Princeton Theological Seminary Forum | The Amazon in the Bolsonaro Era: Religious and Political Perspectives

Tue, Nov 12, 2019, 12:00 pm

The Amazon rainforest is on fire. This very important biosystem has been burning this year as never before. This situation has disastrous consequences for both Latin America and the entire world. 

The Amazon is on fire. What Christianity has to do with that? 

Adopting an interdisciplinary perspective, this roundtable will discuss the role Brazilian evangelical churches have played in these events. First, we offer an overview of the rise of a far right government in Brazil, which has received expressive support from a significant proportion of Evangelical (and Evangelical leaders), discussing the impact of a certain kind of Christian discourse on that movement, in contrast with an emancipatory theological discourse that has contributed to a spirituality that resists the abuses against nature and against vulnerable individuals and communities. The interpretation of the Bible endorsed by this far right movement has provided rulers like Jair Bolsonaro with the symbolical capital to criticize those who oppose them and their political agenda, which is heavily informed by a neoliberal economic point of view. They consider human rights, indigenous reservations, family farming, sustainable economy, and the preservation of the environment as part of a “leftist,” “communist,” or globalist agenda. Consequently, conservative messianic politicians are seen as the remedy for that “unchristian” agenda against which they must fight for the sake of the gospel. Even if such view of the Bible may sound as a distortion of the Christian message, these ideas have become very influential within many Evangelical sectors, and even beyond, in the larger Brazilian society.  
On the other hand, a concern with social justice has also been important to many Christians in Brazil. The social movements have always counted on the sustained participation of Christians from various churches. Currently, in Brazil, there is no social movement of expressive popular participation without a religious presence. Furthermore, the language of human rights that permeates the struggle led by those movements has been heavily influenced by Christian theologians. In the 1990’s, for example, creative theologians such as Leonardo Boff and Rubem Alves began to conceive an ethics of sustainability as a new perspective for Humans Rights, which continues to inform the struggle for environmental care and justice these days.

Without any ambition to be exhaustive, this panel raises questions which can help participants engage the heated conversations about the current religious and political landscape in Brazil in a more informed manner. It also shows that what is happening in the Amazon is not a problem that matters only to Brazil and the Brazilian people. Not only the consequences of the destruction of the Amazon will have global reach, but also the ideology and theological discourse supporting such agenda is not something only “made in Brazil.”

Elmir Duclerc (Doctorade in Law. Universidade Estácio de Sá) is Adjunct Professor of Criminal Procedure Law at Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil. He works on issues in theory of criminal procedure and  cultural criminology. He is the author of Criminal Procedure Law (Direito Processual Penal) and Introduction to the Basics of Criminal Procedure Law. (Introdução aos Fundamentos do Direito Processual Penal).

Elisa Rodrigues is Professor of the Department of Religious Studies at the Institute of Human Sciences of Federal University of Juiz de Fora (Brazil). Doctorate in Social Sciences by Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp) and Religious Studies by Universidade Metodista de São Paulo (Umesp). Chair of Religion and Education, dedicated to the discussion of the relationship between religion and education, the teaching on religion in the context of the Brazilian public schools. Research on topics related to Religious Studies (or, as it is called in Brazil “Science of Religion” - Religionswissenschaft), epistemology and education, pentecostalism, religion on public sphere, religion and politics, secularism, religion-identity-culture.

Frederico Pieper is Professor of the Department of Religious Studies of Federal University of Juiz de Fora (Brazil). Doctorade in Religious Studies by Universidade Metodista de São Paulo (UMESP) and in Philosophy by Universidade de Sao Paulo (USP). Chair of Theory of religion, researching on hermeneutics, phenomenology and religion; epistemology of Religious Studies; religion and film. Published the book Religion and film, as many articles in specialized journals. Currently is secretary of National Association of Post-Graduate Programs in Theology and Religious Studies.

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