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Brazil’s Bolsonaro—Among Other Things, A Pentecostalist Triumph?
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If the polls are correct, on Sunday October 27 the Pentecostal movement will effectively take power in the world’s fifth most populous country—the “Donald Trump of the Tropics,” former paratrooper and current senator Jair Bolsonaro, seems poised to win Brazil’s presidency. [Brazilian elections 2018: New poll claims far-right Bolsonaro may win over HALF of votes, by Joe Gamp, Daily Express, October 24, 2018]

Bolsonaro may well move the country in a strongly conservative direction. But amid all the MSM panic about Brazil’s impending return to the “dictatorship” it emerged from 33 years ago [Brazil elections: prospect of Bolsonaro victory stokes fears of return to dictatorship, by Tom Philipps, Guardian, October 5, 2018], few seem to be asking a key question: How in Heaven (so to speak) have Pentecostals managed to take over a country which, less than 50 years ago, was 95% Catholic? [Brazil’s Changing Religious Landscape, Pew Research Center, July 18, 2013]

And let’s be clear that born-again Bolsonaro’s election (a cradle Catholic,he was rebaptized in the River Jordan by evangelicals in 2016 ) will be a Pentecostal victory. [The Rise of the Brazilian Evangelicals, by Chayenne Polimédio, The Atlantic, January 24, 2018]Thus Bolsonaro didn’t even bother turning up to a TV presidential election debate last month, instead being interviewed on the rival channel owned by Edir Macedo, head of Brazil’s largest evangelical church (in Brazil “Pentecostal” and “evangelical” are essentially interchangeable). Bolsonaro blamed this on his having been stabbed during the turbulent election campaign. But many see it as a way of distancing himself from the “secular” and “decadent” rival candidates.

Some sixty-one per cent of Brazilian evangelicals are set to vote for Bolsonaro, as against 26% for his socialist “Workers Party” opponent in Sunday’s second round—Bolsonaro came very close to victory in the first round. Bolsonaro, known as “The Captain,” has the ardent support of parliament’s “Evangelical Front”—a group of almost 100 Pentecostal MPs [Jair Bolsonaro courts Brazil’s evangelical Christians, by Andres Schipani and Joe Leahy, Financial Times, October 19, 2018] who meet before the daily agenda begins to be filled with the Holy Spirit together. Bolsonaro, like his evangelical base, is against legalizing abortion, against homosexuality, favors traditional sex roles, wants to brutally crack down Favela crime, wants to allow people to carry weapons, and wants to stop the country’s various social engineering programs.

As with Trump, Bolsonaro’s “gaffes”—telling a Leftist MP she was “too ugly to rape”, that women’s proneness to pregnancy justifies their having lower salaries [Presidential candidate said some women are “too ugly to rape”, by Kate Buck, Metro, October 1, 2018], that he’d rather his son was dead than gay, that Brazil’s blacks shouldn’t breed, that democracy wasn’t working, [Jair Bolsonaro; A Soldier Turned Politician Wants To Give Brazil Back to Army Rule, By James Brooke, NYT, July 25, 1993] and that criminals should be, en masse, tortured then killed—don’t lose him support; they gain him support. [How a homophobic, misogynist, racist “thing” could be Brazil’s next president, By Elaine Brum, Guardian, October 6, 2018] Like Trump, he says what ordinary Brazilians really think, especially the 48% who are white—though he has surprisingly strong support among women [Women for Bolsonaro, By Chayenne Polimédio, Foreign Affairs, October 26, 2018] and minority populations. [How Bolsonaro Entranced Brazil’s Minorities—While Also Insulting Them, By Anthony Faiola and Marina Lopes, Washington Post, October 24, 2018 and Why Many of Brazil’s Gay Voters Will Overlook Bolsonaro’s Homophobic Rants, By Walter Brandimarte, Bloomberg, October 27, 2018]

And, as with Trump, trust in the political Establishment—who originally dismissed Bolsonaro’s candidacy as a joke—has collapsed, due to revelations of fraud by the majority of legislators (though not Bolsonaro), with Brazilians turning to Bolsonaro’s two major backers: Protestants and the army. [Showdown in Brazil, Deutsche Welle, October 10, 2018]

According to the Pew study cited above, Brazil is roughly 30% Protestant and these Protestants are overwhelmingly—roughly 75%—Pentecostal. This means they are fundamentalists who believe that the Holy Spirit guides their lives, that material success is a blessing from God, and that Brazil is the field of combat upon which a war between God and Satan is playing out before their eyes.

