Faith and Fury

Image: Robert Rauschenberg
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By JOÃO MARCOS DUARTE*

Comment on the film directed by Marcos Pimentel

 

1.

There are those who take seriously the expression “terribly evangelical” uttered by the current President of the Republic to refer to the criteria for his appointment of the new Minister of the Federal Supreme Court – an unfortunate consideration as usual. And they take what has been said so seriously that they turn “terribly” into furious. I am referring to director Marcos Pimentel, who in 2019 directed the documentary Faith and Fury, commercially released only in October 2022, investigates relationships between new Christians (neo-Pentecostals who live in the favelas and whose profession ranges from the neighborhood mechanic to the funkeiro-de-Jesus or the drug dealer) and whose social relationships with the non-Christians and with people of African origin, such as candomblé and umbanda, are mediated by faith.

In the unsuspected words of the synopsis offered by the producer of the feature, it is a “documentary that approaches the religious conflicts existing in favelas and suburbs of Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte. The unbridled growth of evangelical churches and their relationships with the drug dealers who run the communities have caused an imbalance of religious forces in the hills and favelas, resulting in countless cases of religious intolerance that interfere not only with the practice of cults, but also with the structuring of the territory. and the behavior of its inhabitants”[I].

As we can see, this is a furious documentary that in a way will try, as documentary art should, to place itself in the social field that it delimits, choose one side, oppose the other and reflect on the unfolding of its choice – the author himself claims to be a militant of the documentary, a “film against intolerance”.

It is interesting to note that the voices that echo in this documentary are of such magnitude that, in a certain interview with the author, the first question even quotes one of the figures from the film itself and ends with the infallible question: “do we deserve a dumb country?”[ii]. And, obviously, the director's response is "we don't deserve it"[iii]. Despite this, the consensus and clichés about the myth of Brazilian non-violence are replicated in all its points although, for some reason, who knows what, what is surprising is that for some years a hatred has been distilled that is not atavistic, but constructed by a project of power – which, like a wave, comes and at some point will leave us –, which the creator of the documentary opposes using his work as a weapon.

At the beginning of the interview, Marcos Pimentel says the reason that led him to do Faith and Fury: before the favelas were miscegenated and accepted the different; followers of religions of African origin, who had the respect of drug lords, suddenly began to be rejected by them. That changed for some reason, to be scrutinized by the documentary.

In the words of Bianca Dias' critique, we are facing “a kind of archeology of neo-Pentecostal fanaticism”, operating from “the vigorous speeches of those who denounce barbarism and write its history”, referring to the opposite pole, religions of African origin. . For her, as well as for the director, the documentary in question “denounces this domination of bodies” made by the amalgamation between religion and economy, neo-Pentecostalism and capitalism, one being responsible for “moral vigilance” and the other for the transformation of everything into merchandise. ; in a word, what is operated is the “instrumentalization of fear”.

The combination of moral vigilance and merchandise results in the transformation of all images (because the binomial image-iconoclasm is what is observed by the psychoanalyst who analyzes the film) into idols made “from a totalitarian aesthetic” and that, in the end, After all, they represent the slogan that chills every last hair of all people who still have blood pulsing in their veins: “Brazil above all, God above all”[iv].

Here we come to the fundamental question that mobilizes this and many other documentaries: what happened so that, after ten years of honeymoon in which Brazil found its destiny and became the country of the future – with the right to cover in The Economist, – and in which we had been having full employment, we reached this catastrophe? We had left the hunger zone, we were acceding to a position as a nation that would have the conditions to educate the entire population in a dignified and sensible way in the future – or at least the entire population that wanted to be educated and thus have a passport to the future that already was. the present and it was here –; who looked at people and saw them all with a smile on their faces, who managed to destroy the wake of the 2008 economic crisis (by the way, at the time this statement was confirmed to be true; what former president Lula did not foresee was the second wave that hit us hard).

It is quite true that some dangerous people (dangerous minorities or “fifi middle class” are different names for an apparently same thing that always received the tearful answer from the tearers on duty: “accept that it hurts less”) came and annoyed the fair workers who they did everything for the nation, including increasing the dividends of those who complained; in short, a civilization (only Brazil is called that) made in the fashion of the welfare state or the European welfare state, a salary society idealized since the 1930 Revolution that took more than four hundred years to be conceived, designed and carried out by the PT popular-democratic governments and that in five years collapsed giving way to the crapulinskis on duty, symbols of the obscurantism of the international foundations that want our oil and that unilaterally put the deliverers and social climbers – until recently fifth-rate parliamentarians and believers in the hollow wood – to do whatever they wanted.

We are in the wake of Rodrigo Nunes' diagnosis,[v] when comparing two cinematographic productions (earth in trance, by Glauber Rocha, from 1967, and Democracy in Vertigem, by Petra Costa, 2018). It is evident, in the author's words, the accountability, or not, of sectors of the left regarding the course of Brazilian history in two decisive moments. If, in the first, there was the artistic elaboration of a left that had seen its project and its illusions short-circuited by being defeated, and from then on, had turned its eyes on itself to see where it had a part in the catastrophe, in the second, past 50 years, the documentary about the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff seeks the culprits, the traitors, the criminals, but at no time is she perceived as part of the situation and its political implications for the historical process[vi]. Judging by the formal quality of Glauber's film and the two documentaries, the one mentioned and the one analyzed by us, it is not just politically that we have regressed.

One more problem: faith and fury, documentary-manifesto against the “theocratic, theocentrism” that would reign – in the words of a character in the documentary – was stillborn, because its premiere took place in 2019. The recordings took place between 2016 and July 2018, when the catastrophe[vii] that befell us in October of that year was already knocking at the door, but as we shouted “there will be no coup!” and “Not him!” we didn't realize the size of what was coming.

