Since the start of Brazil’s 2022 presidential election, national and international electoral news has focused on the role that faith will play in next month’s race—and for good reason: Religious concerns have dominated the talking points of both Jair Bolsonaro’s and Luiz Inácio (“Lula”) da Silva’s campaigns. Whether it’s discussing COVID-19 church closures or the spiritual fight between good and evil, the candidates have seemingly preferred to prioritize these issues at the expense of others such as unemployment, inflation, climate change, or foreign policy.
According to political analysts, the candidates are betting, especially Bolsonaro, that the most-responsive electorate are evangelicals — which in Brazil means "protestants" and encompasses both classic evangelical and Pentecostal denominations as well as neo-Pentecostals. The data backs him up. Nearly half of evangelicals (48%) say they’ll vote for Bolsonaro, compared to only a quarter (26%) for Lula, according to a late-August poll from the Inteligência em Pesquisa e Consultoria (IPEC). A Datafolha poll from mid-September shows similar numbers: 49 percent of evangelicals say they’ll vote for Bolsonaro compared to 32 percent for Lula. Evangelicals make up about 25–30 percent of the country’s total electorate.
While the evangelical universe in Brazil is multifaceted, evangelical pastors hold significant sway over their congregations. Roughly speaking, it is possible to say that a group of pastors who have no problem offering political opinions from the pulpit have strongly influenced a significant portion of evangelical voters. The media has picked up on this as well, to the point of modifying the catch phrase voto de cabresto (“voting by halter”), where leaders guide people’s political decisions, to voto de rebanho (“voting as a herd”)—a play on the Portuguese meaning of pastor as “shepherd.”
Given this environment, Christianity Today interviewed five Christian leaders from Brazil about the church’s witness in this election year, seeking to highlight voices that promote dialogue and listen thoughtfully to other believers’ perspectives. We hope their biblically informed perspectives on these important issues help guide citizens of Brazil and the kingdom of God.
Guilherme de Carvalho
President of the Brazilian Association of Christians in Science (ABC2). Follow him @guilhermevrc.
Lawyer, human rights specialist, city council member of Macaé in Rio de Janiero. Follow her @IzaVicent.
Vice chancellor of Servos de Cristo Theological Seminary, pastor of the Free Methodist Church in São Paulo, and theologian at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. Follow him @ZielMachado.
Author of The Stigma of Color and graduate student in biblical theology and New Testament exegetics. Follow her @jacirapvm.
Pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Planalto, author of Janelas para a vida (Windows for Life) and O Caminho do Coração (The Path of the Heart), and coordinator of the Christian Studies Center in Brasília