Theological manual of neoliberal neo-Pentecostalism

Image: Patricia McCarty


Theology has become coaching or encouraging disputes between workers in the world of work


Usually, evangelicals are a point of misunderstanding for social movements, academics, parties and the press. The lack of understanding is due to a false historicity, in which neo-Pentecostals are compared with European Protestants and Calvinists based on a comparative history of ideas. It turns out that the political processes between European Protestants and Brazilian neo-Pentecostals are completely different.

To understand Brazilian neo-Pentecostals,[1] It is necessary to analyze how neo-Pentecostalism was structured and amalgamated in Brazilian social relations. The key to understanding the neo-Pentecostal movement is the elucidation of the social function of the movement as a political instrument and the way in which its theology is consolidated as an instrument for regulating a given sociability in the production relations of Brazilian capitalism. And regulation, according to data and research, lies in the notions of inequality and merit, both reflected in neoliberalism.

The search of Oxfam Brazil in conjunction with Datafolha, published in the media in May 2019, found that Brazilians believe that inequality is an obstacle to the country's progress. However, the primary cause for overcoming it would be the fight against corruption, which corroborates the victory of the Udenist and lavajatist perspective according to which corruption would be the beginning, the middle and the end of all social problems, reducing problems and Brazilian complexity to a moralistic monocausal analytical matrix.

This analytical impoverishment is an important instrument for the conservative maintenance of production relations and mobilities as they are structured and institutionalized. Far from being the tax structure, exploitation, work and the transfer of labor income to capital income, corruption makes the population believe in the tyranny of the status quo Friedmanian, in which corruption would necessarily and exclusively come from the State. The solution would be its immediate reduction or even its extinction. Not by chance, and much less by coincidence, in last place in the research as a priority measure is investment in social assistance.

Belief in the tyranny of status quo Friedmanian is the matrix that unifies all fake news, as occurs in the climate-environmental disaster in Rio Grande do Sul, in which the State would be inefficient and incapable despite the “high taxation” and the “quantum lost by the state of Rio Grande do Sul to the Union in the distributive system”, apologetically affirming the voluntary work (individual and anti-state) of the “people” as politics. But what could lead to improving people's lives? Firstly, according to the research, religious faith, followed by studies. Second to last, among eight pre-defined requirements, is access to retirement.[2]

These data corroborate a survey carried out by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation entitled Public perception of S&T in Brazil – 2019, which analyzes the population's perception of the image of science and scientists. In 2015, the same survey found that 19% of people saw harm to science; in 2019 it jumped to 42%. Another relevant fact is that the percentage of people who consider scientists to be people who serve economic interests and produce knowledge in areas that are not always desirable jumped from 7% to 11% on the same dates, reaching 5% in 2010.

The percentage of people who consider scientists to be producers of useful knowledge for humanity fell from 52% to 41% on the same dates, compared to 2010% in 55,5. What happened in the pandemic was built in the previous decade.

The perception that it is possible to break poverty through religious faith has prospered like never before in this century, notably under the PT governments, without a doubt. One of the mistakes in analyzes of contemporary conservatism, in addition to not analyzing it historically, implying that it emerged spontaneously or Machiavellianly from a predominantly foreign intervention, consists of positioning neo-Pentecostal churches in a commonplace of simple and mere fundamentalism. outside the State apparatus.

This is a perspective that aims to not recognize the obvious: the alliances with conservative social groups whose histories are inscribed in all institutional coups throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. From the military to the religious, from financiers to FIESP, from broadcasters to sectors of the traditional middle class.

But let's focus on neo-Pentecostalism, a new actor among socially conservative groups. If entrepreneurship is the political project of neoliberalism for the working class, there is no other organization that better carries out this power project than neo-Pentecostal churches. It replaced the unions in 2003 and obtained its great victory with the Labor Reform of 2017, which brought about the end of most unions, either due to the precariousness and fragmentation of the working class, or due to the abrupt decrease in financial resources transferred from the Union to unions – reduction of 99% from 2017 to 2023. Therefore, it is necessary to understand its main theology, Prosperity Theology.


