Of late I’ve had a number of people on social media ask me about the “current situation” in Brazil – and by this they mean either the pandemic or Antifa-like riots, or a combination of both. Then this weekend the internet blew up after John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church announced plans to recommence services, in defiance of regulations put in place by the state of California. This, in turn, coincided with the return to in-person services of our own church here in Brazil.
So what I want to do in this post is 1) explain the the current social situation here in Brazil as best I can and, 2) tie it in with some thoughts about the actions taken by Grace Community Church, with a special emphasis on how this relates to our particular mission field.
The Buzz in Brazil
When it comes to comparing events in the US to those here in Brazil, there are striking similarities and marked differences.
Both nations were pretty much blind-sided by the Covid-19 pandemic. In both countries it has been highly politicized, with liberal elites in the media and in academia aligned against a conservative (or at least nominally so) administration, led by a president who is, shall we say, less than circumspect in his social media pronouncements.
The major difference is that the chaos being caused by the virus is not, thankfully, being exacerbated by the Antifa-esque riots we are seeing in the US. This is not for lack of Antifa types who are willing to carry them out. Connected as I am to the humanities department of our local federal university, I can see the chat that comes over the Philosophy Department WhatsApp group…and it’s clear that at least in that context there is great enthusiasm for what is happening in Portland and other US cities, and a keen desire on the part of some to emulate it.
Fortunately for Brazil, fear of the pandemic has been a sufficient deterrent to actual violence. The specter of such violence is worrisome to me, because I fear that the foot soldiers would be, not spoiled millennials living in their parents’ basement, but well-armed, highly-organized, and battle-hardened members of Brazil’s drug gangs who rule large swaths of our major cities.
For the well-being of everybody involved, pray that this does not happen.
Three Cheers for the Commie
We have also been blessed here in the state of Maranhão – more so than in other parts of Brazil, from what I can gather – with an effective and consistent response to the pandemic. Our governor is a Communist who goes to Carnaval dressed up as Fidel Castro, and loses no opportunity to promote leftist ideology in the state. Yet in this crisis he has worked hand-in-hand with churches. The shut-downs have been consistent, and include the annual Saint John festival (one of our area’s defining cultural celebrations) as well as other places of business. Restrictions on churches have been lifted even before restrictions on places such as movie theaters and public schools.
It is evident that he is working with us in good faith, and as believers, we have no reason to complain about our treatment. We have happily complied with all the guidelines set forth.
Were this not the case; were the shutdowns clearly discriminatory against churches; had the Brazilian Supreme Court confirmed the legality of such discriminatory practices; had churches remained closed while protests, riots, cultural celebrations, and other events featuring large agglomerations of people been permitted – if these factors defined the context in which we currently live, I would hope that here in Brazil we would have the courage and moral clarity to follow the example of Grace Community Church and stand when others kneel.
Thankfully, this is not the situation we face here today. There is no guarantee it won’t be tomorrow.
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