Brazil: Evangelicals invaded politics under Bolsonaro
In the underprivileged Penha neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian evangelical Giociani Lucio waves a flag depicting two Bolsonarian MP candidates next to the famous pastor who supports them.
For her there is no doubt: “Only Jesus can save Brazil from corruption and from Lula”.
The ties between Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and evangelical churches, a confession of his devout wife Michelle, have only strengthened under his tenure.
With the slogan “Brazil above everything and God above everything”, the far-right head of state defended ultra-conservative values: opposition to abortion and gay marriage in particular. He even appointed its first evangelical judge to the Supreme Court.
In the Chamber of Deputies, Evangelicals have become a powerful group with 112 MPs out of 513. They now make up 30% of the Brazilian population and mostly belong to the less privileged classes.
In the secular state of Brazil, this current of Protestantism, mostly neo-Pentecostal, is influential even in the highest spheres of power.
As for the grassroots, it’s currently active on the streets of Brazil to promote Bolsonaro’s re-election candidacy, less than four weeks before the first round of the presidential election that will pit him against the polls’ favorite former left-wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
“Religion must mix with politics. It is part of the society we belong to and we need evangelical politics,” asserts Rafael Moreira Macedo, a conservative activist.
He promotes Claudio Castro, the Bolsonaro-allied candidate for governor of Rio state, outside the Church of the Assembly of God of Victory in Christ (ADEVC) in Penha.
“Some people think that evangelicals cannot get involved in politics. But why not? We are also citizens of the world,” says Solange Ferreira, a teacher in her 60s, before returning to the service.
– truths and lies –
The majority of evangelicals openly say they support Bolsonaro and repeat his rhetoric, including his criticism of the left for his involvement in corruption scandals.
Former President Lula “defends dictatorships. Evangelicals are more likely to believe in freedom while they identify with socialism and communism,” says Moreira Macedo, 37.
“I don’t know anyone who votes for Lula,” says Alessandra Abreu, a 22-year-old college student who has been evangelical since she began accompanying her mother-in-law to church three years ago.
“Bolsonaro rejects anything that harms teenagers and adults,” she explains.
During the service, she carefully listens to the sermons of Pastor Silas Malafaia, Jair Bolsonaro’s friend and close adviser. “I know he’s not lying,” adds the young woman, who says she doesn’t trust the press or social media.
– “Vote for 22” –
According to the Datafolha Institute, Bolsonaro gets 48% of evangelical voter intent while Lula gets 32%.
It’s the opposite of the general population, which would vote for President in the first round on Oct. 2 with 32% but prefer Lula with 45%.
“Of course I will vote for Bolsonaro,” says Giociani Lucio, 33, married and mother of a little girl. “Because the family, consisting of man and woman, is superior to everything”.
“If all evangelicals are as open-minded as I am, they will vote 22,” she says, referring to the number voters have to choose in front of the electronic ballot box if they vote for Jair Bolsonaro.
For 56% of Brazilian voters, politics and religion go hand in hand, again according to Datafolha.
And 60 percent find it even more important that a presidential candidate defends family values than a good economic program.
So conservative values are shared far beyond the temples.
Rafael Moreira Macedo explains that evangelicals proselytize a lot.
“We are in contact with a lot of people,” he explains. “We infect others, but in a positive way”.
“I’ve never counted them, but I’ve persuaded a lot of people throughout my life,” he says.
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