Brazil News and Views

Documentary: The Seven Wonders of Brazil

I started the Best of Brazil Blog back in June in order to have a place to post exclusively about Brazilian culture, society, and current events (with a healthy dose of funny videos, to lighten things up). My idea was to free this blog up to be exclusively dedicated to our ministry here.

However, there is bound to be overlap, and such is the case with this video, which I posted over at BOBB earlier today.

The reason I am blogging about it here as well is that it answers, in detail, a question that I often get – and am never able to adequately answer in a few short sentences – namely: “Can you describe Brazilian religion?”

This video attempts just that, and in a little less than an hour does a fairly good job. Of course there are some nitpicks – one could fault it, for example, for not including anything about the fringe Catholicism of the semi-arid Northeast. But that glaring omission can be forgiven due to what the documentary gets right.

To give a quick summary: the narrator of the documentary visits various “wonders” of Brazil having to do with religion – the Christ the Redeemer statue, and church in Salvador, an Amazon tribe, a Pentecostal megachurch etc – and then brings them all together at the end for his final “wonder”, Carnaval. He tries to make the point the Carnaval is an essentially Catholic event that is also a fusion of African and tribal religions, Pentecostal Protestantism, and secularism.

And here’s the thing…he’s not wrong. Now, few would deny the Catholic roots, the African and tribal influence, and the hyper-sexualized secularism to be found in Carnaval. But Pentecostalism?

The point made by the narrator – and one with which I wholeheartedly agree – is that the emotional/sensory release sought after in Pentecostal services is just as easily found in the Carnaval atmosphere. And I will take it further than the narrator: modern Pentecostalism in Brazil has much more to do with emotional release than it does with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The video does what it set out to do – give the viewer a detailed introduction to the syncretism of Brazilian belief. It also does something the producers probably did not have in mind – show a clear difference between this and the actual Gospel.

Warning: at about 28:00 there is a segment on indigenous Brazilian culture that includes tribal women dressed as…well…tribal women.

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