Nobody in their right mind thought that Jair Bolsonaro would be elected as he was – not even the most optimistic supporters. All those who had any sense of democracy and any kind of sanity were absolutely amazed with the 47% of valid votes that the then candidate obtained in the first round. Candidate who did not go to any debate and who got his fame for fake news and a stab. It could not have occurred to anyone who was a supporter of Brasil Potencia to dream that one day this disaster would happen – not only did they not dream, but they began to have nightmares.[viii]

How is it possible that in the country of the future a dispute between an ex-soldier and a professor could happen and, what is worse, the ex-soldier win[ix]? We are used to looking a lot at great figures, leading personalities, magazines, quantitative data, institutions, to see the cause of what affects us. Faith and Fury leaves these commonplaces aside to see what happens underground in contemporary Brazil: the favelas.

Old Testament, material reality of life, funk and everything else are involved in the documentary as in life; That is the great meaning of this work, which wants to see religious phenomena as part of the world, and not simply as a doctrine arising from the hallucinations of certain people, even if at times it tries to make connections with certain paranoia and with the State, as we will see. This situation – that of débacle of the autonomy and miscegenation of the favelas and the resurgence of the conservatism that operates today –, for the documentary, begins when “Catholics leave prisons”, abdicate their grassroots work with the CEBs and Pentecostal Christians enter these empty spaces to conquer minds and hearts with the aim of (in the words of the interviewee in the above-mentioned interview) “conquering the market” – a presupposition of the film that is never nuanced. In any case, very different and much closer to reality than the impressions and sermons against neo-Pentecostalism made by pastors who claim the heritage of the Protestant Reformation.

The construction of the film is architected from the various voices of the peripheries; each one of them, in different appearances, puts in place its little brick for the construction of the diagnosis of the intolerance that reigns and whose cause and remedy are exposed by all the interviewees. In short: there are no arguments against testimonials.

Unlike other types of cinema, the montage that occurs in this type of documentary apparently allows the meaning of the script to be constructed by the spectator, as he will have the opportunity to hear each voice in each appearance and whose sum forms the chorus conducted by the director. A mixture of testimonies, experiences and social syntheses intertwine throughout the work and give voice to those who have been oppressed on the outskirts of large urban centers, but also to those considered oppressors by the oppressed groups. Throughout this architecture – which goes as far as “national politics”, in the words of Marcos in the aforementioned interview – there are three voices that appear and form the chorus intended by the director: the faithful of religions of African origin, the neo-Pentecostal Christians – the meaning used here solely within what is constructed in the film – and non-neo-Pentecostal Christians (Illustrated Christianity, so to speak).

Throughout everything that takes place in this documentary, the speech of each of the voices and their concert is decisive, hence the interest in returning to what they have to say and what it is possible to think from each of them. This allows, perhaps, to give body to what is said, to the bias taken by the director, and see how all this allows us to understand the fundamental problem of this documentary, namely, how we ended up in this end of the world that has become Brazil since 2015 (or 2013 for some others). For us, since it is of great value to deal in detail with each of the great characters on stage, let's start with those who have the documentary itself as allies: religions of African origin.

 

2.

We started with a voice in the background while still presenting the sign: “It's okay, it's okay. It doesn't go up or down here. It's monitored." To which another voice replies: “No, it took too long, bro, I'm going to get the kids to work here, you know? And God blesses everyone there. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High in the shadow of the Almighty will rest, I will say of the Lord, he is our God, you know?”. It opens in an open plan view of a part of a favela on a hill, with houses all made of brick, with brick color and some trees.

The first sentence already tells us everything: drug traffickers are invoking the protection of the Triune God for their mission, God who will allow them to carry out their intention and will make them rest, because they are in His shadow and He is invoked by them. This statement is accompanied by shots of recognition of the favelas, which are also characters in the documentary – the first shot that appears recalls the beginning of the film. Tenants – those who are bothered to move (2010) by Sérgio Bianchi. In addition to the images, the sound produced by these communities is part of the recognition.

“Jesus Christ lives in my house” (the house is actually a drawing, in place of the door and the window we see red hearts): the phrase appears on the door of a house. A concrete wall, in a place that was visibly cleaned to receive it, is in focus: “Hu enemy has strength, but only Jesus has the power”. We still don't know what it refers to, and only along the way will we know what it is. A beautiful wall with drawings of shacks has the motto “God is the owner of the place”.

Cut. The next sequence, an umbanda ritual, features two women, who minister, and a girl who accompanies him. Seeing the ritual, we have the first testimony: Kayllane, still a girl, was hit by a stone thrown by people who shouted “go to hell” because she was wearing her white clothes in the alleys of the community. When detailing what happened, we heard the voices of the testimonies and entered the universe of religions of African origin with beautiful images of the Orixás painted on the walls – the bright colors contrast with the black and white of the initial walls and the brick color of the favela territory. “Magdalene was stoned”, says the grandmother in a mention of the biblical character. “We are going backwards”, she sentences her at the end.

After the abrupt cut of the statement about the attack, we have the beginning of the chapter “Warriors”, in which the first image is a woman who professes her faith in an African-based religion, who does her hair and puts on her turban. It was through candomblé that she began to think about “racism, homophobia”. The turban, in addition to demonstrating her faith, which she is not ashamed of, is a symbol of her blackness, “to demarcate an option (…) that is also political”; in short, a culture that represents matrices demands respect for them. For all this, she says, “there is a diversity of oppression over us, it is religious, it is institutional, it is homophobic, it is racist”. This is Carol's voice, which will bring us, in addition to these, other luminous observations regarding all this imbroglio within the communities.

