Evangelical-Military Republic

Brazil is finished and there is nothing we can do about it. This isn't one of those expressions like “the king is dead, long live the king!” — no, Brazil really is over. Any idea of a nation or national project that might have existed in the past has melted in the air, to badly paraphrase Marx. Anyone who thinks the problem comes down only to Bolsonaro, his ministers and his generals, is wrong. Sure, we might have had a chance if Bolsonaro fell and his generals were held accountable. Maybe then the country would wake up. But that won't happen, because the country would need to have been already awake in order for that to happen. Bolsonaro might fall and be arrested, but we all know that the military — an institution that has been increasingly throwing itself in politics over the last few years  — won't be held accountable for our current misery.
“What misery?”, you might ask. Let's see. Besides the strong evidence of corruption related crimes that haunt all members of Bolsonaro's government, including the military, we still have to suffer with the terrible public administration. The economy, which the Ministry is at the incompetent hands of neoliberal Paulo Guedes, wasn't showing signs of recovery back in 2019, before the pandemic. It got even worse after, of course. The government's plan for education and law enforcement can be summed up as follows: privatizing all schools, legalizing homeschooling, arming the population. And to crown the disgrace, we can't forget the federal government's terrible response to the pandemic. Bolsonaro's government is intentionally causing deaths because it misinforms the public about distancing measures, early treatment and vaccination. Officially, over 330 thousand Brazilians died of covid-19. But we know the real number is much higher.

How did we get here? A lot of it has to do with far-right movements that have over the years demonized politics — because politics is the realm of deals and agreements — in favor of a supposedly redeeming anti-political belief that would come and “rescue” the nation. We can call this redeeming anti-political belief by its most famous name: fascism. Basically, a considerable part of the population was seduced by fascism in the last couple of decades. Another smaller part of the population didn't need to be seduced. This smaller part was already authoritarian, rough, crude and — without knowing it — fascist.

It's not the first time in the country's history that we have been attacked by anti-political moralism — the kind of moralism that loves to shout things like “all politicians are corrupt!” and “my party is Brazil!”. It also happened in 1964, when the Brazilian military staged a coup and installed a dictatorship that lasted until 1985. Back then, it didn't take long for the moralist discourse against political corruption — a discourse that demonizes politics as a whole — to become anti-communism and anti any view that questioned the hierarchies of our brutally unequal society. The same is happening now. To badly paraphrase Marx once again: while in 1964 history developed as tragedy, now it repeats itself as farce.

Incapable, our potbellied and sclerotic 21st century generals threaten the democratic state on Twitter. And because they are dumb, they bet their entire reputation backing a complete imbecile with traces of psychopathy in the 2018 presidential elections. As The Intercept journalist Leandro Demori observed recently, if by some miracle Brazil was succeeding at the economy or the pandemic, the military and its supporters would be celebrating “military efficiency”. At least Bolsonaro's government was useful in unmasking the much parroted myth that our armed forces are efficient. In fact, it seems our armed forces have only one purpose, and that purpose is to threaten the democratic state whenever the upper class gets uncomfortable with the possibility of poor people ascending the social ladder.

History repeats itself as farce even in the support given by civil society to the coup: while in 1964 the religion of most reactionary civilians was Catholicism, now they are mostly neopentecostal evangelicals, with their horrible aesthetics. But even when it comes to that, the military dictatorship is guilty. After the coup in ’64, when army marshal Castello Branco was head of state, the government began to encourage American preachers to come to Brazil. Their purpose was clear. These evangelical groups had as one of their stated goals the fight against atheism and against what they saw as an attack on Christian values perpetrated by the modern world —  basically they had the same demagogic discourse as contemporary characters such as preacher Silas Malafaia, father Ricardo, and far-right pseudo-philosopher Olavo de Carvalho. Besides this, the feeling of awe that the Brazilian military had of the United States back in the 1960s certainly made them think that Protestantism would somehow help our country, since most Americans were (and still are) protestant.

