Religion defies recession in Brazil

Samantha Pearson – The Financial Times, 6/24/2015

At Solomon’s Temple in São Paulo, a vast $300m replica of the biblical temple built by Brazil’s Universal Church, the message is clear: salvation can — and should — be bought.

One Monday afternoon, during the evangelical church’s weekly “Success Congress”, a local businessman is summoned to the temple’s gold-plated altar to explain how his life suddenly changed after making his first contribution.

“I was living in my father’s basement,” he says, his image beamed out on giant plasma screens to the transfixed congregation of nearly 10,000 followers. “Now I own a beautiful house, a fast-food chain, an insurance brokerage and I bought the car of my dreams!”

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In Brazil, ‘Surfer Angel’ Is Considered for Sainthood

John Lyons – The Wall Street Journal, 2/23/2015

RIO DE JANEIRO—Praying for waves? Have faith: the Catholic Church is considering a surfer for sainthood.

The would-be patron saint of good vibes is Guido Schäffer, a Brazilian priest-in-training who was 34 and about to be ordained when he drowned while surfing near here in 2009.

After he died, locals started calling him the “Surfer Angel” and made pilgrimages to his tomb. Some left engraved stone plaques thanking him for answered prayers. Others left molds of feet and heads indicating body parts healed through his intercession.

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Abortion in Brazil: a matter of life and death

Donna Bowater – The Guardian, 2/1/2015

Born five years apart, sisters Joyce and Jandyra Magdalena dos Santos Cruz lived together in a simple low-rise in Guaratiba, a poor neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro, with Joyce’s four children, Jandyra’s two daughters, and their mother, Marie Ângela. Like many Brazilian families, their lives were inextricably meshed by economies of scale.

It was the honey-coloured eyes they also shared that Joyce Magdalena recognised last August, when Jandyra was found inside a burnt-out car. She had been mutilated, dismembered and charred beyond identification. She had climbed into the same car a day earlier, at a bus station in the nearby town of Campo Grande, to be taken for an illegal abortion.

“The press said they cut off her hands,” says Joyce. “It wasn’t just her hands. They took off her arms, legs, teeth. A woman so beautiful. OK, she committed a crime, but she was committing a crime against herself, against her own life. It didn’t hurt anyone.”

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Conservatives Gaining Force in Brazil Congress

AP – ABC News, 10/18/2014

With its Carnival reputation and skin-baring beach life, Brazil may look like a liberal bastion. But unease over a worsening economy and deteriorating public safety, plus a backlash against recent gay-rights gains, are propelling a conservative rise that will shape the next administration, regardless of who wins the presidency.

The general election held earlier this month saw a greater share of Brazil’s National Congress seats go to various conservative caucuses, which now control nearly 60 percent of the 513 seats in the lower house. They include evangelical lawmakers who oppose gay marriage or access to abortion; the “ruralistas” whose pro-agriculture positions counter environmentalists and indigenous groups; and a law-and-order faction that demands a crackdown on crime.

Ahead of the presidential runoff Oct. 26, there’s no doubt such conservatives are giving greater support to center-right challenger Aecio Neves over left-leaning President Dilma Rousseff. But it’s also clear that neither presidential candidate is as socially conservative as the increasingly powerful elements of Congress.

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The Brazilian church that welcomes gay believers into the fold

Beth McLoughlin – The Guardian, 10/1/2014

From the outside, there is little to distinguish the Metropolitan community church from the many other evangelical houses of worship in Rio’s Zona Norte. But as Marcos Lord prepares for an evening sermon, it soon becomes clear that this church is not like the others.

It takes the pastor about an hour to prepare for the pulpit: donning false eyelashes, a wig and a pair of vertiginous heels to transform himself into the drag queen Luandha Perón. In a country where evangelical Christians have become increasingly influential – and outspoken in their homophobia – the church provides a space for gay, bisexual and transsexual believers.

This evening, Luandha is hosting a recital of lesbian poetry. “This story isn’t erotic enough for my liking,” she jokes with the congregation, before reading a touching poem that one member has written about the first time she met her partner. Watching this confident character command an audience, it is hard to imagine that Lord once believed he was possessed by demons, and felt unable to come out until he was 26.

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Brazil’s evangelicals gain clout and get close to electing first president

Anthony Boadle – Reuters, 9/29/2014

Brazil’s increasingly powerful evangelical Christians are tantalizingly close to electing one of their own as president next month in what would be a historic shift for the world’s largest Catholic nation.

Marina Silva, an environmentalist running neck and neck in polls with incumbent President Dilma Rousseff, is a Pentecostal Christian who often invokes God on the campaign trail and has said she sometimes consults the Bible for inspiration when making important political decisions.

Some 65 percent of Brazil’s 200 million people are Roman Catholics but evangelicals are rapidly gaining followers and power.

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Religion and gay rights take center stage in Brazil elections

Mauricio Savarese – RT, 09/04/2014

Three weeks ago the 2014 Brazilian presidential elections were set to be the most boring ever. It has all changed since centrist candidate Eduardo Campos died in a plane crash and was replaced by environmentalist Marina Silva, who is now seen as the favorite to win.

Polls suggest incumbent Dilma Rousseff would lose to her in a likely runoff by 10 points. It is even worse for the opposition’s Aecio Neves, who is almost 20 points behind for the first vote on October 5th. It is so shocking that the talk about the economy and political support is insufficient to affect the newcomer.

That is probably why the focus of the campaign has shifted towards the role of religion and gay rights. All three candidates are doing their best in these two topics to score some points with undecided voters – and that means to be considerate to religious leaders and homosexual activists. It is clearly a difficult task, since most religious leaders in Brazil are much more conservative than Pope Francis, and gay movements are very vocal against their critics. Brazil is the nation with the most Catholics on Earth – about 70 percent of its 200 million inhabitants – and presidential hopefuls with a decent shot are always religious (or say they are).

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