The complaints are as follows: reports of harassment (Jessica);[X] of the possibility of confrontation (Mãe Marta); of racist neighbors, evangelical whites, with guns in their hands, who shoot in the air, who call the police and who, according to Mametu Muiandê, a mother of saint, “really managed to intimidate me”. Later on, she completes that, like any human being who has blood running through his veins and professes a faith, he will leave “great warriors fighting” for his terreiro. There is also a report of the fear that schoolmates will find out about her religion (Sara); the invasion of a yard with a car (Mãe Flávia); the murder of two personalities of religions of African origin, in the name of God (Makota Celinha); invasion of public manifestation of faith (Father Ricardo);[xi] prohibition of freedom of worship and depredation of salons and terreiros (Pai Bruno).

As for this last complaint, it interests us, because it is there that the other character – who holds the other side of the story – appears in all her majesty. While Pai Bruno tells us that his hall was destroyed due to religious intolerance (only the saints were vandalized) and says that he doesn't mind the church next door, because "they have the right to worship, I have the right to worship", a plan continuous from bottom to top reveals the church: a white house rises from the ground that seems to have no end, such is the delay for the camera to climb; at its top and in the center of the façade, a red heart surrounds a white dove, over the inscription “Jesus Christ is the Lord”: the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD).

From then on, the enemy is identified by the characters themselves: these are the neo-Pentecostal churches that, for a power project, for twenty years have been buying “cinema, theater”, building their temples-companies all on the side of the street, while the terreiros they are in the backyard (words by Pai Ricardo) The project of these churches is to find, indoctrinate people to form paramilitary groups that become “army of God, Soldiers of Jesus” and “Gladiators” of the IURD insurging against the religions of matrix African. This added to the “economic power they have behind them, the media power they have behind them, is the political power they have behind the bench” (Babalaô Ivanir). In short, as Makota Kizandembu puts it, “they are determined to do like Hitler”: the triplet racism, genocide[xii] and fascism.[xiii]

A new element then appears: trafficking. We are told that the current debacle began twenty years ago, when neo-Pentecostal believers began to enter prisons to make believers. Before there was respect between drug trafficking and religions of African origin; no one messed with anyone, there was peace between them, even many were adherents of Afro-Brazilian cults and performed their rituals, especially on days of possible confrontations with the police and other types of missions. It broke. According to the deponents of African-based religions, pastors go to prisons, take Bibles, pray for people, say they need to change their lives and convert. Furthermore, say the voices of our first character, this proselytizing strategy would have worked and the traffickers began to change sides. As in our world, prison does not reform, it only improves the technique of those who are isolated from the world there for years on end, drug dealers, when they convert and leave prison, make people who are under their control - because that's what what it is about – also accept their faith and submit to the creed of the owner of the hill, of the mouth, of the community: new theocratic sovereign para-State.

The accusations do not stop there. The issue is not just limited to converting subordinates, but amalgamating them to trafficking; about this, during the course of the documentary, collusion between the churches that are in the favela and drug trafficking is also conjectured and denounced, for money laundering. On the other hand, of course, the Christian traffickers must close the terreiros to increase the number of members and tithes of the churches, making the vicious circle turn faster. In Carol's words, before there were São Jorges, messages of war against factions, music, funk – in a word: diversity; today, on the walls, there are “verses and psalms”[xiv].

To make matters worse, we still have two more actors entering the scene, obviously on the side of the neo-Pentecostals: the police and the militia. The police with their gospel side, and the officers of that team – who, precisely for that reason, are the sovereign figure par excellence that establishes the law and jurisprudence at the same time, as anyone who has eyes and ears to see and hear knows – they do not miss the opportunity, as usual, to impose what they want. The other ally, who is or was at some point in the police, is more drastic: where there is a militia with Christian people, there is no terreiro, there is no other type of religion.

This is the scenario of the film: a favela displays its owner in the inscriptions and institutions (God), but it also carries with it other religions that, precisely because they are inhabiting a land now belonging to the Almighty and his soldiers-traffickers and soldiers-in-suits -and-tie-and-dress, are not welcome and cannot stay there.

There are two things to note when it comes to documentaries. The first is that the “favela” or “community” is an abstract entity. We see its architecture, but we don't know what community it is, its geographic location. And even with testimonials, it remains an abstraction. This becomes even clearer when we identify that perhaps one or another territory is being spoken about due to the accentuated accent of one or another character. The second: the homogenization of the film's discourse which, precisely because it does not differentiate locations and blend the effects of each one, has a totalizing desire regarding its discourse.

Returning to the sequence of the film, what is opposed to the calamity that is established from the drug dealers-neo-Pentecostal union? Faith, the State and, it must be said, a certain kind of resentment.

Let's start at the end. It is notorious to observe how the figures do not conform with the conversion of drug dealers to Christianity, also because, for people of African origin religion, these power holders of communities do not follow the Bible, the neo-Pentecostals ditto.. However, the argument seems fallacious, because the many intersections between certain rituals of these religions and the Christian faiths are unknown – one cannot forget the diversity of cultures that formed the Brazil we live in today, despite the African matrix.[xv]

For those who testify in the film, the problem is not trafficking, but the traffickers who have converted to a religion that is against others and who say so loud and clear. As we know, Christianity in all its facets is totalizing, and nowadays (as in truth it always has, with greater or lesser pride) it has no shame in proclaiming it; so much so that in the middle of the post-modern, post-Christian, post-everything era, we have a Christian president and Christian ministers whose criterion for choosing and moving up to a higher level is, supposedly, faith. Obviously, if this religion speaks to the hearts of traffickers, it must not have something good, according to the voices that denounce this marriage between trafficking and neo-Pentecostalism. Furthermore, they apply the same mechanism to the churches that they apply to the State: the constitutional legislation governs everything, including the churches that are in the most remote corners of the country. This will all be refined later on. It only remains for us to say that resentment is at the origin of the genealogy of conservatisms that devastate the world today.[xvi]