Prosperity Theology was not constructed in light of the neoliberal corollary, which does not mean that it is not ontologically linked to neoliberalism. Today it is linked as a beautiful Christian marriage. The birth of Prosperity Theology dates back to Essek William Kenyon and his follower Kenneth Hagin, who created positive confession from the Gospel according to Saint Mark 11:23-24, in which he allowed the interpretation that faith is the basis of the Positive Confession.

In a Catholic country like Brazil, it is entirely reasonable that a large part of the population has been to a confessional, or if not, that they have Catholic confession in mind through films and soap operas. In the confessional, the sinner confesses his sins, and because they are sins, they are negative. It can be said that this is a negative confession, according to the precepts of a significant part of neo-Pentecostalism. Positive confession arises from the realization that any suffering reflects a lack of faith, and what is positively witnessed must be made public, as confession is an act of faith.

Therefore, the characteristic of a good Christian is success, while poverty and failure are the faces of a lack of faith, as the testimony of the positive is the basis for denying the unwanted (SILVEIRA, 2007).[3] In other words, if in negative confession sin brings guilt, in positive confession testimony brings pride.

The description by Paulo Romero, then director of the Christian Research Institute (ICP), a type of organization with an academic-theological profile that aims to carry out research from an evangelical perspective, conceptually synthesizes positive confession and its relationship with prosperity theology :

Popularly known as “prosperity theology”, this doctrinal current teaches that any Christian suffering indicates a lack of faith. Thus, the mark of a faith-filled and successful Christian is full physical, emotional and spiritual health, in addition to material prosperity. Poverty and illness are visible results of the failure of Christians who live in sin or who have insufficient faith (ROMERO, 1993, p. 5).[4]

in your book Superbelievers: the gospel according to Kenneth Hagin, Valnice Milhomens and the prophets of prosperity, Paulo Romero reconstructs the importance of Kenneth Hagin for the theological construction of the Positive Confession,[5] not without pointing out some synthesizing abstractions that he managed to establish, such as the one in which a large part of the prosperity movement declares that illness comes from the Devil (ROMERO, 1993, p. 33), that the verbs “ask, beg and supplicate” were replaced by “demand, decree, determine and claim” (ROMERO, 1993, p. 36), and that God is represented in prosperity.

In the book New Thresholds of Faith, hagin[6] (1990, p. 55) states the reasoning that would support Prosperity Theology: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of poverty. He has redeemed us from the curse of disease. He has redeemed us from the curse of death – spiritual death now and physical death when Jesus returns. We don't need to be afraid of the second death. (…) The New Testament Scripture, third John 2,[7] agrees that God wants us to have material, physical and spiritual prosperity, because he says: “Beloved, I wish above all that you may prosper and be healthy, as well as your soul”. Many people are under the impression that any promise in the Bible of blessing and material prosperity refers only to Jews. However, this verse was written to New Testament Christians.”

Kenneth Hagin ends the lesson with the following statement, also used by Romero (1993): “God wants His children to eat better, He wants them to wear the best clothes; He wants them to drive the best cars; He wants them to have the best of everything” (HAVIN, 1990, p. 55).


Prosperity Theology is a theological construction that consists of building the act of faith in opposition to the curse. This construction politically allows Prosperity Theology to be extremely mundane, as it openly dialogues with the problems and vicissitudes of everyday life. In other words, it is a construction of a sociability project that has a power project for workers that is more effective than the Encyclical Mater et Magistra at the beginning of the 20th century, which establishes that the bourgeoisie and workers must live in a system of solidarity in which private property is a natural right belonging to the bourgeoisie that must be exercised for the good of all; or even Antônio Vieira's sermons for enslaved people, in which martyrdom consisted of immediate arrival in paradise.

It is more effective because it ideologically makes it possible for workers to leave the suffering class and provides an existential alternative to martyrdom, referring to the historically denied access to the mechanisms of economic and symbolic mobility. The idea that Jesus suffered for humans, and it is no longer up to humans to suffer, rigorously expresses the hardships and desires of workers subjected to extreme exploitation.

Kenneth Hagin relies on Mark 11:23 to dissociate saying from praying. This is an important dissociation that is followed by most neo-Pentecostal churches. We will strictly follow the pastor's reasoning in Faith to Remove Mountains,[8] especially in chapter 6, Faith for finances, with just one word. The word is the expression, the means and the end, of positive confession.