The conversion of Brazil has been a startlingly short process. Originally overwhelmingly Catholic, the country has swung from crisis to crisis throughout the twentieth century due to quite amazing economic mismanagement and corruption. This has meant that between 1889 and 1985, there have effectively been three revolutions—Brazil is now on its “Third Republic”—leading to massive upheaval each time, something that was particularly acute when it returned to democracy in 1985. With the election of the leftist Workers’ Party’s hardliner Lula da Silva as president, in 2003, the government began obsessing about “equality”, losing control of the economy and crime in the process.

Brazil is a world of instability, embezzlement, and danger. Former President Lula de Silva currently languishes in jail for corruption, his misdemeanors having come to light in 2011 during his attempt to put an end to high-level Brazilian corruption, though he remains extremely popular. His successor His successor, Dilma Rousseff, herself tortured under the military dictatorship , was impeached in 2014 for breaking budgetary laws. Brazil’s murder rate is 25 per 100,000, compared to about 5 in the USA and, for that matter, many parts of South America. [Intentional Homicide Victims, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2016]It is against this background that the evangelicals have made such massive inroads.

People become more religiously devout when they are stressed. Uncertainty leads to stress and religiousness makes people feel less stressed, because the world makes sense and God is watching over them. Pentecostalism is a particularly potent panacea because it gives a very clear—fundamentalist—worldview. The second half of the twentieth century in Brazil saw a huge rural exodus to the cities, rural people being horrified by what they found, and evangelical churches offering the “community” and “moral certainty” they’d left behind. Religiousness is also caused by feelings of exclusion and failure. [The Origin And Evolution Of Religious Prosociality, by. A. Norenzayan, & A. Sharif, Science, 2008]. Pentecostalism deals with this by telling you that you are uniquely moral and Godly and, not only that, but that God will financially socially bless you, thus filling you with self-confidence.

If you’re poor, as so many are in Brazil, Pentecostalism allows you to present yourself as highly moral, in a context in which issues such as immigration are too insignificant to allow you to do that. There is, in fact, empirical evidence that men who are of relatively low socioeconomic status tend to earn more money the more Protestant a Brazilian region is and that when race is controlled for the effect is stronger in Brazilian regions with large non-white populations. In other words, Protestantism reduces prejudice against people (such as the mixed population), likely because it’s an insurance policy of moral behavior [The Growth of Protestantism in Brazil and Its Impact on Male Earnings, 1970–2000, Joseph Potter et al., Social Forces, 2014] and, fascinatingly, these “mixed regions” in the north (apart from the regions with many slave descendant blacks) have tended towards Bolsonaro.

Pentecostalism’s Prosperity Gospel likely also gives people an incentive to work hard in order to prove to themselves that God is blessing them and they are not damned to Hell, the so called “Protestant Ethic”.

And then there’s the clear evidence that evangelicalism works. It is evangelical churches that organize things. It is an evangelical mayor who has been tackling crime in Sao Paulo.[Brazil’s growing evangelical movement to shape election, Deutsche Welle, September 30, 2018] Pentecostals take over prisons, improve the lot of the inmates and send converts back into the outside world to convert their friends and family. Pentecostals set up help centers, provide meals for the needy so they can “witness to them” [From Jails to Congress, Brazil’s Evangelicals Could Swing Election, by R.T. Watson et al., Bloomberg, October 4, 2018] and provide medical care and “faith healing” [Born Again in Brazil, R. Andrew Chestnut, 1997] . . . they “get things done.”

This combination of certainty, moral status provision, love bombing, and financial success, seems to have rapidly converted more and more Brazilians, just as a very similar process converted the English to evangelicalism and Methodism during the chaos of the Industrial Revolution. [God is Dead, By Steve Bruce, 2002]

Why Brazil has reacted in this religious way and not Mexico? We can only speculate. Brazil has long been multiracial and multi-ethnic—the impeached former president had Bulgarian parents, Bolsonaro is German and Italian—something which results in distrust even among coethnics, conflict, instability [E Pluribus Unum, by Robert Putnam, Scandinavian Political Studies, 2007] and thus religious fervor. And Brazil, unlike Mexico, happened to import lots of Protestant immigrants, especially from Germany, setting themselves up to be evangelized.