What stands out is the often moralistic discourse that is heard about this spurious relationship between drug trafficking and the church. In the face of this, one appeals to common sense and to the State. Denunciations to the Public Prosecutor's Office run rampant and talk about the separation between State and Church is becoming louder and louder. “When the Holy War starts (…) they will want to take action”, says Mãe Marta regarding the future and the government's attitude. “Why don't you take action now? Why don't you end it now?" The answer to the obvious question is laconic: why not. There is a sharp line that separates the domain of the State that acts based on what is in the codes and another that takes a different type of action[xvii]. But that other side has already converted to Christianity as well. The outputs are really running out, but the appeals remain the same and the blows only increase in strength and quantity. And nobody understands what is happening.

It's as if we lived until recently in a blessed homeland where everything had already been conquered and peace reigned, but which for some time now has been changing its face (or character). As much as one would like to deny it, there is a belief, certainly ideological, that Brazil is naturally good and that there are enemies, the dangerous minority, which means that whenever our country – a land flowing with milk and honey – – is in the process of becoming a minimally habitable place, someone goes there and puts an end to the collective dream and the smile of the crowd.

In this case, for religions of African origin, always according to what is narrated by the documentary, the neo-Pentecostals are this totalizing discourse that wants to make everyone equal, wear suits and ties, leave their idols aside, paint the walls with verses and launder money for drug dealers and their pet politicians. This discourse has a voice not only in the documentary, but also in different media and pulpits – often with different words, given the breadth of the speaker's Latin.

Against the totality, the multiple; against collusion, morality[xviii]; against uniformity, diversity. Here are the binomials posed by the film. Obviously, the second term is always on the opposite side of neo-Pentecostal Christians (whether they are the owners of the hill, the little ones who die from police shots or those who are leading their normal life carrying a Bible in their pocket and equally hostage to everything that happens, including stray bullets from the PM or drug traffic).

It is interesting to note, however, that, contrary to the purpose of the documentary, the greatest spectrum of diversity is in the neo-Pentecostal churches – even if this diversity is often sinister because it ranges from suits and ties to drug dealers or Edir Macedo. In any case, diversity is diversity: a wider spectrum of colors (even with most black suits), races, social conditions and lifestyles (ranging from immobility to sadism, passing through different types of preachers).

Let us never forget that everything takes place in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais. The Christians who appear live in the same places, including the favelas that are the target of war and property in the film. Today, they are the ones who, despite what they represent, symbolize the country's greatest diversity, whether in terms of the people or the deaths that prevail there. Diversity, in addition to soy, is of great importance. commodities that serve national pride. Favelas fuel tourism; between one stray bullet and another, they tirelessly welcome native tourists and visitors to see the beauties of this part of the nation.

What is intriguing is the dispute over who owns and has a monopoly on diversity and the true Brazil. The big question posed in the documentary is not the long history of suffering and extermination (to be always denounced in a society that we know to be the result of the slave trade, indigenous extermination by conversion or machete, and commercial exploitation). It is about shifting the question to the discussion about the ownership of the territory by a specific group. This is the beginning of the imbroglio of the famous place of speech. It is not by chance that this phraseology has its date of birth at the same time that it was proclaimed that “there is no alternatives” for our world and we watched the Washington Consensus, on the one hand, and on the other we heard, in the cynical voice of the former sociologist president, that “there are the unemployable ones” – the culmination of the already mentioned “decline of the bachelors”.

It is also worth remembering that the PT governments did not depart from this logic and their social programs of humanitarian impulse leveled the competition for those who want to run; rather, they merely ratified the maxim of our time: containment and management for whoever wants it; for those who don't want it, they also have something else (since it's about inclusion): shooting, beating and bombing – to speak like our eminent Waleska. In a word: welfare e warfare are the two sides of the same coin.[xx]

Within all this homogeneity, this broth that puts us in front of a certain dead end, what to do? Continue listening to the voices of this choir of African-based religions, the protagonist of our film. In this coming and going of accusations, in Carol's voice, something luminous emerges that makes us start to think about the possibility of understanding the catastrophe that is approaching: “I don't think that [what] neo-Pentecostals perpetuate today in terms of religious intolerance be a novelty. No, I think the Catholic Church did this over many centuries, there was an Inquisition, right? We had a court created to judge crimes of faith, right? And if it didn't agree with the church, then it didn't agree with what the Catholic Church wanted. What I think is that neo-Pentecostals have taken this dualism, this demonization and this persecution to the last consequences”.

That's what it's all about: a continuum that reaches the Neo-Pentecostals, but that has its beginnings with the beginnings of the Church and that, to a greater or lesser extent, passes through all of Christendom.

 

3.

After voiceover Christian traffickers, the first Christian figure to appear is a girl, at the opposite pole to the colors and movements of African-based religions: her image is still, as she is on the bus (everything seen from the window moves; she, however, it is immobile). The color filter also changes; now we have a pale image of the girl to finish the characterization, in addition to the straight hair and white skin.

Cut to Psalm 23, in the Bible opened by the girl, still without revealing her identity; on the side we see a heart that receives the inscription “you are special”. Another voiceover – this time, unlike Carol, who positioned herself as someone who discovered herself as human through religion, we have, like the drug dealers at the beginning of the film, the speech of the young woman, Camila, which revolves around weapons and war. The image of a small sticker on the door is focused: “24h this house is covered by the blood of Jesus”, with weapons from the physical world and the spiritual world. Camila ends by saying that God looks at us “as warriors, right? God said that God chose us young people because 'you are strong'”.

