New Christianity: Ruminations

Image: Inga Seliverstova
Whatsapp
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Telegram

By ALEXANDRE ARAGÃO DE ALBUQUERQUE*

The evangelical segment makes up a large mass of supporters of Bolsonarist neo-fascism

“Faith is in the woman, faith is in the coral snake, in a piece of bread” (Gilberto Gil).
“By providing Moses with the fundamentals of the Constitution of Israel – the Ten Commandments – Yahweh adopted a political position” (Journal Messenger of Peace).
“It is obvious that, in Brazil, some religious groups are growing extraordinarily, while others are stagnant or even decreasing” (Paulo Siepierski).

A survey on political polarization in Brazil carried out in November 2022 by the Locomotiva Institute, at the request of the NGO Despolarize, revealed something very surprising in the Brazilian political scene. According to the survey, 18% of Brazilians surveyed had the courage to state that they are from the extreme right. When one checks the list published on the detainees in Brasilia for committing excessive violence in an attempt to take over the headquarters of the Three Powers of the Republic, on the last January 08th, 64,3% of the detainees were born between the years 1960 to 1980. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), by 2050 the number of people over 60 will triple in Brazil. It is necessary to look for the reasons that lead to such a strong concentration of this age group getting involved with neo-fascist coup-acts-of-vandalism.

In turn, jurist Lênio Streck (14/01) tweeted data from the Atlas Survey in which 31,2% of people linked to evangelical churches said they approved of the coup terror of January 8; 68% of them believe that President Lula lost the election; moreover, 64% of surveyed evangelicals support a military coup. Streck even released a video in which a pastor asks in a liturgical act that God exterminate lawyers, judges and the damn STF (Federal Supreme Court).

Join the data above, at the turn of the 10th to the 11th, the posting on facebook of former president Bolsonaro, for a minimum period of two hours, of a video with the following caption: “Lula was not elected by the people , he was chosen and elected by the STF and TSE”. The posting time was enough for it to go viral on the Bolsonarist network, further instigating the coup-mongering fury of its members. In a clear factual confirmation of the political responsibility of the neo-fascist captain and his military mentors for feeding the extremist spirit of his cattle, a continuous act in his four years of misgovernment, always seeking to create a climate that would allow him to strike at Brazilian democracy.

The evangelical segment makes up a large mass of supporters of Bolsonarist neo-fascism. This religious segment, since the 1980s, has been growing by leaps and bounds in Brazil, previously dominated by Catholicism. The triumphant entry into politics takes place with the change from the military dictatorial regime (1964-1985) to democracy, with the installation of the National Constituent Assembly in 1986. If, until that historic event, evangelicals adopted a line of automatic obedience to military authorities, since, in their doctrinal formation, they were conditioned to perceive the State and its agents as an expression of the will of God, to whom one owes obedience, because, according to the Bible, “the authorities that exist were all constituted by Him”, soon understood that the change in political culture that began with the Constituent Assembly implied an immediate change in their attitudes towards temporal power. (FONSECA, André Dioney. Information, politics and faith. Brazilian Journal of History. São Paulo: v.34, n. 68, 2014).

Until then, for example, for the members of the Assembly of God (AD), in reference to the poor and socially wronged, they preached salvation by teaching the impoverished to trust in God. After a person was converted, his own financial situation would improve because "God cares for his own." The fight waged by the faithful of the Assembly of God, until then, was not the fight against matter or against social injustices, but against the Prince of darkness and against the spiritual hosts.

But with the advent of the Constituent Assembly, this discourse changed substantially. In its ordinary publications, more precisely in the influential newspaper Messenger of Peace, a new outfit settles in. He states a copy from 1986: “As conscious citizens and especially as Christians, it is impossible not to notice the social ills in our lives. It is necessary to go further, actively participating in the process of social change, seeking the right choice when voting. Brother votes for brother”. Through this tactical change, in 1986 they managed to elect 33 federal deputies from the Evangelical group. It was the beginning of his institutional political activity. (Idem).

In the Neo-Pentecostal field, two theologies will guide the hearts and minds of its affiliates: the theology of prosperity and the theology of dominion. In the initiation ritual, the believer receives the baptism of the Holy Spirit, an endowment of power, evidenced by the gift of tongues, to be able to witness the good news, aiming at the rapid evangelization of the world, hastening the return of Jesus as judge and eschatological king to judge and rule the nations. The endowment of power in the Spirit is not just for evangelism, but for doing greater works than Jesus did, namely, divine healing ministries.

Born in the USA, the theology of prosperity, at the heart of Edir Macedo's Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, aims to establish a new Christianity through political activity. The kingdom of God is already here for the enjoyment of the chosen ones. And the baptism in the Holy Spirit is the endowment of power to overcome obstacles to such enjoyment. Hindrances are actions of Satan and his followers that must be pursued and bound. With no evil spirits to get in the way, Neo-Pentecostal believers can live prosperously. For this the believer cannot doubt: the mind can control the spiritual sphere which in turn determines the material reality. And to demonstrate their unshakable faith, the believer needs to deliver tithes and offerings.