Brazil was long (21 years) under a conservative military dictatorship. its successors swung very strongly against—resulting in the Brazil of carnivals, bikini waxes and socialism. The newly-triumphant Leftist ruling class used the memory of the dictatorship essentially to shame open conservatism out of the public arena, placing the new ruling class and its policies firmly at odds with a conservative population that was too scared to question them. In other words, the Left was setting themselves up for a forceful counter-revolution—and, as with Trump, access to alternative perspectives via the internet is allowing the right to grow and bypass the Leftist Main Stream Media.

The likely moral for people in the West and especially in “secular” Western Europe: fundamentalist religiosity seems to be pretty important in defeating the forces of SJW chaos. It “gets things done”.

Lance Welton [Email him] is the pen name of a freelance journalist living in New York.

(Republished from VDare by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Brazil, Christianity 
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  1. Anon[363] • Disclaimer says:

    What’s one variant of rice bag against another, although catholic girls tend to be better lays.

  2. llloyd says: • Website

    All that is fine to me and I would support the Brazilian evangelicals. However the author omitted one crucial point. Is the evangelical movement that probably will lead to an evangelical President, supported and funded by Zionists? I don’t object to them supporting Israel but not the present Israeli Government.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  3. 22pp22 says:

    I enjoyed the article, but it needed to be proofed more carefully. I was quite hard to follow in one or two places.

    PS. I know my own posts are often less than perfectly spelled.

  4. Anon[425] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    A batshit crazy country no matter how you look at it.

  5. Giuseppe says:

    As with Trump, Bolsonaro’s “gaffes”—telling a Leftist MP she was “too ugly to rape”, that women’s proneness to pregnancy justifies their having lower salaries [Presidential candidate said some women are “too ugly to rape”, by Kate Buck, Metro, October 1, 2018]…

    I would have hoped that this article might have shed some light on the complicated situation in Brazil that is made even more difficult to understand because the story has to be filtered through two different sets of mainstream media narratives with the addition of a language difference. But then again, a language difference just presents opportunities for more manipulation of events.

    The “you are too ugly to rape” comment attributed to Bolsonaro (to one woman in particular) and disseminated widely in the English-language press is a case in point. The link to the video captures “the gaff” and shows the context, an extremely heated argument between Jair Bolsonaro and Maria do Rosário, a Marxist politician who served in the administration of Dilma Rousseff. The long-standing conflict goes back to 2003, when Bolsonaro claims do Rosário called him a rapist and they have tangled several times over the years in which he has repeated the comment. The 2014 video in which they are both yelling at each other and had to be restrained, which maybe tells you something about the nature of politics in Brazil, do Rosário is accusing Bolsonaro of influencing rape culture, to which Bolsonaro replies, “Não te estupro porque você não merece,” “I wouldn’t rape you because you’re not worth it.”

    The official narrative is that Bolsonaro is the Trump of Brazil, and a more accurate translation and context doesn’t fit that narrative very well. The Italians don’t have the saying, “translator, traitor” for nothing.

    I am not defending Bolsonaro nor am I supporting him. I am only trying to show that all the news coming out of Brazil has been distorted and filtered, even sometimes when it appears on the Unz Review. So beware.

    • Replies: @Bliss
  6. Jason Liu says:

    What REALLY scares the globalist left is that a country as diverse as Brazil can still elect a right-winger like Bolsonaro.

    Turns out a lot of brown people don’t give a shit about equalist sensibilities.

    • Agree: Tyrion 2
  7. Dumbo says:

    Most people in the US have little to zero knowledge about Brazil or Latin America, and say incorrect things. Some more information:

    – Brazil is majority mixed race, but the regions differ widely. The South and Southeast of Brazil is heavily white, even admitting a 5%-10% admixture in most people of European descent. Besides Italians, Germans and Poles, Brazil has the largest Japanese community outside of Japan, and a lot of Lebanese (many in politics, such as Haddad).
    – The South used to be even whiter decades ago, but migration from the North to the South, together with lower fertility of whites have changed even the South.
    – Bolsonaro is officially catholic, but his wife is Pentecostal, and he has a lot of supports from evangelicals, since they are more important than Catholics now in Brazil
    – Catholicism in Brazil screwed up BIG by joining liberation theology and leftism in the 70s and 80s, so they were replaced among the poor by evangelic social conservative churches. Only middle class is “catholic” (but mostly really agnostic).
    – The main reason for people voting in Bolsonaro is because PT (Worker’s Party) was in power for the last 14 years and had a lot of corruption scandals, and most people, both rich and poor, are fed up with PT. Simple as that.
    – Politics in Brazil in the last 30 years have oscillated between leftist PT and “social democrat” or center-left PSDB (and sister party PMDB), all very corrupt parties, and not very different in their politics (although PT is more radical). People are fed up with corruption and believe Bolsonaro is “clean”.
    – Another important reason for the vote in Bolsonaro is violence and criminality. PT has been extremely lax in this area and crime is at all time highs.
    – Bolsonaro is not really a neo-liberal in economy, although he has aligned himself with such people for political reasons. However, his instincts are more geared to statism such as the way it was in the military dictatorship in the 60s. I suspect that he will not be as radical in the economy as people think.
    – Yes he is a zionist as evangelical churches in Brazil are heavily zionist following US influence. Haddad is Arab and more pro-Palestine, but of course socially liberal, so Jewish vote in Brazil is divided.
    – Brazil did not abandon Catholicism, as much as the Catholic Church abandoned Brazilians. The main lesson that the Catholic Church should learn (but won’t) is that people don’t like a weak or soft church that changes according to the political fads of the time or is concerned with mundane things such as political issues. They want Good vs Evil, they want Hell and Damnation for sinners, they want miracles, they want social conservatism. They don’t want a leftist Pope and a church that embraces the LGBT movement and immigration.

    • Replies: @Anon
    , @TomSchmidt
  8. Anon[425] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    Evangelicalism is Christianity for Dummies, crass ones at that.

    Also, Brazil’s future will be decided by race policy, not religion.

    Whites need to set up their own nation. Otherwise, they will end up like whites in South Africa.

    South Africa was once 50% white. But look at it now.

    If whites want peon labor, better to go with browns than blacks. Browns are more docile and less strong.

  9. Anon[425] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    The main lesson that the Catholic Church should learn (but won’t) is that people don’t like a weak or soft church that changes according to the political fads of the time or is concerned with mundane things such as political issues.

    But what does Prosperity Gospel have to do with Christianity?

    • Replies: @Dumbo
  10. There are several factual errors in this article.

    I haven’t had the time to check everything, but two grabbed my attention.

    Bolsonaro’s “gaffes” (…) that Brazil’s blacks shouldn’t breed

    To my knowledge, Bolsonaro has never said anything remotely to that effect. The abovementioned alleged statement looks like it has been badly mistranslated from something else that he has said, namely, that some dwellers of a quilombo that he visited were fat and lazy and “not even good for breeding”. That statement was inserted in a context of attacking Brazilian reservation-like areas for slaves’ descendants (‘quilombos’). A side note: according to a leftist source, which I haven’t thoroughly checked, Bolsonaro has a relative who claimed some land which was made into a reservation.

    It is an evangelical mayor who has been tackling crime in Sao Paulo.

    The evangelical mayor you are referring to, Mr. Crivella, is that of Rio de Janeiro, not of São Paulo. And the assertion that he “has been tackling crime” is absurd. Public security is a responsibility of States, not of Cities. And, as a matter of fact, the State Governor, who answers by the colorful nickname Pezão (“Big Foot”), has, a few months ago, declared himself incapable of performing his duties security-wise, and thus asked the President of Brazil for a Federal Intervention. His request was granted, and Rio de Janeiro is at the present moment policed by the Brazilian Army.

    All that having been said, I think the central thesis of the article is interesting, as is the case with most or all of your articles.

  11. Dumbo says:

    I don’t like the Evangelic church in Brazil. It has dubious leaders such as corrupt Edir Macedo, and their theology is basically U.S. style “Christian Zionism” and televangelism. Some even display the star of David instead of the Cross! They have ugly modern churches and ugly rituals.

    However, the reason many poor people join these churches is not because they expect to become rich, but because they are socially conservative and churches give a sense of belonging to people who have little else in life. Also, they preach against crime, help the local communities, help former drug-addicts, etc. Also they perform “miracles” and “cures” and “expulsions of demons”, Brazil is a very superstitious country. The Catholic Church (or part of it) became too much involved in political issues such as support of the “landless peasants” an that has not been good for them.

    Still, even though Catholic Church lost a lot of adherents, many people in Brazil who go to Evangelical churches still retain Catholic symbols and rituals, such as praying to the Our Lady of Aparecida or the cult of Padre Cícero and Padre Pio. So it’s not so simple.