Em Mark 11: 23, in the work of Kenneth Hagin, is: “For verily I say unto us, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou lifted up, and be thou cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but believe that he will do as he saith, all whatever he says will be done for him.” Hagin makes a dissociation between saying and praying, especially in chapter 5, concluding that believing is not enough. Therefore, the believer must speak, speak, send the verb to God, specifying what he desires. Continues Kenneth Hagin (n.d., p. 98), “when you strongly believe that God will give you something, you will not necessarily receive it for it. Jesus did not say: '...whatever he believes will be done to him', but: everything he says will be done to him”.

Whatever is said must always be positive, whether it is a request or a testimony. Kenneth Hagin (sd, p. 100) recommends not giving bad testimony, since “the believer should not be a dealer in doubts, just as he should not be a drug dealer”. Doubts, even though they are not crimes, “are still sinful”. Doubt here is transformed into sin, or something that can lead to sin. What there is, ironically for Martin Luther, is the reaffirmation of Christian dogma in the figure of the pastor and his capacity for interpretation, such as the dissociation made between saying and praying, which is rejected by Romero through the elucidation of the eternal problem of translation.[9] It is not enough to pray, but to say that you have received it. Therefore, it is necessary to witness, to confess faith, “and not to confess sin”, which “must be forgotten, just as God forgets it” (HAGIN. sd, p. 107).

For those who watch services on television or simply notice the stickers on cars with the words “It belongs to God”, “Gift from God”, “In the hands and words of God”, “It was God who gave it to me”, among others, observe a testimony as or more important than prayer, witness a rite of faith, like the War boys from Mad Max: Fury Road, who before doing the greatest act of their lives, giving it, need to offer their testimony to their colleagues at the risk of not getting into Valhalla.

Then Kenneth Hagin presents personal facts as proof of positive confession based on Mark 11:23: “Once, many years ago, I needed $1.500 by the beginning of the month. He therefore said: “Before the first of next month I will have $1.500. He continued to say this, on several occasions, in prayer. He just kept repeating the same statement: “By the first of next month, I will have $1.500.” Well, come that date, I had $1.580 – eighty dollars more than I had claimed! It was the Lord who taught me how to apply my faith to finances. It took me years to realize the fact. As a Baptist boy, he had been saved, and then healed by the power of God. But I never thought about using my faith beyond salvation and healing” (HAGIN, sd, p. 108).

Kenneth Hagin would have had many complications in his childhood and would have been cured by divine interventions. According to the American pastor, at a certain point in his life, God had told him: “Faith is the same in all spheres and in all areas. But you employ faith only when it comes to salvation, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and divine healing. But faith is the same in the financial area too. … If you needed healing for your own body, you would claim it by faith, go out to publicly proclaim that you were healed, and continue your preaching. And many times in the past, all the symptoms would disappear while you were preaching. You need to do the same thing when it comes to finances” (HAGIN, sd, p. 111).


Regardless of the theological matrix, the fact is that Prosperity Theology makes a clear and explicit division. Rich and poor have always existed and always will exist. Rich people are blessed because they have faith, and they were blessed in the same way as they would be if it were an illness. Miserable and sick people live without faith, and can only change their lives if and only if they submit to the empire of Christian faith through positive confession. In this sense, the curse is a fundamental element in the construction of faith.

The view that neo-Pentecostal churches have of African-based religions comes from the idea that their practitioners are not only distant from the faith, but in a situation of curse. Likewise, the religions that originate from the African continent, where the curse on Cam would survive, as defended and defended by Pastor and deputy Marco Feliciano.[10] The same racialized view is verified by studies on the view of neo-Pentecostal churches on religions of African origin, in which they are accused of being ideal spaces for the propagation of demonic possessions.

