private security workers. Added to the clandestine numbers, it is estimated that there are more than 1,1 million people working as armed security in Brazil. More than the approximately 770 thousand members of the public security forces.

For some time, these groups have been creating synergy between moral values ​​and repressive action guided by the theological worldview of communities, facilitating the construction of an exclusionary order. Afro-Brazilian religions have suffered horrors from this alliance. Often exposed to depredations, expelled or oppressed. As well as those services that do not pay the bribes demanded by groups that monopolize community services. Escaping the sociability between churches and militias on the outskirts of large cities is only for the middle classes in central regions. Private and public services on the outskirts are already scrutinized by militiamen and pastors. The question is “when” (and not “if”) it will arrive in the noble regions assisted by public facilities.

Law and Order united against the State. This is the point. Theological law and militia order form radical sociability to which many Brazilian communities are already subject. The obstacles to the expansion of this process are the regions where there is still a State. Where there is universal public health, assisted education, functioning daycare centers, regularized residences, formal jobs. To advance, these groups have the project of transforming their private sociability into public interest and neoliberalism has facilitated this path as it advocates the deregulation of jobs, the absence of the State and the end of public social functions.

Without a State that allows sociability and creates living conditions for the population, the tendency is for these private groups to grow around religious ideology.

Here a parenthesis is essential. There is no criticism of charity or the assistance that religions offer to those in need. This exists and there is no problem in existing because they even fulfill important social functions. The problem begins where these actions begin to replace state public action. The problem increases when there are consistent financial results from public resources. And everything gets worse when politically interested parties start to compete for public positions and hold them. Confusing charity work with votes is a social poison to which we are subject today. But it doesn't have to be that way and we have a history and many examples of institutions that are not that.

Today, pastors linked to militias, priests who make agreements with private security, representatives of the judiciary and government who defend theological values ​​to the detriment of the secularity of the Republic or representatives of public security who act clandestinely as militiamen and representatives of evangelist morality are making the process distinction between public and private; between the secular and the religious more difficult and restricting the limit between what is private and what is an individual right.

Therefore, it is necessary to reverse the game. This requires drastic and often conflicting actions. But, if it does not happen, the tendency is for the growth of the theological State. Governments, regardless of right or left, adhered to the logic of electoral cults. They have accepted that pastors represent political assets and have given them special treatment. Thus, no matter who wins the elections, the system is turning and, even when its main representatives do not win, there are no setbacks.

There is still time to prevent the country from being distorted and democracy from being compromised. Just as it is necessary to maintain the region among religious people and security among public agents. It is necessary to work in two logics. First, limit the power and actions of any institution that provides a public service – which carries out public action and does not take sides. Whoever belongs to the party governs when elected.

Second: it is necessary to restore the centrality of public sociability. The centrality of work does not only concern the ways in which it occupies a central space in people's lives. But, you also need to consider the surroundings. When we have a society working in factories. The beginning of the work day and the end, from 8am to 18pm, breaks, etc., must also consider the hours of schools, daycare centers, clubs, shops, etc. When around 30% of the workforce is employed in shopping malls, in stores and in the service sector in general, it is necessary to consider that working on weekends is a reality, that the journey is varied, that the earnings are varied across the throughout the year and that schedules change.

It is very easy to criticize application works. However, understanding that they adjust to the unstable reality of workers and the flexibility of working hours is easier than changing legislation. Making employers understand that life adjusts to the work environment is possible when there is public support and projects for this. If the government does not understand the flexibility of today's world and does not organize public services around the new reality of work.

If we do not bring about changes that allow the placement and relocation of workers in the professional environment and if we do not understand that the contingent of unemployed, flexible and without prospects creates an environment of instability that is of no interest to anyone, it will really be difficult to escape the hijackings of social life by gangs interested in our social heritage.

The Churches have already understood the context, their politicians too. It is up to the left and progressive sectors to present proposals that are capable of socializing the new reality, or the sociability of this new reality will be forced by militias and occupied by the theological worldview.[1]

*Luis Fernando Vitagliano political scientist and university professor.


[1] I would like to thank Rodrigo Marçura and Marlus Alexandre for their comments.

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