Tag Archives: Politics

Church and State: secularism in politics

Sarkozy and Pope Benedict XVI in France

Sarkozy and Pope Benedict XVI in France

In the speech Pope Benedict XVI made in front of a huge crowd of 260 thousand people yesterday, in hist first visit to France as a Pope, as well as in interviews the Church’s leader gave, relations between Church and State were brought to attention when the message of religion and State being more open to each other was passed.

The french President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has a history of bringing religion to the spotlight, also spoke words about a new perspective in secularism, which he called “positive secularism”. Such declarations immediately got opposition responses from the french Socialist Party and from the Secular State Defense Association.

Discussions about the bonds between religion and government should be made more often. We brazilians could take a good dose of this subject with our cities mayoral elections coming up next month.

Rio de Janeiro has a particular interest in this subject, since the city has one of it’s two main candidates as an ex-bishop of the largest pentecostal churchs in Brazil, the Assembly of God.

A modern Assembly of God temple in Brazil

A modern Assembly of God temple in Brazil

Pentecostal churches, specially the Assembly of God, have reached an amazing power level in Brazil. They have large acceptance in lower class citizens, and their temples are spread throughout the country. These temples, most of them large and modern auditoriums, get packed to capacity when services are being held. Preachers “speak the language” of simple people, having an amazing power of argument and persuasion with their audience.

Just like the Catholic Church, Assembly of God has built it’s empire with the money of the poor. Money enough to buy the second largest TV network in Brazil, several radio stations, newspapers, magazines, publishers, have their sessions transmitted nationally in other smaller TV networks, and so on. Politics, of course, are on their list of main objectives too.

danger zone.

Religious influence on people: danger zone.

Now, with the elections period nearing it’s peek, Rio de Janeiro citizens are facing a true possibility of having a pentecostal mayor next year.

Mixing religion with State affairs is a dangerous move. I feel it’s wrong to make decisions that will affect the entire society with the light of a determined religious concept shining over. Just as an example, issues like drugs, abortion, marriage, gay rights, medical procedures and freedom of speech and belief could be seriously in risk of not being treated with the true balanced and reasonable sence of fairness they deserve.

Not a Constitution

Not a Constitution

And religious fanatism, of course, should never be forgotten as one of the ugly faces of any religion.

Religion is and will always be a part of political campaigns. For a strange reason beyond my actual comprehension, it’s still important for people to know if a candidate believes in God or not, which God, and stuff like that. But we must pay attention in order to not let a Devil in disguise run our lives preaching the Lord’s word.

Wikipedia has an interesting article about pentecostalism. Click here to read.
The New York Times story about the Pope in France, click here.

Independence or Death!

"The yell of the Ipiranga", painted by Pedro Américo, 1888

"The yell of the Ipiranga",
painted by Pedro Américo, 1888

Today, septemper 7th, is Brazil’s Independence Day. Exactly 186 years ago, Dom Pedro I, royal prince in charge of the portuguese colony back then, took his sword out of the sheath near the Ipiranga River (where the city of São Paulo is nowadays) and yelled “independence or death!”, being after that declared Dom Pedro I, Emperor of Brazil.*

Practically two centuries have passed by, and we have no kind of submissive relations with our former metropolis. In fact, we are way ahead of Portugal in a lot of subjects. But, in a modern perspective, can Brazil consider itself really independent from anything?

My opinion is that no, we have never truly experienced a real independent life, and there’s still a long way to go before we can think of calling ourselves independent.

I say that based on the conception of independence that matters not only to foreign relations, but mainly to internal issues.

It’s easy to notice a lack of credibility to the country’s independence day. Public patriotic demonstrations are becoming more and more rare when the september seventh’s arrive in the calendar. Several military parades are happening right now throughout our territory, but who attends to them? Last year’s parade in Brasília, our capital and home of the largest military parade, had the not so impressive mark of less spectators in the history.

Does that shows a common sense of disbelief in this so-called independence? I say yes. When you go to the United States, England, France, Germany or Italy (or any developed country), every corner, every building, public or private, have their countries flag raised on poles. Independence days are celebrated at its fullest. In Brazil, not even big cities City Halls have the country’s flag waving on top of them.

In a country where government let people die in hospital waiting lines, die with no medication, die from abandon, die because of the crescent and apparently uncontrollable urban violence, die with no education, die with hunger, die with no perspectives, no dreams, no hope… it’s easy to understand why flags only come out in World Cup period.

Personal independence is also a matter of analysis in big cities. People are more and more often depending on luck to live everyday. There are some periods in the day-by-day living in Brazil, specially when media coverage shows murders and shootings like they where showing soccer goals, that you actually believe returning home after a day of work is not guaranteed as it seems.

We have a long way before calling ourselves independent. We must break from the chains of corruption, populism and personal interests in the public sphere, and from the irons of apathy in the private sphere. Then, one day, we may actually celebrate our independence and cheer a true condition of free human beings. 

* Modern historiography considers that the process of brazilian independence from Portugal started when the portuguese Royal Family first came here, in 1808, running away from Napoleon’s army. Also, the utterly romantic version of Dom Pedro I shouting such words of independence mounted on a horse is questioned too.

Barack Obama in Brazil

It seems that Mr. Barack Obama’s campaign crew has reached a superb, and humorous, ability to spread the presidential candidate image around the world.

Meet Mr. Cláudio Henrique dos Anjos, 39 years old, the brazilian Barack Obama, as he presents himself, in his campaign running for Belford Roxo city hall.

Who's the real deal?

Who is the real deal?

Belford Roxo is a poor city near Rio de Janeiro, and has never been governed by a black man or woman.

Mr. Obama (the brazilian one) is one of the six candidates in Brazil that uses Mr. Obama (the original) name in order to catch a hike along publicity between voters.

I could write something about how diminishing this is for a serious candidate and for brazilian electoral process. But I’ll leave it to you. This time, this post will stay with the funny part of it.

Home of the Brave

I could not think of any other way to describe Brazil by saying it is the true home of the brave. May a fellow american reader claim this is an outrageous assault of the State’s anthem, a pure case of author’s right violation and patriotic robbery. Well, pardon me! But if you put one foot on this green-and-yellow land I’m writting from, maybe my barefaced act will not seem so in vain. Let me explain.

Surviving in Brazil is not an easy task. There are plenty of items to be put on a list that would answer anyone that asks “why?”. I’m not a brazilianist researcher, neither my knowledge about this country covers 1/1000 that is out there to be learned. But there’s one thing that I have, and is of great value: I wake up and go to sleep everyday here.

As I walk by my hometown, Rio de Janeiro, each corner tells me that we still have a long, long way before calling ourselves a developed country. Poverty, lack of public conservation, lack of adequate transportation, a constant feeling of insecurity. All that in contrast to an exuberant natural beauty and an true friendly and kind people makes my head go nuts, thinking that if our politicians had a little more care with this land, Brazil would definetly be the closest example of heaven on Earth. For now, even angels have to struggle in order to survive here.

If you have interest and patience, this blog’s updates are intended to express my personal view on why it is so difficult to just lean back, put on a nice samba cd, serve myself a tasty caipirinha and think that everything is allright. Maybe they will make you see that we are definetly the home of the Brave but, unfortunately, not the land of the free.

See you next time.