Brazil has the largest Catholic population in the world. But the number of Protestant evangelicals is growing fast. They make up roughly a third of the country today. And, they’re expected to become the majority in less than one generation.
Politically, Jair Bolsonaro is their candidate in the presidential election coming up in October. The president has promoted their policy priorities, and he’s hoping to benefit from them again as he runs for reelection later this year.
Evangelicals voted en masse for Bolsonaro, lifting him to power with his slogan, “Brazil above everyone, God above all.”
“Bolsonaro’s against abortion. He defends family values, so we see in him someone who is embracing our cause,” pastor Diego Valentin da Silva said.
Bolsonaro has allocated state funds for evangelical TV stations and appointed evangelical pastors into key positions in his government. He also opened his doors to top church leaders, marched with Christians in the capital Brasília, and late last year, he appointed André Mendonça as the country’s first evangelical Supreme Court minister.
Bolsonaro’s religious messaging is unprecedented for a Brazilian head of state. Previous presidents, including Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, developed solid relationships with church leaders. But, Bolsonaro has lifted evangelical language and policy priorities to the fore.
University of São Paulo political scientist Vinicius do Vale said that this is because Bolsonaro knows it’s how he can mobilize supporters and win people’s hearts, even during tough economic times in Brazil.
“He doesn’t want to discuss inflation,” do Vale said. “He wants to talk about homosexuality. He’s wants to discuss abortion. He wants to talk about God.”
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