New cut: with a camera in hand, someone climbs the concrete stairs surrounded by brick walls and follows, from behind, a man with a different haircut, a frightening gait that makes other people around fear the figure and leave your path. While on the stairs, we see and hear Camila again, who tells us that “I learned something, that the enemy, he's like he's around us 24 hours a day waiting for us to make a break so he can swallow us up, but oh God, He kind of sends his angels to be able to fight in our favor and get rid of the hidden enemies that we don't see with our physical eyes”. She goes on to say that “the devil and demons are… they are everywhere, right? They are there, waiting, right? And God always there with the..., sending his angels. We do not see, but God, He contemplates, right? Always warring us and protecting us from all evil.”

Behold, the angel appears: he is the man frowned upon and full of tattoos e piercings that we have seen climb the stairs and walk down the street to then hang from hooks on the back and fly off a tree. Pain gives him pleasure, and the apparatus that suspends him appears like the wings of a fallen angel and makes him fly tied to the hooks. A mix of angel, devil and Jesus. Here are the warriors of Christ painted by Faith and Fury. Fabrício, our fallen angel, was Catholic and was converted by “feeling God” in his presence in a Pentecostal church.

Now we have a pastor who arrives, opens the doors of his church, whose façade reads “Igreja Internacional, Army of God – Jesus is the General”. In the not very large hall, just three colors – white, pink and aqua green –– illuminated by a small crack of sunlight. At the take, our preacher occupies the scene at various times, commenting on his life, speaking with believers, sharing the screen with a lion (which symbolizes Jesus, the “lion of the tribe of Judah”) depicted on his pulpit at the time of the testimonies. In short, carrying out their work with zeal. In services, people sing without moving and celebrating, with the right to the laying on of hands – once again, motionless. In some cults, two colors are added: black for suits and red for some shirts.

We have just seen the description of Pentecostals, or Neo-Pentecostals, as presented by our documentary: a cliché image that, in an immediate and crude way, intends to identify the enemy. But this enemy is himself the scapegoat that pleases Greeks and Trojans and makes them wield the weapons they need to hold someone responsible for the catastrophe that has befallen us for a long time. This accountability[xx] , a modality of the punitive wave of the times we live in, of which one of the extremes, in the Brazilian chapter, is the UPP.

But we cannot forget that neo-Pentecostals are also victims of these same Units, because, as portrayed in the film (and who constitute the vast majority of these faithful), they are next-door neighbors of people who profess faith in one of the religions of African origin and who, even if not stopped by the police (there is controversy about this statement), are just as much victims as the first of sudden interventions, of conflicts between police, militia and drug trafficking, of stray bullets, to say the least. But, for the documentary, everything needs to fit together, and this omission is a comfortable path, including the help given by the great strongholds of that same jargon (“neo-Pentecostalism”) with their churches-companies and their pulpits-businesses such as the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God and sister franchises (in Christ?).

In a word, it is as if the Christians who live in the favelas had not been sung by the Racionais MCs and the rap that puts Brazil's favelas and peripheries to shame. On the contrary, still mentioning cultural products, all the films that are part of a certain type of formation of the imaginary of Brazil in the 2000s, when they are filmed in the periphery or deal with it, have as a soundtrack the praises of these Christians captured by the microphone, not as incidental soundtrack[xxx].

In short, an image of a people who, in theory, would only know how to speak their own language, and that any novelty that contradicts their clumsy worldview and customs would not have the capacity for (or taste for) rational dialogue and would resort to violence. Wouldn't that be the racist image created by whites for non-white peoples that the accusers here claim to fight, but end up reproducing by identifying the enemy (the different) in the same way? In short, an image that says more about who created it than about who appears in it.

In short, the perplexity of seeing a project in Brazil collapse that gave dignity to people to be free in their own way (whatever each of these terms means to those who profess them) and that, based on the analysis of our documentary- profession-of-faith, begins when Catholics leave the favelas and neo-Pentecostals arrive there and in the prisons where they convert drug dealers who, when released, want to christify the favela from top to bottom just like Constantine and the Popes. And this narrative is referenced in some moments: Pastor Paulomar – preacher and main voice of this character that we are trying to characterize and understand better – says that he was a drug dealer and that he was sentenced to seven years in prison. A woman claiming to be a missionary visited him in jail and spoke to him.

He then had his encounter with God. On the day of his custody hearing, Paulomar tells us that he talked to God saying that “never again will handcuffs be in my hands” and as an answer from God this never happened again. He became a shepherd. Another man gives a similar statement throughout the film: a former drug dealer, without disclosing his identity, says he used drugs, dealt and was pursued by police, until one day he began to think about the legacy he would leave for his children: or be “ a good man or a drug dealer” – a duality that, sometimes changing the order of terms, permeates every Brazilian. In that moment of crisis, he read the Bible and made an alliance with God, promising that he would give up everything to serve Him: “I spoke to Him and He spoke to me”, he concludes.

We already know what this service is: missionary work. Finally, we have one more figure who is jealous of his mission. Quelly Silva confirms what everyone wanted to hear: first she went to visit the prisons as a missionary who preaches the word of God for the repentance of sins and then she went to the slums to take care of the children and talk about Jesus to them, making bellicose and virile music[xxiii] “aimed at the favela audience, of believing children”.[xxiii] Another missionary doing her job with zeal.

All of this perfectly represents our cliché image of a people that has not followed the developments of Brazilian democracy founded on stable institutions for more than thirty years, who want to kidnap the country with a few verses that make people's minds and bring them closer to the who is a “good citizen”, for the most positive, or a simple mass of maneuver or pawns in the hands of their leaders, for some others.