    • Replies: @bj
  12. anon[128] • Disclaimer says:

    As usual, “Welton” offers up some half-truths and trivial observations and then makes a grand leap to his preordained conclusions.

  13. @Dumbo

    Thanks for the interesting insider perspective.

  14. Dutch Boy says:

    “criminals should be, en masse, tortured then killed—don’t lose him support; they gain him support. ”
    Jeez, who would worry about a guy like that coming to power?

    • Replies: @anon
  15. Back in the early 90s some white Brazilian “evangelico” with a Brazilian law degree landed in our small southern city that had no Brazilians to speak of. (68% white, 22% black and most of the rest Mesoamerican immigration scofflaws who were employed in construction, the hospitality industry, dope trafficking and in what few remaining furniture and textile mills were still running. (you could still hear that proverbial “Giant Sucking Sound” howling away back then.

    So this guy rents some small rundown old church and sets up a Gospel of Prosperity operation for the local pidgin Spanish speaking labor force and starts regular sermons, Sunday school, wedding ceremonies and the whole bit. Soon afterwards, he got a real estate broker’s license and commenced to take on a few somewhat educated Mexicans as sub-brokers and when all that liar loan business was in full speed ahead mode, he cleaned up, sold his brokerage to one of his unsuspecting Mexican sub-brokers and got the hell out of Dodge right before the whole thing collapsed circa 2007. The thing had kind of an Amway feel to it. No telling how many of the properties he brokered wound up on the courthouse steps.

  16. @llloyd

    I don’t object to them supporting Israel but not the present Israeli Government

    Ah, but isn’t the present Israeli government a manifestation of the same thing– the conservative working and lower classes lurching right and throwing off the leftist loonies who have nothing to offer them but welfare crumbs?

  17. Much, perhaps even a majority, of the black and mestiço population in Brazil is crypto-pagan. It’s not like they were pulled out of adoration chapels.

    Also, evangelicalism has had little role in the conservative turn in places like Catholic Poland and Orthodox Russia. Those folks went home.

    And it’s become rather PC in the US, at least on racial and immigration issues. They’re holding the fort on sex, though.

    I know an educated Missouri Synod Lutheran who grew up in a fundamentalist sect. He maintains that low church Protestantism eventually follows the fads of the secular world, but with a lag of a generation or two.

    Sometimes not even that. The Metropolitan Community Church was founded by a seminary classmate of Jerry Falwell. I once knew a former monastic candidate who’s now a member in good standing of this pink Pentecostal body. The Catholic-to-evangelical path isn’t as straight or as parallel as suggested here!

  18. Bliss says:

    Looks like a scene from an Italian movie.

    Better Italian than German if you are going to have fascism.

  19. Photo of Jair Bolsonaro in white gown, getting baptised in the river Jordan in Israel, May 2016

  20. anon[628] • Disclaimer says:
    @Dutch Boy

    better than being invaded

  21. Corvinus says:

    “As with Trump, Bolsonaro’s “gaffes” don’t lose him support; they gain him support.”

    No, such things do not “gain support”. Rather, the people who voted for him were willing to overlook his shortcomings for the larger picture. They simply desired an alternative. Now, in the end, it may not turn out to be a good move for the people of Bolsonaro fails to deliver.

  22. bj says:

    So it’s not so simple.

    Thank you for your informative comments. I spent the winter of 1990-1091 in Brazil. The Pentecostal Church is perfect for Brazil with the Pentecostal heritage of racially mixed congregations and ministry to the poor. The movement is a reaction to chaos, poverty, crime, and corruption of Brazil’s elites. It is a shelter from the storm!

    I am adding a link to a brief history of the Pentecostal movement in world religions. I think religion is moving to take power from the bankrupt ideologies of the enlightenment that have served the elites of the world, but abandoned the poor, ignorant, and lame.

    Rough men are moving to the front and taking control from the effeminate servants of oligarchy. Bolsonaro appears to be such a man. It might become dangerous to be a criminal in Brazil.

  23. Ivan says:

    Although Pentecostals are assholes, it is still way better that if the Catholics in Brazil fall into a state of numbness, that they become Protestants rather than Muslims. Pentecostals tend to take in those who are dissatisfied with the laxity in churches. They are our ‘right-wing’ thugs.

  24. Emilia says:

    I’m not sure that Protestant immigrants played much of a role in Brazil’s turn to Pentecostalism. Many of these immigrants, like German Lutherans, didn’t make much of any effort to convert Brazilians; they simply wanted to build churches for their own communities.

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