Tonight the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio should be very special. Brazilians know how to throw a party and they know how to Bring people into their shared life, into their community. Be prepared!
We were welcomed into the lives of people, into whole families and into church communities when we lived there. So much so that we will feel like we are part of Brazil, and estranged members of several families.
As I mentioned yesterday, there is much to say about Brazil that might be overlooked in the coverage of the Olympics. It is not just quaint information about religion or spiritual practices. Brazil is much more diverse religiously than anyone can get their mind around. And there is no way to live in Brazil without engaging with the active religiosity/spirituality of the Brazilian people.
More significantly, the Olympics remind us that Brazil participates in the becoming of the world, and Brazilians engage with the world, primarily from their religious place, experience and see the world through a religious lens.
When I first went to Brazil in 1971, “evangélicos” made up 5% of the population (there were 5 million then). Today, there are 45 million Brazilians identify as “evangélico”.
Today, nearly 25% of Brazilians identify as “evangélicos”. It does not however, translate over to English very well. Evangelical in USA has political connotations and more clearly defined “theological boundaries” than in Brazil.
More importantly, the vast majority of evangélicos in Brazil are NOT the fruit of American or European evangelical missionaries who taught Brazilians to “believe like us”. Most of those who call themselves “evangélicos” in Brazil are from churches and movements that we do not have in the USA, or if we have them, they are here because they have sent missionaries here!
And a good number of them we might call “sects”, or “name it and claim it” preachers.
One more thought. It might be easy to conclude that a lot of “sheep stealing” has been going on, turning Catholics into evangélicos (including groups that we might simply call Protestant, Pentecostal, or Charismatic here). But that might also be inaccurate. Many were not practicing Catholics, but followed an animistic, or “pagan” outlook. Many have become evangélicos, not to be forgiven of their sin, but because their gods were not powerful enough, and they turn to Jesus and the God of Israel for their help. In addition to all this,over these 40 years the Catholic church itself in Brazil has changed. It has been affected by all this religious change. Many have “become” Catholics in practice, who were Catholics in name only, and Catholic practice has changed to include more Bible reading, more practical life-changing teaching, creating community and being a prophetic voice in society.
The pictures are intended to help you “see”–to get an idea of how all this is “written” on the landscape in which the Olympic games are taking place.