There is the creation of a common enemy that would unify Brazilian Christians, as attested Saint-mother, published in 1968 by Walter Robert McAlister, founder of the New Life Pentecostal Church in Rio de Janeiro, and Orixás, caboclos & guides. Gods or demons?, by Edir Macedo, founder of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.[11] The export of neo-Pentecostal churches to the African continent is not a mere coincidence, but an element of a political-theological project that sees the African continent, Africans and black people as elements prone to demonic possession, in which faith would free everyone from the curse and would become an example of the universality of the neo-Pentecostal faith.[12]

Let's understand the model created in Brazil and the one exported, as it largely responds to the rise of conservatism among workers. Poverty is a result of lack of faith. Given this fact, it makes sense for neo-Pentecostal churches to build some technology for enrichment beyond Saying. In a context of the rise of self-help and entrepreneurship, it is not very difficult to combine the useful with the pleasant in Prosperity Theology.

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God has a specific section in its newspaper, Universal Sheet – published periodically since 1992 –, called Financial Success. In the November 17, 2019 edition, businesswoman Pamela Rivelles, who was employed – in the section titled “From unemployed to businesswoman” – states that she “listened to the Word and thought I couldn’t keep thinking small”, as “I had to have something that glorifies God.”

The technology developed by the church is called Smart Faith. From the readings, it is difficult to conceptualize. Detachment from accuracy has the positive point of explaining failure, as there will always be something that was not done by someone who was not given money. For Edir Macedo, faith is not about feeling, exacerbating emotion in a show, as “it is possible to see several examples that biblical faith has nothing to do with feelings or emotions”. For the pastor, such demonstrations of faith should “be discarded, because what counts is certainty in the Word of the Most High”.

The Bishop adds that this is the reason why the lives of many people who believe in Jesus are devastated by failures. The problem lies precisely in the way they conduct their faith and relationship with the Almighty.

While they are in church, they are happy, because they apparently feel the presence of God. But when they are away, alone, they fall into despair because they only feel the problems and tribulations.

“Therefore, it is not enough to come to church, you must keep that flame alive, believe that He is with you. This faith is what makes the difference and sustains you. Evil has no power over a person who is certain that God is with them”, he taught.[13]

The failure of those who visibly have faith is explained by a heterodox and abstract conceptualization of what the expression of faith is, in which the failure can always be convinced that they did or did not do something that explains their supposed failure. Obviously, the cases announced in the Universal Sheet are successful, combining the corollary of Positive Confession with the need for marketing.

Intelligent Faith presupposes what it calls the Covenant with God, according to which it is nothing more than ascetic sociability in the light of Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostal interpretations. According to the November 10, 2019 edition of Universal Sheet, is based on seven points: (1) deciding to give your life to God; (2) cultivate a willingness to base your life on the Word of God; (3) obedience to the Word of God; (4) abandon old habits; (5) strengthen faith daily; (6) trust God in all “challenges”; and (7) practice intelligent faith.[14]

As said, there is no formal and conceptual explanation of what Intelligent Faith is. Normally, including through the countless videos available, there are more examples than clear and formal conceptualization, despite Edir Macedo's argument about the polarization between reason and emotion in the context of faith. Let's take an example of the matter in question.

A couple who own an insurance company would have once again attracted clients after a period of crisis, with the closing of a contract with a condominium and the active role of the wife, who was attracting clients for the company in her field of activity, law. . Both credit the change to the use of Smart Faith. The husband says: “God manifested himself through our attitudes. It has started to move and customers are already showing up.” The weekly newspaper states “the achievements he and his wife have had this year are related to the practice of intelligent Faith”. Marcos confirms this, ensuring that his vision has changed, since “the Holy Spirit is with me, giving me direction”.

Bishop Allan Sena reports the importance of Intelligent Faith, and that faith alone is not a sufficient factor to obtain financial success nor is effort at work, for which “the problem is not the lack of Faith”, but the use of “ in an intelligent and practical way.” In short, the “Covenant with God has its duties and commitments that must be obeyed and that is what we teach in meetings”, based on the following steps: “First of all, Faith teaches us to believe in our own abilities. And, secondly, it makes us believe above all in a living God who is greater than every bad situation we experience. That is why, even though the problems we face are greater than human capacity, we know that God can and achieves everything.”

