Black Women of Brazil

The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

Exalting itself the “blackest religion of Brazil”, but with no space for the discussion of black issues, are black identity and Neo-Pentecostal currents incompatible?


A identidade negra e as correntes neopentecostais são incompatíveis

Note from BW of Brazil: Yet another trap for Africans and African descendants worldwide. White supremacy has so many weapons that when it doesn’t succeed in dominating black people through one, it will surely get them in another. Even as I despise racism/white supremacy, I marvel how its tentacles work in such a harmonious manner to dominate people of color. Even as a person brought up in the Catholic school system, I was never completely victimized by Catholic teaching because, even as a child, something in the back of mind kept saying, “This is some bulls*it!” And even though it would take me years of independent research to confirm this message that my mind kept passing on to me, every time I heard a Bible story, went to church or listened to the teachings of those nun teachers, I could never put my finger on exactly why I felt something just wasn’t right.

Then years later, after studying tales of world mythology, the crimes of the Catholic Church, the endless contradictions in the so-called Hholy Bbook and its deeper esoteric meaning, I was happy to be completely free myself of the clutches of organized religion. But I noted that when I started to share my discoveries in my social circles, I was shocked to discover how something that was so obvious to me was not so for 99% of people I engaged on the topic. Some of those disputes almost got physical until I realized that it was no use sharing information when people are not willing to listen or consider a different perspective. People simply couldn’t understand that once you are free from religion, threats such as, “you’re going to hell”, or “you’re not going to have an afterlife” are simply meaningless scare tactics meant to keep you in mental, psychological and emotional bondage.

I still remember the first time watching that scene from Spike Lee’s epic 1992 film Malcolm X when the Catholic priest said to an imprisoned Malcolm Little what a friend he had in Jesus. After going on a brief a tirade, Malcolm responded, “Tell you what you do, you tell him to call me.” Still not having completely liberated myself from Christiandom, I was shocked when I heard that line. Little did I know that years later I would use this same phrase when religious friends would come to me with that Jesus talk.

But anyway, my point here is that religious has been one of the most successful weapons in the blueprint for world domination and the docility of its African followers. One of my favorite phrases on the topic is credited to Kenyan leader Jomo Kenyatta who said: “When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the missionaries had the Bible. They taught us to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened our eyes, they had the land and we had the Bible.” Go figure. But I always tell my friends who continue to read and follow what they call the “good book” that we as a people can NEVER liberate ourselves from our oppressors as long as we continue to follow a religion that used to enslave us. The denomination matters not. Catholic, Protestant, Jehovah’s Witness, Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist…They are ALL poisons to the black mind. This is one of the very reasons I’m very concerned about the indoctrinating powers of the Neo-Pentacostal churches in Brazil today. Below, Pai Rodney touches on just a few aspects on the theme. 

A identidade negra e as correntes neopentecostais são incompatíveis (Fiés durante culto em igreja evangélica pentecostal em São Paulo -Photo-Christian Tragni)

Faithful during worship at evangelical Pentecostal church in São Paulo (Photo -Christian Tragni)

Are black identity and the Neo-Pentecostal currents incompatible?

By Pai Rodney

Some evangelical churches don’t make an issue of disclosing the conversion of the Afro-religious, but the opposite occurs and is quite significant

The debate on racism is restricted in the Evangelical churches

The racial question, especially the construction and strengthening of black identity, was never a present agenda in Evangelical churches, especially the Neo-Pentecostal.

To the contrary. The denial or even demonization of various elements of African and Afro-Brazilian culture always demonstrated a trend to incompatibility, a conflicting posture and often combative.

There is a recurring vision among Evangelical leaders that the greater discrimination in Brazil is not racial, but religious (and the main victims would be these Neo-Pentecostal Christians). This means that, for them, the supposed intolerance suffered by Evangelicals overlaps the issues of racism.

The deliberate misinterpretation of the concepts of freedom and identity imply an emptying of the definitions of racism and religious intolerance, mainly in what refers to the traditions of African origin.

Some believers say they respect the guarantee of practicing the faith, but don’t have an obligation to respect the gods, saints nor doctrines of other religions. So, if there are black men and women who want to serve God in the Neo-Pentecostal churches, they only exercise their right to freedom of conscience and belief.

A discourse full of contradictions, because, although black identity can be constructed in other spaces, many turn to the religions of African matrix seeking precisely this redemption.

