Tuesday (19). I am tired. And, I shamefully confess, I am gripped by an unhappy cynicism built up over decades. This is how I face the cold to enter an evangelical cult for the first time in thirty years. The denomination – Igreja Batista da Lagoinha – is totally unknown to me. “Let’s see what happens”, I think, by way of self-motivation. First, allow me to clear up “unhappy cynicism”. (If you are only interested in the part where I speak of Alexandre de Moraes, please click here).
Not just accumulated, this unfortunate cynicism was cultivated
over three decades. The origin, I locate it in the evangelical church that I was forced to attend as a pre-teen. For a while, I thought the problem was in -obligation. Later, I understood that there were other things, especially bad music and preaching that mixed religion and politics, not to mention sexual moralism that definitely did not move a pubescent boy.
Then came years and years of consuming journalism and entertainment that portrayed the evangelical world as a bunch of people at best ignorant and at worst malicious. Finally, there was that Sunday afternoon when, with nothing better to do and moved by morbid curiosity, I turned on the TV to follow the service of one of these caricatured pastors – and I was startled by the caricature I saw.
I sat in the third-to-last row. I crossed my arms. He wasn’t moody or anything. It was just my way of waiting. At every moment, however, I was led to extend my hand and open a smile to the strangers who came to greet me with the “peace, brother” that I hadn’t heard for years. That’s where the unhappy cynicism collapsed. “How necessary gestures like this, of disinterested generosity”, I thought.
The cult began. There was no liturgy. It was all very spontaneous – and I’m not really sure what to think about it. I mean, I’m Catholic and conservative; taste of Tradition. But there was so much good intent in that spontaneity that it was hard not to admire it. The first half hour was taken up with music far better than the ones that animated the services of my time. Highlight for a girl with colorful dreads who sang divinely well and with a fervor worthy of sincere applause.
After the songs came pastors who, alternately, prayed each one for a cause: family, health, work (not money; work) and Fatherland. Around me, attention was drawn to the sincerity with which people asked and above all thanked me. I thought that at that exact moment someone more cynical and unhappy than I was probably going on social media to complain, complain, complain – in a rite similar to a blasphemous prayer. And even because of that I felt surrounded by good people.
Finally, the preaching began. Not before the pastor asked that the Brazilian flag be kept on the screen. Entitled “God Enables the Unlikely”, the preaching was based on the story of David and the conversion of the apostle Paul to Christianity. (The coincidence of the names did not escape me). And it was during the monologue that lasted a good hour that I reflected on the possibility of Alexandre de Moraes falling off his horse.
Paulo, perhaps you remember catechism classes, had an epiphany and “fell in land”. That is, he may have even fallen off his horse, as is popularly said, but he may well have “fallen from his own height”. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that a man who used to persecute Christians became a Christian persecuted for preaching the values that, as Tom Holland well expounds in the mandatory “Domain: Christianity and the creation of the Western mindset”, shaped the Civilization that surrounds us.
What would happen if a STF minister went through the same experience and completely changed his mind? And here I believe that it is worth a warning: I am fully responsible for these speculations that associate biblical history with Brazil in the year of Grace 2022. The pastor never mentioned the name of any authority. Even because his objective was to reach the common man, and not to make legal-political considerations.
I imagined the apology, the debates about the sincerity or not of a repentance, a group feeling betrayed and the other desiring revenge. I imagined, because imagining is what I do best, the martyrdom that the minister would go through when substituting Machiavellian voluntarism for what is beautiful & moral. For what is right and just. Or at least for what is constitutional. And, since I was in the lurch, I even imagined an ascetic Alexandre de Moraes, his long beard adorning his bald head, wrapped in the scraps of his topped authority, immersed in a redemption perhaps incomprehensible to us.
Alexandre de Moraes is one of the “unlikely” the pastor spoke about. Logic (cynical, unhappy and elementary) leads us to believe that he will never reach any epiphany that will divert him from the authoritarian path he has been following. And I would be lying if I said that I hope this miracle will come to fruition. As with the apostle Paul and countless people who don’t figure in either the Bible or the newspaper headlines, power tends to bring out the worst in people. A temptation that vain people find it even more difficult to reject.
I left the church the same, but different. I have no intention of going to it or anything. But after two experiences in hellish circles (here and here), it was good to know that there are grateful people in the world. People who, despite the cynical and unhappy look of so many, do not hesitate to face the fatigue and the cold Curitiba in order, on any Tuesday night, to reflect. Today, with renewed hope, I can attest: the good citizen exists. And he is closer to you and me than sociological treatises would suggest.