Culture At Large

The new Christianity of Brazil

Brian Dijkema

Business is booming in Brazil. So is Christianity. What does the latter mean for the former, and vice versa?

The former statement has become commonplace in discussions about the world’s economy. While the United States and Europe experience the full weight of fiscal irresponsibility and their national limbs strain to hold up the ever-increasing weight of debt, Brazil has sprung out of the global recession and appears poised to continue to grow as an economic power.

This sustained economic boom is associated with plenty of positive developments: a growing middle class, less people in poverty, improved education and a place at the table on the U.N.’s Security Council.

The effects of this economic growth influence Brazil’s social life in other ways as well. National Geographic recently featured an article describing the increasing sense of empowerment brought on by economic growth, going so far as to describe this new phenomenon as "Machisma."

At the same time, if we can believe Philip Jenkins, Christianity is on the rise in Brazil as well. Catholicism has always been well established in the country, but Pentecostalism and evangelicalism have been rising at rates higher than the country’s economic rate. They have even emerged as a political force by influencing Brazil’s recent presidential elections.

What will be interesting to watch over the next while is how the combined economic boom and the rise of evangelicalism and Pentecostalism in Brazil will influence one another. What type of Christianity will result?

Of course, the influence of culture on Christianity and Christianity’s influence on culture is a complicated, multi-faceted matter which will often have strange results. Exhibit A: the song posted above, written by a Canadian artist and sung by two young Brazilians - the very picture of the next Christendom. Note the overhaul of the song’s original melancholy elements, courtesy of Leonard Cohen, and its transformation into a praise song, the words of which appear to have been lifted straight from the evangelical stock lyric pile. Note also the set, which looks like it sent straight from "American Idol" to Rio. Note also that no one bats an eye at the song’s deliberate Christianity.

While it’s not fair to make wide-sweeping conclusions, we can say that the new faces of Christianity, especially those in countries emerging as economic powerhouses, will be stranger than we think. The continued growth of Christianity is very likely to shatter comfortable categories. Brazil’s economy is booming. Christianity is booming. Our definitions of both are about to undergo a similar explosion.

Topics: Culture At Large, Business & Economics, Money, Economics, Theology & The Church, Faith, Evangelism, Theology, News & Politics, World, North America