Turbulence ahead in the budget telenovela - 10/09/2021 - Samuel Pessôa

One of the most important recent books on Brazilian social science came out: “O Povo de Deus”, written by the anthropologist Juliano Spyer and edited by Geração in 2020.

Juliano lived for a year and a half in a popular neighborhood far from the center of Salvador. In his field research for his doctoral thesis defended at University College London (UCL) on social media (“Social media in emerging Brazil”, published in 2018), Juliano noted the importance of evangelical churches in community socialization.

In the book about evangelicals, Juliano presents a summary, in fluent language and without major technicalities, of the systematic knowledge that anthropologists and sociologists have acquired in recent decades about evangelicals.

In a poor society that has gone through an acute process of demographic transition and urbanization, without being accompanied by investments in education, a large part of the population has been produced that does not have access to public services or support networks and connections. According to Juliano: “The growth of evangelical Christianity in Brazil has less to do with opportunistic and charismatic pastors and more to do with the influence of churches to improve the living conditions of the poorest. (…) Evangelical churches function as a welfare state -informal social being, occupying spaces abandoned by the government”.

Joining the church has effects on reducing alcoholism and domestic violence and ends up empowering women: “Male conversion indirectly increases female power in the relationship, as men give up being on the street, which is theirs. space of freedom, anonymity, partying, bars, parallel relationships”.

Joining the evangelical church ends up developing in people countless socio-emotional skills that are absolutely necessary for good performance in the modern job market. In Juliano’s words, “the environment of many of the evangelical churches encourages personal discipline and the resilience of the faithful, promotes a culture of entrepreneurship, strengthens the work of mutual help networks and encourages investment in professional education”.

There is a conservative ethic in evangelical churches. For them, “poverty is an individual problem”. Regardless of whether this worldview describes the facts well or not, it appears to be more productive, for the poor, as a means of progress than the collectivist vision of the Catholic Church.

The action of evangelicals, in relation to charity, is quite different from that of Catholics. Instead of helping materially, the evangelical works by promoting conversion, so that the person living on the streets, for example, acquires new habits and changes his life.

Finally, the fact that pastors live in their own communities makes a huge difference. As Juliano describes in chapter 5 of his doctoral thesis on social media, one of the great difficulties of public schools is the physical and socioeconomic distance between teachers and students.

There are reasons for criticism of the evangelical community. Juliano deals with them in the 46th chapter (the book has 48 short chapters, distributed in seven parts). What we cannot do is to be prejudiced, to confuse the often harmful behavior of some leaders with the community and not look at the phenomenon with the depth it deserves.

Juliano’s book takes us by the hand and reveals this unknown world that is often found just a few kilometers from our homes.

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