“Belief in our own ability” is a libel of self-help and mind power pseudo-theories. The following report, belonging to the session Financial Success, presented after the cover story invites everyone who wants to “sign” a pact with God to attend a church, has the simple and worn-out title of entrepreneurship and coaching schools More than the obligation. The text defends the idea that for an individual to grow at work, they must have an attitude that goes beyond contractual obligations. To reinforce the idea, they use the story of Greg Rogers, who created a drink that increased the revenue of the Starbucks chain, and the thoughts of two professors from the University of North Carolina and Notre Dame, Thomas Bateman and J. Michael Crant .

After the quotes from professors, whose commonplace is that of cheaper entrepreneurship, such as “those who do more than are required to promote constructive reforms; what he doesn't do follows the flow passively on autopilot", the text states that the Bible confirms such teachings with the following passage from Matthew 25.14-30: "In it, there is the story of three servants who receive from their master - who was going to travel –, respectively, one, three and five talents (currency of the time) to keep. The two received three and five talents doubled the amount with applications. The one who received one, afraid of losing it, hid it and had no income. This one was rejected by his boss when he returned from his trip, while the other two received privileges and progressed at work.” The Lord Jesus again gives in the Bible not only advice on how to react in the face of adversity, but on the importance of striving to succeed: “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matthew, 5.41 ).

And we come to the conclusion: “Those who do something passively, just because they have an obligation, complete the first mile like everyone else and cannot stand out in the crowd vying for space, but it is in the second mile that those who have the most to offer stand out.”


As seen, theology became coaching or fostering disputes between workers in the world of work, in which some reach the second mile and are rewarded with material goods while the majority do not go beyond the first mile. Of course, in the example of talents, currency of the time, there would be a question about the unequal distribution as well as the fact that it is easier to get rid of a talent when you have three than when you have one, but the biblical narrative is fitted to reinforce the verbiage of meritocracy and entrepreneurship, which means that such questions do not matter much.

Finally, the report asks: how to stand out from the crowd? According to the report, there are six items that would help to stand out in light of the Alliance with God and Intelligent Faith: focus, always be active, realizing that someone always notices those who make an effort, exploring qualities and learning about work. The last one is aimed at “employers”, namely, the search for employees with this profile. Therefore, if the worker does not have this profile for an employer linked to Smart Faith, he will probably be passed over, leaving workers imbued with the new need to do more than what the obligation requires.

With a little savvy, you can set up a business in which boss and workers have the same profile and objective, and why not, all evangelicals and avid readers of the Financial Success, in which contradictions between capital and labor, such as labor rights, would be arbitrated by the pastor.

The cover story of the November 17, 2019 edition of Universal Sheet, in which the title is “Whoever uses faith at the altar becomes a dream maker”, begins with the same symbiosis between faith and entrepreneurship in the subjects already analyzed. Bishop Odivan Pagnocelli makes the following statement: “Since childhood we have many dreams, but as we grow and become adults, our dreams also mature. And, while there are many who dedicate a good part of their lives to achieving them, others become frustrated as time passes and their dreams become increasingly distant. We come across different types of dreamers: those who have dreams and do nothing to make them come true and those who give up along the way. Only those who persevere to the end and do not care about the sacrifices they will have to make can achieve them.”

The bishop remembers that the Bible It has many men who dreamed and stood out, like Moses, who would have freed his people for having dreamed and sacrificed himself. Therefore, “with the strength of the arm, the dream is subject to all earthly weaknesses”, but if “the dreams realized on the Altar are realized in partnership with the Most High”, who “can stop Him?”.

Following the modus operandi of all the articles, the text jumps to the examples, the testimonies of the Positive Confession. There are four in total, but only one will be mentioned, that of businessman Samir Crema. When he was selling consortiums, he saw an “opportunity”, namely the “Altar of the Sacrifice”. He says that the opportunity overcame a Bourdieu-esque fate, so to speak: “No one in my family had higher education nor was there a businessman I could look up to”; Precisely for “these reasons, I had no dreams and had lost hope of a good future”.

And he continues: “After going to Altar, I had the vision of being great, of becoming an entrepreneur. I opened a party furniture store and, shortly after, became a manufacturer. Today my company serves all of Brazil and supplies furniture for party rooms, clubs, hotels, bars, restaurants and schools.”