The problem is that neo-Pentecostalism was not born in 2014 as if made by the Creator's hands. In fact, it is from 1910, 1911 the appearance of the first Pentecostal groups in Brazil.[xxv] Therefore, the strangeness caused by the “perfect fit” proposed by the documentary, perhaps due to a certain remnant of impudence that, out of good heart or moral appeal, needs to format everything and end any trace of contradiction. Despite the new configurations of the new spirit of capitalism where everything is a business and must be governed by business logic (making everything a gray area that mixes verses of virile cynicism, zeal in your daily work activity, without forgetting entrepreneurship, which is the welfare of this new become world we live in), what can first be called Pentecostalism is Classic Pentecostalism that dates from 1910 and 1911 (that is, before the last restructuring of the world-system that is known, therefore, without business logic embedded in the head of each individual as a mantra, a creed or the magic formula for peace to live by today).

According to the review carried out by the sociologist Vinicius do Valle, it was “mostly poor and low-income people” who “were discriminated against, on the one hand, by the historic Protestant churches” and, on the other, “by the Catholic Church”.[xxiv]. As in the United States, one of the origins of this movement, its supporters were mostly black and descendants of slaves. One of the main reasons for their discrimination was economic conditions, in addition to the fact that in Pentecostal churches the role has always been female – a fact that was, and still is, execrable or at least worthy of distrust in any denomination that claims to be Christian.

We can even say that, at some point, there could be an exchange between theologies, but it should be noted that whoever speaks of prosperity theology in Faith and Fury they are figures that are not related to neopentecostals (as they are called in the documentary, although in fact the name is not accurate). Pentecostals, precisely because they are poor and marginalized people, from the beginning have been and built their temples in peripheral areas, abandoned and difficult to access in cities, where no other Christian segment can enter (or even wants to enter).[xxv]

These prejudices seem, once again and always, a certain class prejudice (or that has its origins there), because this Christian denomination started in the North and Northeast and later came to the central and southern regions of Brazil. Finally, it is worth alerting to the need to rethink the chapters of a certain progressive historiography that say that in the beginning the favela had no God, then the CEBs came, organized those people and then, for some reason (never revealed, say , in passing), they left, when, then, the Pentecostals or Neo-Pentecostals invaded that inhospitable and relegated place to make believers and turn the game of secular and infidel Brazil. Apparently, in reality, there was a constant exchange, since African-based religions and Pentecostalisms have always coexisted in the peripheries.

At some point CEBs get in there and then out. Those who have always remained remain: the Pentecostals and religions of African origin. Therefore, with this retrospective and their respective considerations, it is possible to refute this touchstone, endorsed in the documentary, that the CEBs abandoned the prisons and peripheries and only later did the Pentecostals appear there and destroy everything.

There is some interest in realizing that neo-Pentecostals became a public target on many fronts after they abandoned ship in the middle of President Dilma Rousseff's first term. Until then, as much as you didn't like them for their conservative agendas, you put up with that nuisance, because it gave votes. And that's right: Pentecostals as a whole, in Vinicius do Valle's reconstitution, voted for the Legislative in one way and for the Executive in another. The author demonstrates that for Pentecostals in general (and for assemblies, in particular, who are the ones surveyed), the Legislative is more associated with the moral and day-to-day guidelines of the community, whether against abortion or in favor of freedom of choice. cult of each church, while the Executive is important for economic life – work, salary, etc.

Well, like all of Brazil, a team that is winning doesn't change: with Lula and Dilma everything was going well economically, everyone was doing well and being employed – regardless of the quality of the job –; therefore, until 2014 the votes for the Executive went mostly to the PT and, even, the speeches of the great pulpits observed by our researcher were mild when speaking of the Workers' Party, because they knew that their faithful would vote for Marta, Haddad, Lula and Dilma, and they didn't want any confusion.

Furthermore, most of the candidates put forward by the churches were running for the legislature; as already mentioned, people who were known to the faithful – and it is very clear that the candidate's electoral success lay in the fact of his connection with the community. When things start to go sour, everyone wants to find a solution: who's close? Let's vote for them. In 2014, Aécio and Alckmin. In 2018, Doria and Bolsonaro.

Simple as that: pure sociability. This happens in two ways: in a country whose economic performance has always been linked to the ideology of corruption and the corrupt have been identified, it remains to vote for others and, nowadays, with pride in being right-wing[xxviii]. When asked what they base their political choices on, they answer with conviction: the Bible. And when asked which biblical references were used, they respond with the same canonical texts that anyone who confesses with their mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord will also respond.[xxviii].

The other point of this sociability is the specificity of the lives of these people, who live in places where nobody wants to look, but who even so have their own social constitution, with their rites, customs, rules and businesses – from the grocery store in neighborhood to transnational drug and vehicle theft networks – in addition to the surprising dispersion and increase in the number of faithful, churches and everything else. Well, we all know that in the beginning everything was Church and it was with the doctrine of secularization that the space, the rift between the State and the Church was opened.

In a country that only had its official independence in the mid-XNUMXth century, its first republic only at the dawn of the XNUMXth century and that, as we know, completed a certain modernization in terms of conservatism[xxix], and, to add, relegated most of its population to poverty, how is it possible that religion is not a fundamental point of identification, of creating bonds of fraternity, where “welcoming, conviviality among brothers, that help him to remain 'firm in the faith', in addition to the element of saving the 'lost' life”, in short, helping and building something, including the recovery of drug addicts (the biggest fear of any Brazilian family ) while the rest of the world is concerned with institutions and public policies?

