Is the ‘evangelical power’ a danger to Latin America?
Is surprising how evangelical groups ally themselves not only with right-wing politicians based on an ideological affinity, but also with the left
The expansion of the groups associated with the “gospel”, turned into powerful transnational companies thanks to the tithe of their millions of members, gave rise to the “Evangelical Power”. It is about a new way of doing politics that could endanger all of Latin America.
The Mexican journalist Cecilia González interviewed Ariel Goldstein, creator of the book ‘Evangelical Power. How religious groups are taking over politics in America‘ for Actualidad RT. In the text he explains why these religious groups are a danger to the region.
González sums up ‘Evangelical Power’ as a group that believes that governing is a divine mandate. In addition, they militate against abortion, sexual education, sexual and reproductive rights, feminism and the sexually diverse community.
“Their pastors become famous Youtubers or media stars thanks to licenses granted to them by television channels. They have a patriarchal vision of society and demonize their adversaries”, she explains.
In addition, they have the capacity to be chameleonic, because they “ally themselves with both the left and the right. They already have numerous legislative benches and occupy ministries in various countries.
The report adds that among “their greatest triumphs are the arrival of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States, and of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. In addition to the coup that allowed Jeanine Áñez to head a de facto government in Bolivia”.
What is behind the evangelical power?
It is a conservative community that Ariel Goldstein, Doctor of Social Sciences, discusses in his book. In the text, he warns about the risks that the penetration of this group in public powers entails.
“This new Pentecostalism can only be considered dangerous for democracy”, says Goldstein in the RT interview.
The problem — he explains — is that they introduce religious categories of pure good and evil into politics. In them, the adversary must be exterminated, something that damages political and social coexistence.
“When the adversary is identified with the devil and the rulers understand their task as a divine mission, the danger of an authoritarian drift increases, threatening democratic coexistence based on respect for plurality”, he says.
Goldstein decided to investigate how evangelicals have gained so much political power in recent decades. The fact that every day more they have greater social legitimacy based on their territorial work in vulnerable sectors caught his attention. That, added to a process of economic collection from their followers that allows them to build their own media.
“The two most successful cases are the United States and Brazil. But what is happening in Central America is tremendous, they are advancing very quickly”, he says.
He also adds that it is surprising how evangelical groups ally themselves not only with right-wing politicians based on an ideological affinity, but also with the left. He highlighted the cases of Nicolás Maduro, in Venezuela, and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in Mexico. That shows their pragmatism in order to gain influence in decision-making.
The book breaks down the history and current status of the advancement of this religious community on the Continent. They have a common agenda and local leaders or pastors, many times trained in the United States or who evangelize from that country.
A common strategy
Although there is clearly a common and well-organized strategy, Goldstein clarifies that he does not subscribe to the idea of an international conspiracy. In his view, that would simplify this process.
Likewise, he maintains that the growth of these groups demonstrates the plasticity with which they adapt to all kinds of political systems. They work with bipartisanship in the United States and multipartism in Brazil.
The author also warns that this advance goes hand in hand with the decline of Catholicism that worries Pope Francis so much. In the 1960s, 94% of the Latin American population identified themselves as Catholic, but in 2014 that figure dropped to 69%. Meanwhile, the proportion of evangelicals went from 9% to 19% in that period.
He also points out that the countries with the most number of believers in the region, such as Mexico and Paraguay, are fertile ground for the strengthening of evangelicals. One of the reasons is that they have very religious societies even though they are secular states.
On the contrary — he points out — Uruguay is an exceptional case, as it is the only country in the region with a secular state and society. This explains why evangelicals have not managed to penetrate there with the same pace and intensity as in the rest of the Continent.
Regarding political alliances, Goldstein explains that it is tempting for progressive political leaders to associate with evangelicals at first. But that, as it happened with Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil, it only serves them in the short term.
The secular State takes power away from the evangelicals
In the long run — says the writer — the progressive agenda contradicts the conservative one. Then, the supposed support ends up being a trap because the evangelical organizations become enemies but with much more power. That is the risk that López Obrador now runs, for example.
Goldstein is also the author of books such as “Traditional Press and Popular Leaders in Brazil” and “Bolsonaro. Brazil’s democracy in danger”. For him, it is important to defend the secularism of the State with laws that limit the power of the evangelical churches and, therefore, of the construction of reactionary figures.
In this way — he trusts — they could continue to play a role of social containment in the poorest neighborhoods. But they would do so without the harmful element of religious dogmatism imposed on Political Power.
However, he recognizes that in the current scenario the Catholic Church continues to lose its presence in Latin America. Meanwhile, on the other hand, the Evangelical movement is gaining more followers and positions in public powers.
“They are a powerful factor of power, and dangerous. Pastors associate with politicians by giving them a divine blessing and penetrate religious language into politics. This is very detrimental to a healthy democratic life, because then on the other side there is only hell, the execrable thing”, he warns.
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