How can I explain Brazilian politics to the foreign public? This is not a simple task. The famous Bossa Nova’s musician, Tom Jobim (1927-1994), said once that Brazil is not for beginners.
The same thing can be said about the complex relationship of Pentecostal evangelicals with national politics. Since redemocratization in 1985, Brazilian politics has gone beyond the traditional division between conservatives and progressives.
For example, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who ruled Brazil between 1995 and 2002, was a Marxist sociologist early in his career in the 1960s and later became a Social Democrat in the 1980s. However, his government in the late 1990s had an economic management marked by classical liberalism.
Another example is President Fernando Collor that governed Brazil between 1990 and 1992. He was himself elected as a right-wing leader, but his administration confiscated investments in a disastrous economic plan, something unthinkable coming from a conservative politician. The last example that we can give is President Lula da Silva. This President, that governed Brazil from 2002 to 2010, is a leftist leader, but several right-wing parties have supported him, including most evangelical politicians.
The division between right and left in Brazil has been always very nebulous. This started to change in 2018. The last Brazilian election was very similar to the North American electoral model.
I’ve listened to the political dialogue around how our nation should respond to migrants, asylees and refugees and have noticed the assumptions that we begin with and how those assumptions form our responses. I want to talk about that in this blog post because who we think migrants are shapes how we respond to them. In addition, how we think about migrants shapes the policy discussions that we have. And then I want us to reflect on whether or not our assumptions reflect our faith and how we might consider seeking a truly Christian response to this crisis.
Our beginning assumptions shape how we see:
If we begin with the assumption that migrants or refugees are a threat to our way of life–our culture, if they are a threat to our jobs, if they are a threat to our faith or if they are a threat to our well-being, if they are a threat to our social strength, then we must create policy and enact various security measures to protect ourselves. If we think of migrants as invaders, then we would need to use military force to protect ourselves from an invasion. That is the logical flow from our assumptions to our actions.
If our beginning point regarding migrants and refugees is that all of those heading to our borders are criminals coming to harm us, then we must of course stop them from coming into our country at all costs. Naturally we would not want more violent people or drug dealers. Continue reading Finding A Christian Response to Migrants→
Almost every Evangelical knows what the 81% means when talking about politics. Nothing more actually needs to be said in many cases because most on both sides of this political discourse know. If you are reading this and you don’t know, where have you been? That percentage represents the 81% of white evangelicals who voted for Trump in the 2016 election. Others state that 35%-45% of all evangelicals voted for Trump. And still others debate if it was 81% at all. At the end of the day, it does not really matter the exact number because what we are seeing in America is that too many Evangelicals voted for Trump knowing all he represented BEFORE going to the polls.
What white evangelicals saw (and continue to see) in Trump is a hero. Some even have referred to him recently as Jesus Christ himself with a billboard ad that stated “the Word became flesh” (verified here for those who can’t believe anything negative). THAT is scary!
They see him as the hero that will be the one to slow the growth of diversity (specifically brown taking over America although Brown as in Latinos is the majority in the U.S. already), slow the shrinking role of religion (because in no way does legislating public and private behavior even for non-Christians look like the Taliban) and here’s the biggie reversing Roe vs. Wade, which if can accomplish that, he will be delivering on an evangelical dream that five Republican presidents, including Ronald Regan could not deliver. All this is mesmerizing for white evangelicals so much so that they are willing to do (and have done) anything to get these deliverables, even if they have to sell their soul to do it. Which they have also done.
For many (not all) evangelicals of color, Trump is simply a tragedy in American politics. At first no one took this reality star seriously but then a shift occurred, a racist base was rallied and a biblically illiterate and/or privileged white evangelical community aligned with his agenda and well, the rest is history.
A couple of days ago, President Donald Trump met with a group of inner-city pastors to discuss policy (especially regarding the criminal justice system). Interestingly, most of the pastors present at this meeting were Pentecostal and Charismatic, and they praised the president during the meeting.
Here at PCPJ, we are deeply critical of President Trump’s policies. We have discussed many of them at length, and we even wrote (and I co-signed) a letter criticizing the president several months ago. In this article, I do not want to beat a dead horse and simply further criticize the Trump administration on policy. However, I do want to address a much larger issue — the baptizing of our partisan politics. Continue reading The Dangers of Baptizing Our Politics→
These days, love of God is often mixed up with love of country, patriotism and national pride. This was not the case with most early Pentecostals. In line with their pacifism, many influential Spirit-filled leaders criticized patriotism and nationalism. Here are some examples:
Charles Fox Parham (4 June 1873 – c. 29 January 1929) was an American preacher who was instrumental in the formation of Pentecostalism.
The past order of civilization was upheld by the power of nationalism, which in turn was upheld by the spirit of patriotism, which divided the peoples of the world by geographical boundaries, over which each fought the other until they turned the world into a shamble. The ruling power of this old order has always been the rich, who exploited the masses for profit or drove them en masse to war, to perpetuate their misrule.
The principle teachers of patriotism maintaining nationalism were the churches, who have lost their spiritual power and been forsaken of God. Thus, on the side of the old order in the coming struggle, will be arrayed the governments, the rich, and the churches, and whatever forces they can drive or patriotically inspire to fight for them. On the other hand the new order that rises out of the sea of humanity knows no national boundaries, believing in the universal brotherhood of mankind and the establishment of the teachings of Jesus Christ as a foundation for all laws, whether political or social. Charles F. Parham, Everlasting Gospel, pp. 27-28.Continue reading Early Pentecostals on Patriotism and Nationalism→
Immigration is often in the news, but over the last several weeks, it has been discussed at a higher frequency than usual when information about the Trump administration’s policies on immigration to the United States (especially from Mexico and Central America) came to light.
Many of the policies embraced by the Trump administration are not unique to current administration. The Obama administration deported many foreign nationals and migrants, and they were following precedents set by the Bush administration. In addition, the first significant jump in deportations took place under the administration of Bill Clinton, while Hillary Clinton went so far as to support a double-layered border fence (in addition to other increased border security measures). Over the last 20 years, they have progressively become standard US policy on illegal immigration from Latin American nations. However, a recent story shows that this can also affect people from Canada who cross the border outside of a legal port of entry.
What makes this issue particularly relevant for Christians — and those of us at Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice — is that Attorney General Jeff Sessions invoked the Bible in defense of these sorts of policies. Sessions is correct that most Biblical scholars understand Romans 13:1-7 to be discussing submission to governing authorities. Christians, who are supposed to love our enemies (Romans 12:17-19, 13:8-10), are supposed to love the state that persecutes them (as would have been the case in Paul’s context). This passage is not about blind allegiance to governmental policies that may be unfair, unjust, or unholy. Continue reading The Bible on Immigration: Jeff Sessions Has It Wrong→