The Temple of Politics

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By VITOR MIRANDA CIOCHETTI*

About the political uses of the Temple of Solomon and the electoral agenda of Rossieli Soares

The Facebook page of the Templo de Salomão of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God announced, on October 17, the visit of the secretaries of education of the municipality and state of São Paulo, Fernando Padula Novaes and Rossieli Soares.[I] The occasion of the visit was the celebration of “Teachers' Day”, in which “education professionals were honored throughout Brazil, during Universal meetings. The ceremony was in consideration and gratitude for the work done to society”.[ii] The “meeting” was conducted by Bishop Renato Macedo, Edir Macedo's son-in-law and strong leader within the religious institution. The publication made on the social network also features several photos of state authorities in a friendly meeting with religious leaders.

Interestingly, the term “meeting” adopted by the church refers to its religious rituals, better known as “cult” in other evangelical churches. The conducting of the ritual is also recorded in the photos, in which the secretaries show an attitude of extreme reverence in the face of the rituals conceived and practiced there. One photograph in particular records Secretary Rossieli in an introspective position, eyes closed, hands clasped and head slightly tilted. Another photograph shows a panoramic view of the audience, in which it is possible to see an extensive crowd that almost completely fills the capacity of the Temple, which has approximately 10 seats. In the latter, the highlight is Bishop Renato, in an assertive position, gesturing with his hands and preaching the word of God.

Images taken from Facebook of the Temple of Solomon, publication of the celebration of “Teachers' Day”

The word “meeting” does not appear to be chosen fortuitously. Detaching itself from its strictly religious meaning, the meetings promoted at the Templo de Salomão generally appeal to a language in which its “formative” and “civic” aspects are highlighted (TEIXEIRA, 2018). This semantics, in turn, is closely related to the way in which the church has placed itself in the public arena in the last decade. Acting controversially in the public space, the Universal Church has always been at the center of problems involving the Brazilian legal-secular order since the country's re-democratization. Present in 127 countries, it has become an extremely powerful institution not only for exerting influence in the religious field of “beliefs”, but also in the political field – through strong party and civic action – and in the media – due to the successful reach and dissemination of your words, especially through television and radio channels; the Universal Church, as Ronaldo de Almeida (2019) rightly called it, would be a religious-media-political group. In this sense, Maria das Dores Machado and Joanildo Burity (2014) point out that Pentecostalism had become a “public religion”, mainly because it adopted a corporate model of political participation, a model inaugurated by the IURD and disseminated among the different Pentecostal evangelical denominations. To understand the semantics of this political participation, therefore, it is necessary to look at the movements that occur in its spaces.

Inaugurated in 2014, the Temple of Solomon became the world headquarters of the IURD and its space of greater visibility and institutional importance. Its inauguration was held in the presence of major state authorities, such as President Dilma Rousseff accompanied by her deputy Michel Temer, the state governor and mayor of the city of São Paulo, Geraldo Alckmin and Fernando Haddad, not to mention the other authorities in Congress. , Senate and the Federal Supreme Court. There were also television artists, journalists, religious leaders of Judaism, etc.

Since then, the Temple has been the object of intensive use by political leaders as a means of promoting their public visibility. Perhaps the most iconic scene that portrays this political use of the Temple of Solomon – in which the controversy of the delimitation between the political and the religious field emerges - was with the illustrious presence of Jair Bolsonaro, in 2019. by Edir Macedo, in his television news programs, the headlines portrayed the friendly meeting between two authorities, Bolsonaro and Macedo, one political and the other religious. He highlights the “meeting” conducted by Edir Macedo, in which Bolsonaro is “consecrated” by the bishop, kneeling before him, on the pulpit of the Temple, and receiving the blessed “oil”, in the presence of a large audience. Macedo, in turn, endowed with his religious authority, praises Bolsonaro as a leader “chosen by God”.

Image taken from the newspaper O Globo.[iii]

During the 2018 elections, I carried out field surveys in the Temple of Solomon in order to observe how the bishops would deal with the electoral dispute in their meetings. I tried to observe, in parallel, the bishops' publications on social media and television programs to understand how the electoral debate and politics is transmitted to public opinion. Not only did politics appear, but the bishops also explicitly supported candidacies for the Legislative, and to a lesser extent the candidacy for the Executive. The debate on politics, however, was enunciated, at certain times, in its relationship with other spheres of life, mainly in the economic, marital and family spheres.

In the first round of elections, in two meetings I attended, there was a clear idea about the candidates for the Legislative of the IURD. On the first of October, in Speaking for Financial Success, with Bishop Marcelo Moraes, at the end of the meeting he questioned his audience: “you know who I'm going to vote for as deputies, don't you? Tell me who the candidates are”. In the Temple of Salomão, practically full, its public, in chorus, spoke the candidates of the church and, at the end of the meeting, the “holy cards” of the candidates were given to us by church workers: Marcos Pereira and Edna Macedo (sister of Edir Macedo ), both from the party Republicans and elected with respectively 139.165 and 84.144 votes. The justification for the church to have candidates to vote for would be that evangelicals need to defend their values ​​through politics and, therefore, “support one of our own”, who support the family and Christian values.

