Brazil’s Bolsonaro — Trump of the Tropics, and A Pentecostalist Triumph?

Brazil’s Bolsonaro — Trump of the Tropics, and A Pentecostalist Triumph? By Lance Welton.

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. …

[How] have Pentecostals managed to take over a country which, less than 50 years ago, was 95% Catholic?

This 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.

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. …

Like Trump, he says what ordinary Brazilians really think, especially the 48% who are white — though he has surprisingly strong support among women and minority populations.

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.

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. …

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. 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” and provide medical care and “faith healing”  … they “get things done.” …

Why Brazil has reacted in this religious way and not Mexico? We can only speculate. … 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 [their conservative policies] — 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.