Contrary to Catholicism, where the believer pays the promise only after having achieved grace, in neo-Pentecostalism, the believer literally pays in advance as a demonstration of his faith. Accumulation of material goods is a sign of blessing; being a child of God is synonymous with being materially victorious. People are challenged to become rich, legitimizing existing wealth as well as the social structures that cause population impoverishment. For neo-Pentecostals, the Demons are the true cause of all evils and sufferings. Because of them, Brazil is not a more developed country. (SIEPIERSKI, Paulo D. Post-Pentecostalism and Politics in Brazil. São Leopoldo – RS: Theological Studies, v.37, n.1, 1997).

Dominion theology also originates in the US, in the 1970s, seeking to rebuild the theocracy, offering a Christian worldview to obtain the power of evangelicals in public spheres for the total dominion of God. The central idea of ​​this theological current is that of Spiritual Warfare, the fight against the enemy, based on the reading of the Old Testament, which can act in different areas of life. The evangelical, therefore, must not avoid the world and the evil it represents, but must be in the world actively, taking a stand against this evil, and for that it is necessary to occupy spaces of power.

The foundation of spiritual warfare is the belief in the existence of territorial and hereditary demons, which act over geographic areas and over people in general and their families. These demons would be responsible for all the evils in the world, including inequality and social injustice. This doctrine induces neo-Pentecostal believers to believe that competing religions and their followers are responsible for the ills of Brazilian society. Thus, the solution to Brazilian problems would be in the election of neo-Pentecostal believers for public office, in their positions they would neutralize the actions of demons, bringing prosperity to the whole country. Through this doctrine, neo-Pentecostalism is entering and establishing itself in the national political scene. Only the elect of God must occupy the key positions in the nation, using all means, mainly communication, such as radio and television concessions, to banish such demons and their disciples.

No wonder these political theologies of prosperity and domination were born in the US. The US unipolar imperialist project is intrinsically linked to an ancient theological view that they are sent by God to transform barbarians into civilized people (Manifest Destiny), in a war of good against evil, which crosses not only religion, but the military power, education, culture, politics, to achieve the full spectrum.

Accumulating wealth is a duty in this Protestant tradition. In this view, poverty appears as a consequence of a lack of faith. The dismantling of Liberation Theology, beyond the limits of the organized left, was a consequence of this imperialist project that saw in Liberation Theology a threat to the subjective field and that jeopardized the advances of neoliberal policies in Latin America. Thus, neoliberalism naturalizes the events in which the poor and poverty are justified as being a lucky or unlucky situation in life. And fundamentalist churches corroborate this view by connecting it with the idea of ​​a believer's lack of faith or dedication. For neo-Pentecostals, Liberation Theology, with its militants, is the spearhead of the Antichrist. (Brazil in fact. Fundamentalism and imperialism in Latin America. Dossier 59. December 19, 2022).

The material wealth proclaimed by neo-Pentecostals, in their quest to build a new Christianity, is a divine blessing, it has no structural political and economic causes. According to Oxfam, in their document “Desigualdade Mata”, the ten richest capitalists doubled their accumulation during the global health crisis: every 26 hours of the pandemic, only one capitalist entered the ranking of new billionaires, while simultaneously the income of 99% of people in the world plummeted and more than 160 million individuals were pushed into poverty.

Machiavelli, mandatory reading for being always current, had already detected, 500 years ago, the strength of symbolic-ideological power when, in his Speeches, pointed to the domination of religion in the lives of the subjects of principalities. The great clash of the Florentine was not with the classics, but with his contemporaries, with moralism and religious preaching, for having found in his empirical research that the commandments of “not stealing”, “not lying”, “not using the holy name of God in vain”, would be valid only for the population: all were violated by the holders of temporal and ecclesiastical power. Therefore, the people needed to open their eyes covered by the ideological-religious systems of the time to reveal what was under the cloth.

Words, images and sounds accomplish little unless they are ammunition for a meticulously designed plan and carefully organized methods so that the transmitted ideas become an integral part of people's lives. When the public is convinced of the rationality of an idea, it springs into action. This action is suggested by the religious, political or social idea itself. But these results do not happen out of nowhere: they are obtained by the fabrication of consensus. (BERNAYS, Edward. Advertising. 1928. Access: http://www.whale.to/b/bernays.pdf).

As Michel Foucault notes, in watch and punish, power is exercised as dispute and struggle. Where there is power, there is resistance. There is not exactly a place of resistance, but mobile and transitory points that are also distributed throughout the social structure. Politics is struggle, confrontation, power relations, strategic and ideological situation. It is not a place to be occupied, nor an object to be possessed. It exerts itself, disputes itself. In this dispute, either you win or you lose. And this is the challenge that lies ahead for us in the coming years: to distribute the world's wealth democratically and sustainably or to continue the accelerated accumulation of neoliberal fundamentalist individualism that destroys humanity and nature.

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

 

The A Terra é Redonda website exists thanks to our readers and supporters.
Help us keep this idea going.
Click here and find how 

See this link for all articles

10 MOST READ IN THE LAST 7 DAYS

______________

AUTHORS

TOPICS

NEW PUBLICATIONS