From the encouragement given by the dictatorship to the end of the 20th century, the number of evangelicals increased little by little. When I was a child back in the ’80s, protestants were still a minority. We knew some here and there. Sometimes a distant family member became a Methodist or something. Every now and then we would meet a Baptist. With the passage of time, this impression changed. Between the year 2000 and 2010, our demographic Census registered over 42 million evangelicals. That's almost the population of Argentina. Just to have an idea, let's look at their growth in the last few decades: in 1980, only 6.6% of the Brazilian population belonged to some protestant denomination; in 1990, the number increased to 9.9%; in 2000, it increased to 15.5% — at the time this represented a little over 26 million people; in 2010, there were 42 million evangelicals in Brazil.

We know that most of that increase wasn't due to traditional protestant denominations, but mega neopentecostal churches — yes, those churches that sell false cures and financial miracles, just the kind of Protestantism the military dictatorship encouraged back in the day. We have yet to have another Census, but if the trend in growth remains the same as in the 2000-2010 decade, neopentecostal Protestantism will be the main religion in Brazil. It's worth remembering that 70% of evangelicals voted for Bolsonaro in 2018, while 51% of Catholics did the same. It's not fantastical to speculate that Bolsonaro will have the same amount of support among evangelicals in the 2022 elections. He might get even more support.

That is, if the elections happen, of course. The majority of military police officers are evangelicals and they are ideologically linked to the president. They don't answer state governors anymore. Thus, the police force can end up becoming a sort of Praetorian guard in a near future coup. The same occurs in the armed forces, although there's speculation that the high command is divided, and many generals wouldn't support a coup to install Bolsonaro, specifically, as dictator. Let's be clear: all of the generals are conservative, and in order to contain what they believe to be a “communist threat”, they would certainly sponsor a new military coup — but according to some political analysts in the press, they wouldn't stage a coup in order to benefit Bolsonaro and his sons, who they see as pathetic.

Currently, surreal news — such as how a candy-making company changed the name of one of its candies, called “Witchcraft”, because of evangelical pressure — reveal only a tiny fraction of the power held by evangelicals. The pathetic and illegitimate Association of Evangelical Jurists was able to convince a Supreme Court judge (appointed by Bolsonaro last year) to rule in favor of allowing religious gatherings in the city of Belo Horizonte, on Easter's eve, while we're in the middle of a healthcare and funerary collapse caused by covid-19. The arguments used by this judge, whose name is Nunes Marques, were crazy. He used United States rulings to argue against prohibiting in-person religious gatherings. Prohibiting them, according to him, is an attack on freedom of religion. This argument was torn apart by other Supreme Court judges and jurists throughout Brazil.

Bolsonaro has promised that the next Supreme Court judge will be, in his words, “terribly evangelical”. André Mendonça — who was the attorney general, then Minister of Justice, and now has return to the position of attorney general — is a strong candidate. He is evangelical, crude, and has a thick skull. He follows everything his president says, regardless of how absurd it is. That means he has all of the qualifications required. Meanwhile, the Minister of Education, who is a fundamentalist evangelical preacher, together with the Minister of Human Rights, yet another evangelical fundamentalist, plan to legalize homeschooling in Brazil. In the United States, homeschooling is a factory of stupid people unfit for the job market, so they're left with the non-choice of working in their parents fundamentalist churches.

Now, tell me, is Brazil finished or not? Of course it is. Bolsonaro shall pass one day. But the evangelical churches will remain. They will keep being the biggest supporters of reactionary politics in the country, just as Catholicism once was. And if the evangelicals don't do it, some other reactionary lunacy will occupy the same space. Even if the rich pastors don't believe in anything they preach, even if they only do what they do so they can steal money from gullible believers, the fact remains that those believers believe — and they will vote, kill, and die “in the name of Jesus!!!”.

by Fernando Olszewski