In This Review

Religion and Brazilian Democracy: Mobilizing the People of God
Religion and Brazilian Democracy: Mobilizing the People of God
By Amy Erica Smith
Cambridge University Press, 2019, 222 pp

Jair Bolsonaro won the 2018 Brazilian presidential election with the decisive support of evangelical Christian voters. In the last 30 years, the number of evangelicals in Brazil has more than doubled, largely at the expense of Catholics. As in the United States, in Brazil, the entrance of evangelical clergy into electoral politics has bolstered right-wing political movements. In her timely, data-rich study, Smith attributes the reactionary backlash in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America to the emergence of issues that trigger fear among evangelicals: gay and transgender rights, sex and gender education in public schools, and abortion. In Smith’s view, the ultimate impact of the rise of evangelicals remains to be seen. On the one hand, an intolerant dualism—dividing the world into sinners and the faithful—would threaten democratic norms. On the other hand, Smith suggests a more hopeful outcome if clergy and their congregants enter electoral politics and have their beliefs moderated by involvement in democratic practices. In Smith’s surveys, clergy expressed strong support for democracy “as the best form of government.”