Throughout the report, photos of people, most of them couples, next to companies and properties, such as large houses with swimming pools, reinforce the idea of ​​marriage as an element of the practice of faith and leads to the realization that material wealth is inherent to the practice of faith. faith.

The undisputed fact is that Prosperity Theology is an extremely effective project of power and sociability, either because it is in line with the crudest neoliberalism, or because it presents a project of redemption for the working class according to which individuals can save themselves from poverty. through faith. Obviously, everyone cannot become rich, not even the faithful, but the explanation for failure is given by the subjectivity of the mistaken or insufficient application of faith in the miserable and unequal daily life.

What informal, precarious and hopeless worker wouldn’t jump headlong into such theology? Upon entering theology, the desperate person immerses himself in neoliberal ideology, transforming his life into a constant existential paradox alleviated by the prophetic and entrepreneurial exorcism of reality. Prosperity Theology gave birth to the worker who works to not be a worker, the worker who should not belong to the class that suffers because Jesus has already suffered.

Leonardo Sacramento is a teacher of basic education and pedagogue at IFSP. Author, among other books, of Discourse on White: Notes on Racism and the Apocalypse of Liberalism (Mall).


[1] Text adapted from part of chapter 6 of The birth of a nation: how liberalism produced Brazilian proto-fascism (Vol. 2), released by Editora IFSP and available as an E-book on the website

[2] Available in

[3] SILVEIRA, Marcelo. The Prosperity Theology Discourse in Evangelical Pentecostal Churches: study of rhetoric and argumentation in religious worship. Thesis presented to the Postgraduate Program in Philosophy and Portuguese Language, of the Department of Classical and Vernacular Literature of the Faculty of Philosophy, Literature and Human Sciences of the University of São Paulo. São Paulo, 2007.

[4] ROMERO, Paulo. Superbelievers: the gospel according to Kenneth Hagin, Valnice Milhomens and the prophets of prosperity. Foreword by Russell Shedd. São Paulo: Associação Religiosa Editora Mundo Cristão, 1993.

[5] The author is avowedly evangelical. Although he presents disagreements, he does not deny “that the positive confession movement has several things to teach us, such as praying with faith, praying believing in God's promises and having a positive mind, thus avoiding pessimistic attitudes”. He also presents Hagin's life story as fact, including all of his visions. Observation aims to situate and contextualize the scholar.

[6] HAGIN, Kenneth E. New Threshold of Faith. 2nd edition. RHEMA Bible Church, 1990.

[7] The third epistle of Saint John has a slightly different translation depending on the work. The excerpt in question, in the edition translated by Ludovico Garmus, is: “Dearest, I wish that you prosper in everything and that your bodily health is as good as that of your soul” (2010, p. 815). The translation of Hagin's work, in direct quotation, is free.

[8] HAGIN, Kenneth E. Faith to remove mountains. Translated by Gordon Chown. Rio de Janeiro: Graça Editorial, sd

[9] It is not the objective to analyze the nuances of interpretation of the biblical text with the authors' text. The objective is simply to understand how the theology in question has propositions for conviction and adherence in its constructs, as well as the relationship between theology and the neoliberal context. To see the theological divergence, see pages 36, 37 and 38 of Romero (1993).

[10] Feliciano even responded to an investigation at the STF for homophobia. He did not answer for racism or racial insult because the prosecutor at the time understood that the statement that Africans are cursed for descending from a cursed person would be a biblical interpretation. Available in To see a debate in which the pastor openly defends cursing, refuted by an interviewer, the video link is recommended. Available in

[11] For an analysis of the two works, see Neo-Pentecostalism and Afro-Brazilian religions: meanings of the attack on symbols of African religious heritage in contemporary Brazil, by Vagner Gonçalves da Silva (2007).SILVA, Vagner Gonçalves da. Neo-Pentecostalism and Afro-Brazilian religions: meanings of the attack on symbols of African religious heritage in contemporary Brazil. What, vol. 13, no. 1, Rio de Janeiro, apr., 2007.

[12] For the promiscuous relationship between Itamaraty and the Universal Church on the African continent, see To see the market issue that the African continent represents, see The expulsion of the church from Angola is a defeat that is more theological than financial.

[13] What does faith with intelligence mean?On

[14] This is the cover story.

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