How The Gospel Has Not Saved Brazil

In 1997 I made a fateful mission trip to Brazil. Though it was only two months, it changed the course of my life. Since my late teens I knew I was going into ministry, but in the year prior to that first mission trip I had begun to drift. What I felt lacking was a personal vision of how my career should unfold. The inequality, crime, corruption, and social injustice I saw in Brazil contributed to what I believed was a calling on my life to help usher in a transformation of that country. I had no grandiose notions of single-handedly ‘saving’ the entire nation, but I did come to see myself as one small part of that greater initiative. Little could I have imagined that the evangelical revolution in Brazil would make matters worse for many people.

Despite its image as a sexually liberated country, Brazil is actually profoundly traditional on the topic. Men are expected to be ‘manly’ and women to be feminine, and anyone who falls outside that norm are subject to discrimination. Gay men in particular have suffered violence simply for being who they are, even just walking down the street or waiting for a bus. Rather than combatting violence against the lgbtq community, evangelicalism in Brazil actually demonizes them. They are treated at best as having an illness, and at worst as being literally demon-possessed. As a result, gay conversion therapy has apparently been given the green light to continue in Brazil, while elsewhere in the world it is being banned as abuse. More on that here:

As a starry-eyed young evangelical I believed that violence and crime would abate as ‘the gospel’ spread through a population. What I didn’t realize was that evangelicalism is still a religion, one subject to the preferences of those who adopt it. It would have shocked me then to learn that now, in 2017, there are entire gangs in Brazil that identify as evangelical and/or Pentecostal, and who continue to commit crimes and perpetuate the drug trade. Worse still, evangelical gangs have carried out campaigns of harassment against practitioners of Afro-Brazilian religions who live in neighborhoods they control. Read about that here and here .

Religions are all malleable, existing in the minds of believers and having no objective reality. That is why they change so much, including among groups that claim to have an unchanging faith. A Southern Baptist from 2017, for example, wouldn’t do very well pretty much anywhere in 1617, all else being equal. It doesn’t surprise me as much now as it would have even just a decade ago that evangelicalism in Brazil is taking the shape of the pre-existing prejudices and predilections of the Brazilian people. That’s precisely what it’s done in the United States and elsewhere.

The only real path forward for any nation is through education and a firm commitment to human rights. Ignorance cannot be eliminated with myths any more than adding wood to a fire can be expected to put it out.

The Slippery Slope of Southern Slaver Statues

I’ve long been dubious of the slippery slope argument in any context.

‘Well what if this leads to that?’

I remember well my old, white, Southern ministry professors telling my classmates and me that if musical instruments are included in worship, they’ll lead to ‘terrible things’ like women serving communion. Also the Bible would eventually stop being taught at all in such churches.

Give me a break.

Washington treated his slaves terribly. Jefferson raped at least one slave.¬†Bellyache all you want. That’s actual factual history. You didn’t hear it in 8th grade history, but that doesn’t mean it was made up by scheming ‘leftist’ historians.

Still, statues of these and other founding fathers of questionable character were not put up to memorialize their defense of slavery or to intimidate people of color.

In the South, Confederate memorials have a long history of being set up to assert white supremacy. Just use a little empathy and imagine how you would feel as a black person in the South being surrounded by these idols.

In any case, as I’ve said, the slippery slope argument has no traction with me (try to pardon the pun). If calls start to be made to take down the various monuments in Washington DC, we can talk about that then.

In conclusion: White supremacy bad. Multiculturalism, empathy, and inclusion good.

Vending Machines, Body Scans and Mao

Up until a few weeks ago I could buy sodas for 50 cents out of the vending machines at work. That’s pretty good for a can of Pepsi nowadays. This guy from the vending machine company came in, though, and increased the price on the machines to 75 cents for regular sodas, and $1.00 for Cranberry drink and Yoo-hoos. Wow, did people ever complain! Supervisors heard about it from their team members and there were grumblings that no one would buy out of the machines any more. You’d think from listening to them that the vending machine company would go out of business any day unless they lowered their prices. Well, like I said, that was a few weeks ago. The vending machine company seems to be doing okay and nobody’s complaining much any more. I knew they’d get used to it. That’s how people are.

The sad fact is that people will gripe a lot about things, but rarely are willing to make the effort or take the risks needed to effect change. Recently word came out about new body scanners that the TSA is testing and may be deploying on a large scale in the future (read about it here). On CNN the journalists and even camera crew were objecting, saying that this invasive technology that renders the human body nude is crossing a big line. I ask though: What are they or you or I willing to do about it? Nope. People will get used to it.

In fact, with enough fear and repression, people can be made to suffer greatly and even betray friends and family. Look at how far things had to go in Myanmar to get to the conflicts of today, or how far they did go in Mao’s China. Honestly, it doesn’t give me too much hope.

Then again, there are those courageous moments in human history when people stand up and oppose the real evils. High-priced soda probably isn’t worth fighting, but privacy and personal freedom certainly deserve a brave defense. Truthfully, the only man in history whose confrontation with the powers that be (both politically and spiritually) ever made a lasting difference was Jesus of Nazareth, on the cross. His apparent failure turned out to be a resounding victory, turning on its head our concepts of success and giving us hope for our battles. His fight was the climax of our world’s history, the point where the war was won. Looking to his cross, I hope his disciples can find the strength to resist and then fail victoriously for the reign of God.

Oh, and by the way, I take my own sodas to work now!