This is because “if in the work environment, [the faithful] perform mechanical, precarious and undervalued functions, in the church they can take command over a group or some task, in addition to obtaining space and recognition for being in a pulpit praying and speaking”[xxx]. Is there anything that needs to be said after that description? Obviously, returning to the electoral issue, “it is from this identity that the institution builds its political discourse and the propaganda of its nominees for the elections”. That is, “the community issue and shared values”.[xxxii]

There remains the sad, but not startling, observation that our documentary seems not to take into account that religion is not a series of contents, but the living experience of a community with its faith. Brazilian Pentecostalism springs from the experience of the Brazilian people throughout the XNUMXth century, and its expansion took place along with all the others from a political and economic point of view, crossing and being crossed by them. This is the reason why the religion chosen by blacks in Brazil is Pentecostalism: not because of its ancestral contents, but because of the experience of blacks in Brazil, which is different from the experience of blacks in countries colonized by other European peoples, as well as the colonizing experience of blacks in the United States of America and even in Africa. Perhaps your religious experience, in general, will only change radically when the whole of society changes in the same way.

Finally, to echo the rest of the illustrated world, whose fault is it? Of the neo-Pentecostals.[xxxi]

*Joao Marcos Duarte is a doctoral candidate in linguistics at UFPB.

Reference


Faith and Fury
Brazil, documentary, 2019, 103 minutes
Directed by: Marcos Pimentel

Notes


[I] Available in: https://embaubafilmes.com.br/distribuicao/fe-e-furia/; access on 12/04/2021.

[ii] Emphasis on “we deserve”, which is part of the ideas of meritocracy that reigns in our country in all corners, by all political groups and shades of thought that have progress in mind.

[iii] Available in: https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=3451121478258821&ref=watch_permalink Accessed on 12/04/2021.

[iv] Bianca Dias. “Faith and Fury” (Marcos Pimentel, 2019). In: Daniela Fernandes and Andrea Irmond [Orgs.]. Review section Curta Circuito 20 anos. 20th edition. Belo Horizonte, 2020 [online]. pp. 39-41.

[v] Rodrigo Nunes. From trance to vertigo: images of defeat in Brazilian cinema. In: Same. From trance to vertigo: essays on Bolsonarism and a world in transition. São Paulo Ubu Editora, 2022. pp. 149-164.

[vi] Nothing very different from the diagnosis made by Luiz Felipe de Alencastro regarding the “decline of graduates” who, from the 1970s onwards, took no responsibility for political and social events, giving way to the management of the wreckage. There is a baccalaureate and modernist quirk in certain productions that want to combine national construction and technological progress in a period precisely when these two things are already disconnected and the farcical attempt to repeat these elective affinities results in a certain “progressive neoliberalism” that is at the origin of Trump, in the USA, and of Bolsonaro, in Brazil. Regarding the “decline of bachelors”, Luiz Felipe de Alencastro. The sunset of the bachelors. New Cebrap Studies. 1998. nº 50. pp. 55-60. On “progressive neoliberalism”, Nancy Fraser. "Progressive neoliberalism versus reactionary populism: Hobson's choice". In.: Arjun Appadurai et al. The great regression: an international debate on the new populisms and how to face them. São Paulo: Liberdade Station, 2019. pp. 77-89.

[vii] A catastrophe that at no time can be minimized, as it happens in the Basement. And the most sinister thing is that now this cellar is no longer hidden, it is boasted to the four winds. In this regard, check out the column by Celso Rocha de Barros in the heat of the second round of the 2018 presidential elections (Celso Rocha de Barros. At the bottom of the well there is the basement. Folha de S.Paulo, São Paulo, 28 Oct. 2018. Available at:https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/colunas/celso-rocha-de-barros/2018/10/no-fundo-do-poco-ha-o-porao.shtml>. Last accessed on April 21, 2021).

[viii] About the nightmares that began to take hold of many people shortly before the first round, but not only, Cf. "He finished!" by Silvia Viana (in: Argumentum. v. 11, n. 2. p. 17-30, 2019)

[ix] In this regard, it is worth making two comments: any similarity between the 2018 electoral dispute and the military narrative versus college professor from the movie Elite Squad 2 – Now the enemy is another, is not a mere coincidence. The military man who rebuilds the nation in the likeness of western Americans – with all the possible and imaginable idiosyncrasies of a country that never got to have a salaried society and that ended slavery at the turn of the last century, but with the sinister purpose of American bounty hunters and that our pioneers were unable to complete – is Captain Nascimento: this social imaginary caught on and sets the tone of politics ever since. In this regard, check out, by Christian Tadeu Gilioti, “Devastated Earth: imagination and politics in the cinema of the Lula Era”, São Paulo: Universidade de São Paulo, 2018 (thesis). The other comment is about “how is it possible”: this type of speech is very reminiscent of what Luis Inácio Lula da Silva heard throughout his political trajectory – “how is it possible for a unionist to stop the ABC”, “how is it possible for a trade unionist to found a political party”, “how is it possible for a trade unionist to run for president”, “how is it possible for a northeastern to be elected, re-elected, elect and re-elect a successor who has no charisma or competence”. This is just to remind you that the “how is it possible” is conservative, sometimes reactionary. Perhaps taking this into account is enlightening to think about how we got here.

[X] She mentions that a woman who worked in a market, an attendant, took her by the arm and asked her if she knew where she would go after she died. Without letting Jessica answer, she said that she would go to Hell. For those who like cinema, there is a smell in the air similar to that of Divine love (2019), by Gabriel Mascaro.

