Fighting against poverty, yet indulging in corruption

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

The progress is great, but the money wasted on corruption is very sad:

The outsiders’ view of Rio de Janeiro—sexy beaches and city slums—make an incomplete sketch of the country. 193 million Brazilians live outside of Rio, many of them digging into the ground for water, using a community phone to receive calls, and walking long distances to catch buses to banks, where they stand in line for hours while awaiting the government assistance promised by the Worker’s Party.

Many Brazilians would point to that line as proof that the Worker’s Party’s policies have created an economy of dependence. But no one disputes that the effort worked: around 30 million Brazilians have been lifted out of poverty since the party took office in 2002, cutting that statistic more than in half, and bringing down the rate of “extreme poverty” from 10 percent of the population to less than 5 percent. A commodities boom during the same time period helped significantly as well.

Notably, coinciding with the movement to fight poverty in rural Brazil came the evangelical movement, which has experienced stunning growth over the past 15 years. The number of evangelicals in Brazil grew 61 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to the Brazilian Statistics Institute IBGE, and today, at least a quarter of Brazilians now identify as evangelical. Many used to identify as Catholic but have lost interest in the stiff rituals of Catholicism, which pale in comparison to the fiery meetings at local evangelical centers and the full-throated conversion efforts of their leaders. Right after sunset, in many small towns in Brazil these days, you’ll begin to hear vibrato shouts echoing around the town as local pastors thrill their followers with God’s message.

This rise in evangelism, though, has coincided with—or caused, depending on who you ask—a doubling back to a more conservative vision of Brazilian society, one in which women are chaste and gays don’t exist (for they’ve been cured). That vision, once largely confined to the church, has thrived with its spread. And as the evangelical church has gotten richer and bishops have become billionaires, that vision has increasingly become a political one, as pastor becomes a stepping stone to financial power, and then, political office. Some Congressmembers’ names hint obliquely at their religious persuasions, such as “Pastro Eurico” and “Missionário José Olimpio.” The recently-ousted head of the lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, is evangelical, and the former head of the Congressional Commission for Human Rights and Minorities, Marco Feliciano, is an evangelical pastor, who wrote in his 2012 book, “when you stimulate a woman to have the same rights as a man…you destroy the family, you create a society where you only have homosexuals.”

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