With a thumbs up, the pastor of the Assembly of God in Botukatu (SP) warns that anyone who votes for Lulu (PT) is “not worthy of the Lord’s Supper.” The best thing such a believer can do is to refrain from eating bread and drinking from a cup (usually grape juice), which is a symbolic recognition of Christ’s sacrifice, he says.
“He said there in the Sarawah circle when he got popcorn on his head that ‘the demons are bothering me now’. Do you have the courage to say that you will vote for such a person?” The religious leader refers to a video from 2021 showing PT participating in a candomblé ritual. Lula never claimed to have been possessed, but walks around evangelical churches with a quote taken out of context. He said, in fact, that “Bolsonarists on social media” spread “that the devil cares about me.”
Opponents conjure up a narrative of Lula’s collusion with darkness after the first elections in newly democratized Brazil, when evangelicals began to gain prominence in the elections. The segment now reaches, in this year 2022, polarized between PT and Jair Bolsonaro (PL), the pinnacle of its political activity, in a confrontation in which the first lady Michelle Bolsonaro and the sociologist Rosangela da Silva, Giagna, Squid’s wife.
The emergence of this Christian bloc in politics began in the Constituent Assembly, which formulated the Constitution of 1988. The first evangelical pew was formed there, which, in his own words, gave a “biblical ablution” to the chairman of the Constituent Assembly, Ulisse Guimarães.
“Brother, vote for brother” Josue Silvestre, a parliamentary councilor associated with another Assembly, God’s, dates back to that time. The book summarizes the new evangelical Zeitgeist: “The believer votes for the believer, because otherwise he cannot claim to be a believer,” wrote Sylvester.
“Evangelical leaders, especially Pentecostals, took advantage of the context of democratic openness to invest in political activism,” says Ricardo Mariano, a USP sociology professor who coined the term “neo-Pentecostals” in his master’s thesis in the 1990s. “Since the 1970s, pastors have been harassed by candidates who, when elected, often broke their promises. This, they said, encouraged them to nominate their own candidates.”
Churches began, in Mariano’s words, to “strategically resort to the victimized fate of a persecuted religious minority, declaring the urgent need to protect religious freedom, Christian morality, and their own interests from attacks by perceived enemies through the election of church representatives.”
An example of a leap year when a pastor backed Lulu against Fernando Collor in 1989, Silas Malafaia says that as a child he heard pastors preach “that politics and television are the work of the devil.” He quotes the biblical passage “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” to explain why “I could not, thinking with my buttons, understand the reason for this.”
As a televangelist he worked “to give political consciousness to evangelists”. The old pastoral guard, in the words of today’s Bolsonarist Malafay, “only preached heaven and eternal life, as if we were not in an earthly context.”
Fake old news, re-released in 2022, is the idea that PT will close churches. Already in the 1989 elections, there was talk that Lula would do this if she won in collusion with the Catholic Church to eradicate the religious freedom of the evangelicals.
On the eve of the first round, the faithful of the Catholic Church sang “devil on a tightrope, let’s collorir, let’s collorir” at a vigil led by Bishop Edir Macedo, who wore a shirt with the name Collor.
The one wearing the shirt in 2010 was MP Marco Feliciano (PL-SP). It read: “I am a Christian and I vote for Dilma.” In the service, he made a mea culpa: “Like a parrot, I repeated: PT is going to close the churches in Brazil. […] Eight years ago, Lula was a demon. But Lula was chosen and not a single church was closed.”
Feliciano and Macedo were with Dilma Rousseff in an argument that was won by PT. Today, the Episcopal Church is campaigning that the Christian Left is an anomaly, and the MP reiterated that the PT is a threat to churches. Closing temples during the pandemic for health reasons helped inflate this “Lula risk.”
Feliciano justifies his change of position as follows: PT is “committed to the principles of identity” and one way to silence churches is to shut them up. He says he thinks in the PT government, “laws that prevent pastors from saying that homosexuality is a sin, or that force believers into same-sex ‘marriages’ will swarm.” Lula’s campaign shows no signs of this happening.
Playing with moral pride is a resource that paid off for Bolsonaro in 2018,” recalls Ricardo Mariano. The pastors accused Fernando Haddad, the PT presidential candidate “participating in the anti-PT wave”, of being “an agent of cultural Marxism, a culture of death.” [aborto] and gender ideology,” he says.
In this election, the Catholic Bolsonaro has put an evangelical woman at the forefront of his campaign, whom he married in 2013 with Malafaia’s blessing. Michelle is seen as a more sugary antithesis to the president’s rugged image, which would be well liked by women, 58% of evangelical voters and her husband’s electoral wing. And it turned out better than the order, according to the allies.
The first lady can speak the language of the evangelists, said Apostle Cesar Augusto, leader of the Fonte da Vida church. “She does not pretend during the campaign, as we see with many politicians. We know the difference between authenticity and pretense.”
Malafaya repeats the good impression. “Michelle is known for being a woman, an evangelist who knows how to position herself, looks good,” she says. “And after seeing her husband being killed, like a macho who can’t stand a woman, my friend, a woman has panache, she began to open her mouth.”
Janja, on the other hand, is PT’s bet to lure female voters into a duel between two men who have entered the popular imagination as “macho goats.” However, pastors from the Bolonarist orbit believe that the sociologist has a religious responsibility.
Not only does she exude an image of an independent woman that brings her closer to the feminism rejected by many evangelicals, but she also posted a photo of herself posing next to images of orishas from Afro-Brazilian religions. Here’s how he signed it: “I miss white and twists, turns, turns…”.
Michelle herself played a recording of the Candomblé leaders showering Lulu with popcorn. But not because of religious tolerance: the video associates this religion with darkness.
Lula’s headquarters is trying to run after Bolsonaro to prevent Bolsonaro from further distancing himself from the former president in an evangelical field that represents 1 in 4 voters.
Lula tested vaccines against a minefield that had been prepared for him to avoid regaining the evangelical voices that once belonged to him, like when he said at the start of his campaign that Bolsonaro was “demons-possessed.” He also brought Pastor Paulo Marcelo to his team, who allied with PT and was a member of the Gideões Missionários da Última Hora, a Pentecostal congress that put forward names like Feliciano, with whom he is friends to this day.
Paulo Marcelo defends a tactic now resurfacing in PT members’ speeches: reminding evangelists that Lula did a lot of good for the group, such as when he approved the law that established the March for Jesus National Day. The former president, he said, also deserves credit for better times. “The question is very simple: what has improved in your life? How much income did your church have at the time of Lula and Dilma, and how much do you have today?”
Something was already recommended in 2013 by Marcello Crivella, nephew of Edir Macedo, who at the time was Dilma’s Minister of Fisheries. At an event with pastors, today’s Bolsonarian Crivella stated: “The President said: We are no longer going to exploit the people. And when there is more money, the evangelical people are not the people who go to the boutique to buy branded clothes. people do? He goes to church more because he can afford the subway and train. He gives more offerings, more tithes, more charity.”