[xi] This moment occupies a considerable part of the documentary, when Pai Ricardo denounces what happened, also documented, in the film, in the words of the invaders themselves, members of the Baptist Church of Lagoinha. Not by chance, one of the houses that received and blessed Jair and Michele Bolsonaro, in 2018 and 2022.

[xii] “As it is unequal, then there is no war, what there is is genocide” (Babalaô Ivanir)

[xiii] “This is fascism and if there is a way for fascism to be born in Brazil it is through these groups and today society is observing this, right? Even sectors of progressive society that make electoral alliances with these groups, they managed to retain the vote, managed to build a bench” (Babalaô Ivanir).

[xiv] To which we heard another unidentified character say that “the community loves it because it gained color, gained light, right? You pass by and you feel comfortable reading a verse that calms you down, that makes you more calm, wow, 'the Lord is my shepherd and I shall not want'”. The film's editing itself accentuates the constant confrontation, really faith and fury.

[xv] Although little known, this finding is not new and the documentary also shows us this, despite preaching the opposite. It is worth checking the brief review made by João Décio Passos in this regard in “Urban Theogonies: Pentecostals in the passage from rural to urban”. Both Pentecostalism and religions of African origin were born in the Brazilian peripheries as a way of organizing the experience of these people. That people, apparently living the same things, choose completely different paths is precisely what mobilizes the research of Vagner Gonçalves da Silva (cf.: “Religion and black cultural identity: Afro-Brazilians, Catholics and Evangelicals”. Afro-Ásia. 2017 No. 56. pp. 83-126).

[xvi] This also appears in the documentary itself, when Pai Ricardo says that nowadays neo-Pentecostals come all over African-based religions, because at some point they were losing followers to them.

[xvii] Enzo Bello, Gilberto Bercovici, Martonio Mont'Alverne Barreto Lima. “The End of the 1988 Constitutional Illusions?”. Law and Praxis Magazine, v. 10, no. 3, p. 1769-1811, 2019.

[xviii] “Good” moralism, since today, with the collapse of our modernization, the discourse on the “social” has moved from the field of politics to that of morality. See: Gabriel Feltran. “The value of the poor”. CRH Notebook. 2014. v. 27. n. 72. pp. 495-512.

[xx] In sociological terms, it is interesting to read in sequence the aforementioned “The value of the poor” and then “Elementary forms of political life: on the totalitarian movement in Brazil (2013)” (Blog Novos Estudos. 2020. Available at: https://novosestudos.com.br/formas-elementares-da-vida-politica-sobre-o-movimento-totalitario-no-brasil-2013/#gsc.tab=0. Last accessed: 25/05/2022), both by Gabriel Feltran.

[xx] As for accountability – this phraseology from the left today –, it fits like a glove in this dog-like world we live in; it is the reflection not of an alternative way of thinking, but of conforming even more to the disgrace that surrounds us on all sides, making a large portion even more irritated, Cf.: Karl Gunther, “Accountability of Civil Society". New Studies Magazine, 2002. n. 63. pp. 105-118.

[xxx] In this regard, the aforementioned thesis by Christian Tadeu Gilioti.

[xxiii] At one point we have an arrangement of the Anthem of the Troop (prestigious by the first Tropa de Elite, which, as we already know, conquered minds and hearts). And the biblical text theme? Ephesians 6:11-17. New testament! It is as Pastor Paulomar says at some point: “We are at war with everything and Jesus is the highest patent, we just have to obey”. It's a gray area that seems to have no end. About another gray area – collaborationist and zealous, in this case –, but not so different from the one we are seeing, cf. The trivialization of social injustice, by Christophe Dejours (7th edition. São Paulo: Editora FGV, 2006) and the insights given by Paulo Arantes (“Sale Boulot”. In.: Paulo Arantes. The new time of the world: and other studies on the age of emergence. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2014. pp.101-140).

[xxiii] Any resemblance to what is most advanced today in social programs that look for target audiences to be reached – be they blacks, women, poor people, LGBTs and other population strata – is not a mere coincidence. As has been said, it is the most advanced with regard to human rights – which have the family as their main figure.

[xxv] For a historiography and sociology of Pentecostalism in Brazil, see, among others, the pioneering study by Ricardo Mariano, Neopentecostals: sociology of new Pentecostalism in Brazil (São Paulo: Loyola, 1999); the classic by Gedeon Alencar, Brazilian Pentecostal Matrix – Assemblies of God – 1911 to 2011 (2nd edition. São Paulo: Recriar, 2019); and Between Religion and Lulism: a study with Pentecostals in São Paulo, by Vinicius do Valle (São Paulo: Recriar, 2020), which we now follow.

[xxiv] Vinicius do Valle. Op. Cit. pp. 23.

[xxv] It is no coincidence that the church studied by the sociologist we are following “was opened in 1994, built in a 'mutirão' scheme, by the hands of the pastors and the faithful themselves”. As we have already commented, these churches are generally built in areas of “the greatest vulnerability in the city, close to where the faithful live”. Idem. Op. quote. p. 15

[xxviii] Bruno, a person interviewed, says at one point: “if the PT and the PSOL are on the left, I am on the right”. Vinicius do Valle. Op. Cit. p. 147.

[xxviii] I am referring to those quoted by Vinicius do Valle: Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; Proverbs 29:2; Acts 5:29. The texts are very well known, but perhaps those who think that neo-Pentecostals base their theology on the Old Testament alone may be startled.

[xxix] Francisco de Oliveira. Criticism of dualistic reason: The platypus. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2013

[xxx] The quotations can be found in Vinicius do Valle. Op cit., pp. 73, 85 and 79.

[xxxii] Idem. Op cit. Location quote.

[xxxi] Thanks to Ivone Daré Rabello for all her help in revising and finalizing this essay.

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