On his Instagram profile, Bishop Renato Cardoso published a video (which was also shared by other IURD leaders on their profiles) in which he spoke of all the candidates he would vote for, for president, governor, senators and deputies. In this video, the candidates for federal deputy, Marcos Pereira, and state deputy, Edna Macedo, were by his side:

Bishop Renato Cardoso: “Guys, we are in a crucial moment for our nation and we need to choose people committed to faith and family. And capable people, above all, who will make a difference for society. I have already defined my candidates: Bishop Marcos Pereira for federal deputy here in São Paulo (1010) and Edna Macedo for state deputy (10456). My president will be Bolsonaro, he is not a person 100% aligned with all of us, but, among the options that are there, I am sure, 100% sure, that I do not want the “other option”. So, my president is Bolsonaro; here in São Paulo, Dória is my governor; Tripoli (PSDB) is my number one senator; Major Olímpio, my senator two; federal deputy 1010 (Marcos Pereira); state representative 10456 (Edna Macedo). This is my faith, if you want to follow this faith, may God bless you.”[iv]

Federal deputy Marcos Pereira, president of his party, the Republicanos – and who was also Minister of Industry in the government of Michel Temer, until he resigned after being mentioned in accusations involving bribes between Odebrecht and the former Brazilian Republican Party (PRB) – became He is vice-president of the National Congress between 2019 and 2021. He is not, therefore, a character of the “lower clergy” of the Brazilian political scene. In addition to candidates who are from “inside” the church, there is also support for candidacies of conservative politicians who compete in the elections with the Workers' Party, the “other option”.

Support for Bolsonaro, as can be seen, is done with reservations; support for the PSDB, in turn, appears as the electoral preferences for the position of governor and senator, but without as much prominence as candidates from “inside” the church. However, neither João Dória nor José Ricardo Tripoli bothered to gain visibility among the religious leaders of the IURD in the Templo de Salomão.

The presence of Dória’s Secretary of Education, Rossieli, at the Templo de Salomão, is revealing at a time when the secretary has a strong electoral campaign agenda[v]. By tightening his links with the PSDB directory, participating in inaugurations of works and projects alongside vice-governor Rodrigo Garcia and promoting meetings with school principals in the state of São Paulo, the secretary is clearly seeking to raise visibility and increase his political clout. Lately, it has been actively investing in advertising its achievements in the Education portfolio, such as the reopening of schools in this pandemic period and the expansion of the Integral Teaching Program, for example. Its engagement is shown explicitly on its social networks, with the dissemination of advertising pieces about its achievements. in one of them[vi], there is talk of a “revolution in education”, with an investment “never seen before” in public schools in the state and which promoted reforms in 99% of schools, with the aim of guaranteeing safety in the face-to-face return of students, teachers and other school agents.

However, the most relevant data is omitted: only 24% of schools, for example, have the structure to guarantee social distancing[vii]. As a way to solve the problem with the mandatory return to face-to-face classes, the “need” for social distancing was abolished[viii]. The expansion of full-time schools, in turn, also omits a perverse effect promoted by the program: the exclusion of young workers from school spaces. This is due to the fact that a school that adheres to the program obligatorily closes classes at night and excludes students from the lower social classes.

Like Governor João Dória, Rossieli has invested heavily in marketing his image, seeking to minimize or omit data that go against his management. Although it is difficult to know what position the then secretary intended, the visit to the Temple of Solomon reveals his intention to expand his political alliances. His presence in the Temple does not appear to be a mere matter of faith.

*Vitor Miranda Ciochetti, graduated in social sciences from USP, he is a professor of sociology in the state teaching network of the state of São Paulo.

 

Reference


ALMEIDA, Ronaldo de. Bolsonaro president: conservatism, evangelism and the Brazilian crisis. New CEBRAP studies [online]. v. 38, no. 1, 2019.

MACHADO, Maria das Dores Campos; BURITY, Joanildo. The Political Ascension of Pentecostals in Brazil in the Evaluation of Religious Leaders. Data [online], vol.57, n.3, pp.601-631, 2014.

TEIXEIRA, Jacqueline Moraes. Universal conduct: self-government and gender policies in the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. 2018. Thesis (Doctorate in Social Anthropology) – Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, 2018

 

Notes


[I] Publication made on Facebook in celebration of Teachers' Day: https://www.facebook.com/TemploDeSalomao/posts/4417429541686122

[ii] Text taken from Facebook post.

[iii] https://oglobo.globo.com/politica/bolsonaro-vai-ao-templo-de-salomao-e-abencoado-por-edir-macedo-23920121

[iv] https://www.instagram.com/p/Bom45YMg4Hk/

[v] https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/educacao/2021/09/secretario-da-educacao-de-sp-tem-agenda-de-candidato-e-levanta-criticas.shtml

[vi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyZqX6jUDw4&t=1s

[vii] https://oglobo.globo.com/brasil/educacao/escolas-de-sp-voltam-receber-100-dos-alunos-nesta-segunda-mas-apenas-24-das-estaduais-estao-aptas-25240507

[viii] https://www.istoedinheiro.com.br/doria-detalha-retorno-obrigatorio-das-aulas-presenciais-em-sp/

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