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Was Carnival Rapture Warning Courageous or Inappropriate? Brazil Debates Eschatology

After pop star’s surprise witness ends with a bang, evangelical leaders discuss whether to axe apocalypse talk as ineffective evangelism.
Was Carnival Rapture Warning Courageous or Inappropriate? Brazil Debates Eschatology
Image: Edits by CT / AP Images
A crowd celebrating during a Carnival street party in Brazil.

When two Brazilian pop stars began chatting on live TV two weeks ago, few likely thought their conversation would start a debate about the end times.

On February 11, in the midst of Carnival, Baby do Brasil joined fellow veteran Ivete Sangalo in a trio elétrico, a truck equipped with a powerful sound system that drives through the streets as partygoers follow. The two greeted each other in Salvador, a city of nearly three million in northeastern Brazil, and quickly exchanged compliments about their careers.

Then Baby do Brasil took the mic.

“Everyone, pay attention, because we have entered the apocalypse,” she said. “The Rapture is expected to happen in the next five to ten years. Seek the Lord while you can find him.”

Sangalo, who seemingly had not anticipated her cohost venturing into eschatology, made a crude joke.

“I won’t let it happen because we will bang the apocalypse,” she said, referencing her new song “Macetando,” which roughly translates to “smashing” or “banging.”

Baby do Brasil followed up by asking Sangalo to sing “Minha Pequena Eva,” her hit from the ’90s, which tells of a couple isolated in a spaceship when an atomic war takes place on Earth.

“I’m going to sing ‘Macetando’ because God is telling me to,” Sangalo replied.

As Baby do Basil shouted, “Oh, glory,” Sangalo began to sing.

The awkward exchange soon went viral, generating plentiful commentary, numerous memes, and one TV show anchor even signing off, “Let’s be happy before the apocalypse.” Scorned by many Brazilians (one tweet described the exchange as “clowneries of a believer”), the Rapture reference also divided evangelicals, who alternately found Baby’s words courageous and inappropriate.

“Maybe you think that Carnival is not a place for Christian believers, and I agree. But she is a music professional, and in the midst of her work, her profession, she obeys Jesus and is the salt of the earth and the light of the world,” Pedro Barreto, senior pastor of Comunidade Batista do Rio, a Baptist church in Rio de Janeiro, wrote on Instagram.

In just a few minutes, he said, this type of communication could reach “more people than I touched in my 20 years of ministry.”

On the other hand, Christian YouTuber Zé Bruno wrote on X that “Baby from Brazil was unfortunate in what she said and when she said it. This episode is an example of a lack of wisdom and common sense.”

Probably, he added, Sangalo didn’t understand the whole speech as theological, but as “something bad, scary. This is how it is in the popular imagination.”

As their surging number of churches indicates, evangelicals overall have been successful at sharing the gospel in Brazil. But as Barreto’s commentary suggests, some believe the church too often preaches to the choir, rarely venturing to reach those beyond.

For instance, evangelicals generally eschew Carnival. While the streets are crowded with people dancing and playing, churches organize retreats and special services designed to keep their members away from scenes they largely regard as immoral. As a result, even as the evangelical movement has grown significantly in recent decades, its influence on the country’s most well-known time of year has stayed negligible.

But is there an appropriate time to address difficult theological questions in the public square?

“It largely depends on the hermeneutical lenses we use to interpret what the Lord expects from us,” said Marcos Amado, founder of the Martureo Centro de Reflexão Missiológica, a ministry center that trains missionaries. “We should preach in season and out of season, as 2 Timothy 4:2 tells us. But what does it mean today?”

Some will say that the duty is to preach, so consequences and fruits are up to God, says Amado. Others would balance this position with 1 Peter 3:15–16, which urges Christians to speak with gentleness and respect.

“In my opinion, there is, biblically speaking, no inappropriate time to testify about Jesus,” he said. “But there are inappropriate forms and subjects depending on the moment and the circumstances.”

The widespread mockery and derision of Baby do Brasil’s comments suggests that Brazilian society—long the world’s largest population of Catholics—is still trying to understand evangelicals, a group that registered as low as 6.5 percent of Brazilians as recently as 1980. Brazilian evangelicals can’t act like public officials in the United States, who can assume a level of public knowledge about the Bible and Christian theology because of the American people’s long Protestant history.

Today about one-third of Brazil’s population of 203 million is evangelical, and this numerical shift should prompt reflection on the increased public scrutiny they are receiving, says Pentecostal theologian Gutierres Fernandes Siqueira. For instance, though the idea of the Rapture is likely widely accepted by most Brazilian evangelicals, 60 percent of whom are Pentecostals, premillennial theology is far from mainstream.

“One of the problems with growth is that some people feel comfortable discussing topics in public that until recently were restricted to Bible study groups,” said Fernandes.

This does not mean that God is not present in these initiatives. “In my faith journey, I have seen God using the most unusual situations to touch someone’s heart,” said Amado. “But under normal circumstances, issues of this kind should be addressed after other basic Christian concepts have already been presented, and at a time when one can interact, ask questions, and obtain responses.”

“There would be more appropriate biblical forms and themes for the moment [of Carnival] than the Rapture, which easily ends up being a laughingstock when it’s not the right conditions to explain the subject appropriately,” he said.

Churches should be better prepared and readier to seize these opportunities, says Fernandes. He urges churches to train specialists on hot-button issues like the end times or evolution. Once Christians are equipped, they can not only take advantage of opportunities but pursue spaces to share their convictions.

“Take, for example, the debate about sexuality,” said Fernandes. “Brazilian evangelicals are willing to talk about this on social media, but you don’t see many of us at public health meetings where we could make a difference.”

Instead of experts more frequently presenting their thoughtful opinions to the general public, Fernandes finds too many uninformed Christians sharing their hot takes on social media.

“The problem is that we currently just have these activists,” he said.


[ This article is also available in Português. ]

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