With about three weeks left before the highly anticipated mid-term elections I know it’s hard to keep up on events occurring in other parts of the world. I like to think of myself as someone that is fairly well read, especially when it comes to foreign affairs, but a story from last weeks New York Times caught me a bit off guard. Brazil, the country known for bringing us such fabulous imports like Soccer star Pele and the thong bikini (Aren’t we all indebted to the thong for inspiring Sisqo to produce such an amazing song?) was embroiled in a heated presidential election.
While I’m no expert on Brazilian politics I have followed the countries developments to improve education, eradicate poverty, and improve the welfare state. I was an admirer of previous president Lula da Silva, and was intrigued with Brazil’s desire to implement a Universal Basic Income. I know that the recent President was removed for office and that much controversy surrounded the “soft-coup” that removed her from power. However, I did not realize how polarized the country had become politically.
As I learned in the article Brazil is a country undergoing a radical change in religious values and practices. 22% of the countries population is now “Evangelical Christian.” This is an interesting new development, particularly when one considers that Brazil has historically been an important foundation for the growth and power of Catholicism in South America. Consider that in America, where Evangelicalism plays an extremely important role in politics, culture, and civil society, the U.S has about 26% of the population claiming the “Evangelical” mantle.
While Evangelical Christianity is fairly “young” Brazilian political observers have noticed an increasing influence of Evangelical thinking on the nations politics. Once considered a country set apart for it’s “democratic socialist” ideals, the Pew Forum on Religion notes that some estimates have “54% of the population reporting that conservative political and cultural views dominate their electoral decisions.” What has been the result of such a dramatic change in the religious and political make up of the country?
One thing that stands out is the spread of the American based Assemblies of God organization in the country. The Assemblies of God denomination (for those who may not know, Assemblies of God is the Christian denomination that former Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin belongs to) is the “fastest growing Evangelical group in the country.” The New York Times reports that “many American pastors from the Assemblies of God in America have been flocking to Brazil to set up Churches, train Pastors, and create infrastructure to help the organization increase its footprint in Brazilian life.”
As an Evangelical who hold extremely left-wing political views (sorry Mom and Dad) I tend to support organizations like the Assemblies of God that work hard to spread the message of Jesus, and pray that they stay far away from trying to influence local politics. However, as the New York Times is reporting, this has not been the case at all. The Assemblies of God have become deeply involved in Brazilian politics. The results have been nothing short of disastrous.
In Brazil Presidential elections start with anywhere from 4 to sometimes 10 candidates on a ballot. Barring that any one candidate receives over 50% of the vote, the top two candidates to receive the most votes will head to a final election later in the year. Two weeks ago conservative politician Jair Messias Bolsonaro won the highest percentage of the vote and will be taking on liberal politician Fernando Haddad.
As to be expected the countries Evangelical community is strongly backing Conservative Bolsonaro. However, it’s the statements and political history that make this support so troubling. For starters, Bolsonaro has stated, “human rights are used to support criminals,” and that “I’d rather have a dead son than a gay son.” If those statements aren’t enough to question why the Assemblies of God are so keen to support this candidate than consider this statement he gave when asked by reporters what he thinks about a female liberal politician whom he works alongside in Brazil’s Congress: “I wouldn’t rape her. She isn’t worthy of it.”
Politics is a messy business. I’ve worked in politics and have seen that it can bring out the worst in people. As Christians, however, we have a special call to follow the words of Isaiah 49:6. In this passage God tells the Prophet “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” As Evangelicals go out to other nations, we must ask ourselves if we are spreading the light that Christ has demanded we let shine?
As an Evangelical who is also politically progressive and uses the scriptures to inform my political outlook I have no problem with Christians getting involved with politics. However, this involvement must be grounded in scriptural justice. That means that when a candidate like Bolsonaro says Black Brazilians “ don’t do anything. I don’t think they’re even good for procreation any more” we must stand up and speak words of life. We must make sure that “our salt has not lost its flavor.”
Polls are showing that Bolsonaro, with his almost unanimous support among the countries Evangelical’s, will easily win the second round of elections and become Brazil’s next President. I pray for Bolsonaro. I pray that Christ will change his heart. I pray for the Christians of Brazil. I pray that they meditate on the Scriptures and realize that “gaining the whole world and losing your soul” is a process that must be rejected. I pray that justice reigns in Brazil and that hate is shunned. To my fellow Evangelicals I say this: WE CAN DO BETTER! LETS BE TRUE MORAL, SPIRTUAL, AND ETHICAL LEADERS!