The last two years have been very important to Latin America concerning the relationship between religion and politics. In fact, there have been three significative cases in which evangelical-pentecostals have shown their will to participate in public debates.
First, there is the case of the 2016 impeachment against progressive president Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, led by the Pentecostal Assemblies of God congressman Eduardo Cunha, who besides belong to the so-called evangelical caucus, strongly conservative.
Second, there is the 2016 case of Peace Agreement in Colombia that intended to be a way to finish the war with FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), in which the Christian and particularly evangelical-pentecostal vote was an important factor for the victory of “no” option. The agreement considered the possibility for FARC to integrate into the political system, but this was not the most problematic issue for evangelicals. The agreement also considered issues like gender inclusion and LGBT demands.
The third case is Chile. Recently, a rightwing candidate has been chosen as president of the country but, since 2016, evangelicals/Pentecostals have been campaigning to raise their own candidates to congress and to support rightwing candidates to stop progressive policies.
Although these three cases are contextually different, they share some similarities that seem to be more than just coincidences. First of all, they are a response to what Christians in South America call “value issues”. This concept refers specially to the policies promoted by progressive governments regarding sexuality like abortion, gay marriage and gay adoption.
Second, they all share the idea that church should be influential in politics either voting or raising political Christian leaders. They conceive the church as a group of power inside society.
Third, they all operate as reactive movements and not as proposing ones. They define their political action as a reaction to some rejectable issues according to their worldview and not as a proposal to reform the people’s life in an integral way.
Fourth, their political decision, participation and action is leaded by a moralized concept of politics. And last but not least, all this elements have ended in an elective affinity between churches/Christians and rightwing positions. So, due to conservative rightwing defends family values, evangelical/Pentecostals make alliances.
But from a political point of view, at the end what happens is that churches finally support a very specific group of people and economic interests. Under the slogan “vota por valores, no por colores” (vote for values, not colors) what happens is that voting for values is a smoke screen that precisely is voting for a color.
All this considered, one of the main fears we can have as reflexive Christians is the utilization of the church for profane purposes. Is it possible that while the church is thinking she is finally waking up to politics, she is at the same time being instrumentalized by other powers? Be theological ignorance, be ambition of power, be fear to the future, be whatever it be, the case is that in our contexts there is a need to promote a healthy critic among our churches to understand that when we talk about politics – and please forgive me if this sounds obvious – we are not talking about the church!
There are some aspects to think in. First, “value issues” has reduced the intensity of such an important concept as “values”. Reducing the term only to sexual issues leads to forget the fact that Christianism is so much more than simply regulating what we do with our genitals. There is a need to recreate that concept.
Second, even though there are respectful exceptions, the major emphasis has been on changing laws, or in other words, preferring the power instead of the people. It is not that the church should not have concerns over institutionalism, however, if her concern is institutions before people of flesh and bones, something is going on wrong.
Third, the focus only in sexuality in political terms is proof that churches still have a long way to walk forward. Fourth, nobody denies that morality is important, but the church has to understand that politics is not morality. Politics needs to be seen politically. It is about power, interests, groups with demands, public negotiation and discussion, rights and duties, connivance in the difference. The church has to understand that its morality is not to be imposed by law but exactly the contrary: it is accepted by those who have known Jesus Christ as Lord of their life.The church is not called to control life by law but to preach the christian freedom given by our sovereign God.
Last, colors do matter! But the adherence to one or another does not depend on the opinion of a church leader but on the conscience of the believer before the King of Kings.
We will sure have very interesting debates coming soon in Latin America!
Luis Aranguiz Kahn is editor for PCPJ.
Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please join our Facebook forum, and sign up for our newsletter!