How Evangelical Conservatives Are Gaining Power in Brazil

Bolsonaro May Be Just the Beginning of the Rightward Turn

Bolsonaro in Brasília, Brazil, February 2019 Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s newly elected president, caused a social media frenzy on Wednesday morning by publishing a pornographic video of a man urinating on another man. Sharing the video was his way of condemning Carnaval, the annual celebration preceding Lent that is known for its street parties and dancing. On Twitter, many Brazilians criticized his behavior using the hashtag #ImpeachBolsonaro. Others jumped to his defense with the hashtag #BolsonaroTemRazão (#BolsonaroIsRight). Many of those were conservative evangelicals—a significant base of Bolsonaro’s support. 

Evangelical Protestants now make up 22 percent of Brazil’s population of roughly 209.3 million, and represent the fastest-growing religious demographic in the country. Catholicism, meanwhile, has been losing members since 1872. Evangelicals comprise a politically conservative demographic that is quickly transforming its social influence into political power.

The rise of evangelical conservatism is enabled by a politics of morality: evangelicals take anxieties over issues concerning life, family,

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