Blacks have the right to belong to the religion that well wish, that is not the point. One of the points that I wonder is the denial of racism and intolerance against the religions of African origin. The most important thing is to prevent access to the reconstruction of an identity that passes through values of African culture preserved in the terreiros of Candomblé and in other areas of resistance.

Exalting itself as the religião mais negra do Brasil (blackest religion of Brazil), but without a minimum and true space for the discussion of the issues of Negritude, is a fallacy.

Professing that a black man becomes free when he finds and accept Jesus, disregarding all socioeconomic, psychosocial and cultural clashes inherent to the racist structure to which we are subjected, only helps to perpetuate the myth of racial democracy and for black men and women to be kept in places of subalternity and, worse, accept this condition as natural.

This feeling of orgulho racial (racial pride) was not constructed in the Brazilian reality in a simple way. The process that ensued during and after the slavery aimed to constitute the black being as a synthesis of all that is not desired.

It is worth remembering the episode in which a pastor/congressman having said to be “gay is a matter of choice” and being “black is a matter of chance.”

This same pastor who defined blacks as a cursed race and that attributes the misery of Africa and Afro-Brazilian rites to the “primitive” and “savages”, witchcraft, worship of deities and ancestors believing that the only possibility of redemption is to accept Jesus as the only and true God.

Now, how does one construct a church with this consciousness about the value and cultural richness of the blacks? As if everything that the black Africa has produced, according to what they preach, is a cause of trouble, denigration and shame?

Is there a space for the appreciation of black culture when the oppression does not allow the affirmation of an identity?

Let us not forget: Christianity, in all its aspects, is the religion of the colonizer, whose standards have overshadowed various African civilizations, ignoring everything that they produced and not recognizing its humanity. They changed scenarios and characters, but the traumas remain the same.

Denying a people their cultural identity, diminishes its civilizations and its belief systems, demonizing their rituals and deities is the same as challenging their human condition. On the basis of this process is the racism, also expressed in the religious context by means of one of their more dreadful faces, intolerance.

The right to religious freedom is guaranteed to all beliefs but it has been constantly violated by Evangelical sectors when it comes to the traditions of African origin. The proportion of followers of Umbanda and Candomblé, compared to the number of Christians, is minimal. Despite this, the smear campaign undertaken by Neo-Pentecostals, fomenting hatred and inciting violence, gives the impression that the Afro-Brazilian religions constitute a very powerful enemy.

In addition to damaging the basic principles of a democratic state, this aggression finds in the racist structure of our society the consent which makes it seem normal or, as some say, only a matter of opinion.

There is connivance because at the bottom there is a desire to erase those cultural traits and physical attributes that cause embarrassment to the brava gente brasileira (brave Brazilian people).

That black grandmother or bugre (savage) (see note one) only exits the spare room when you can take some advantage or get rid of an accusation of racism.

As Nelson Rodrigues well summed it up: “We don’t hunt blacks, in the middle of the street, with a club, as in the United States. But what we do is perhaps worse. The life of the black Brazilian is all woven with humiliation. We treat with a warmth that is the Pusillanimous disguise of contempt that ferments in us, day and night.” (see note two)

It is an undeniable fact that, from the numeric point of view, Neo-Pentecostalism configures itself as the blackest religion of Brazil. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that the problems affecting black people are not diluted by religious choice.

Accepting Jesus make a black man be less a victim of racism. Perhaps a black Christian has some advantage over a black macumbeiro, because stigmas also accumulate and are indispensable criteria in the formulation of the prejudices.

However, maybe one day this black people that thickens the ranks of Evangelical churches don’t find around themselves any reference that allows them to establish themselves as human beings. Who knows one day, in this flock of meekness and kindness, the black sheep will rebel against everything that demeans it and want to do it their way.

Certainly, they will discover that this way already exists and is preserved. You know where? In the terreiros of Candomblé, where black men and women belong to a different mental world (or would be their real world?).

This revolution is gradual and has already begun. A still small contingent, almost nothing compared to the phenomena of mass conversion promoted by the more ostentatious churches and media. Their meanings are, however, deep. Tornar-se negro (becoming black) is a slow, difficult process, but, once started, there’s no turning back. One day, the ancestral gene speaks louder.

Source: Carta Capital

Notes

  1. Interestingly, the 1957 quote cited here doesn’t include the next line in which Rodrigues writes, “Acho o branco brasileiro um dos mais racistas do mundo”, meaning, “I think the white Brazilian is one of the most racist in the world.”
  2. Bugre is a denomination given to Indians of various groups in Brazil because they are considered non-Christians by Europeans.

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