‘Go in faith’ rediscovers evangelical community that Bolsonarism misrepresented

The soap opera “Vai Na Fé”, airing at 7 pm on Rede Globo, breaks with the negative images that the four years of Bolsonaro’s government have tried to associate with evangelicals in Brazil.

Intolerance and religious opportunism, which mobilized attitudes and speeches of the former president and his followers, stimulated a climate of belligerence, generating fights and separations in families, groups of friends and also religious spaces, including the evangelical community.

By mixing Christian faith with hate speech, prejudice, weapons propaganda, rejection of human rights and denial of science, Bolsonarism smothered values ​​and practices of respect and solidarity of evangelical churches.

On the contrary, the appreciation of these aspects of union and community strengthening, highlighting the struggles and joys of those who try to live guided by faith, helps to explain the success of Globo’s soap opera.

The story of the Christian mother, Solange (Sheron Menezes, playing her first protagonist), who struggles to raise her two daughters under the values ​​of her religious experience, balancing her talent and artistic past with the urgency to support the house, is similar to the dilemmas of thousands of Brazilian women of different beliefs, but especially of the black women who are the majority in poor communities.

Far from the bitterness, rudeness and hopeless preaching that Bolsonarism lent to the expression of faith, the atmosphere of Christian families in “Vai Na Fé” is relaxed, noisy and lively meals, packed with hymns of praise and biblical quotations.

Despite the economic difficulties and the attempt at self-control in the face of worldly impulses, the women of the central nucleus share their pain, charge each other, support and strengthen each other.

It is a portrait of the daily life of the communities, with their shared lives, both for inspection that generates malicious gossip, and also for establishing a partnership in search of income, such as selling lunchboxes.

Even though I was born into a Catholic family and converted to Candomblé religion, I know Evangelical families and communities closely, and I can share the discomfort of many friends with the relationship established between the Christian faith and the extremist practices of hatred of the Bolsonarist era.

We even wrote here in the column about the polls that showed rejection by evangelical women of the then candidate for re-election, a decision that was confirmed in the results of the polls, even with the desperate call by Michelle Bolsonaro to soften this relationship with Christian voters.

Remember here: Michelle’s prejudiced post targets evangelicals who do not vote for Bolsonaro.

Novela highlights evangelical blacks

The religious fanaticism and intolerance of the followers of Bolsonarism made this behavior seem hegemonic among the evangelical community, leaving aside so many faithful who are not alienated in the face of the failures committed by leaders and the tortuous and opportunistic readings of the Bible.

Just like the characters of “Vai Na Fé”, they are Christians who remain indignant at the social problems in Brazil and understand the Brazilian racial problem, maintaining an attitude of conscience in the face of racism.

It is the evangelical blacks, Christians proud of their racial origin and African heritage, going against the discriminatory practices of neo-Pentecostal segments, who started to demonize the Afro-Brazilian cultural elements so valued by African-based religions.

This story is not new, but it gained more visibility in the digital age with the possibility of sharing ideas outside the pulpit.

In 2006, pastor, historian, theologian and poet Walter de Oliveira Passos was already on the internet, bringing together black Christians to talk about race relations, black consciousness and the African matrix of Christianity.

A group of black evangelicals, on the former Orkut platform, gathered more than 30,000 people to read and discuss the texts published by Walter Passos.

Earlier, in 1992, Passos had founded the Igreja da Revelação Ancestral (IRA), with a speech of denunciation against racism, allied with the Pan-Africanist movement. In his texts, he argued that, like the first inhabitants of the earth (represented in the Bible by Adam and Eve), Jesus was also African and never preached in Europe, a fact hidden by both Catholicism and Protestants.

Walter Passos, poet, theologian, historian (1956 - 2023) - Personal archive - Personal archive

Walter Passos, poet, theologian, historian (1956 – 2023)

Image: Personal archive

Walter Passos was the coordinator of the National Council of Blacks and Christian Blacks (CNNC), responsible for organizing, in 2007, the 1st National Meeting of Blacks and Evangelical Blacks, in Salvador.

This Christian racial reading was already perceived in black pastorals within the Catholic Church since the 1970s, in dialogue with the struggles of the black movement organizations, giving continuity to the action of centuries-old black brotherhoods, such as Rosário dos Homens Pretos, Centro History of Salvador, or Boa Morte, in Cachoeira, in the Recôncavo Baiano.

Walter Passos died on the 10th, aged 66, leaving a legacy of the search for inter-religious dialogue and the African origins of faith.

On the CNNC Blog it is still possible to find articles and research by Walter Passos.

Diversity is reflected in dialogues and scenes

These black evangelicals from contemporary Brazil, connected to digital networks, politically engaged and aware of their rights, have their lives portrayed in the characters of “Vai na Fé”.

The soap opera covers the various racial, class and gender conflicts, present not only in religious and family spaces, but also in academic life, professional careers and the artistic environment.

Topics such as quotas and affirmative action, access to rights, abusive relationships, toxic masculinity, black and peripheral affectivities, discoveries of sexuality, among other issues that animate debates on social networks, whether digital or face-to-face, are highlighted.

Team of directors of Vai Na Fé: success of diversity - Reproduction social networks - Reproduction social networks

Team of directors of Vai Na Fé: success of diversity

Image: Reproduction social networks

The telenovela, created and written by Rosane Svartman, is directed by Cristiano Marques and artistically directed by Paulo Silvestrini.

In addition to Svartman’s ability to create 7pm plots (hers are “Totalmente Demais”, from 2015, and “Bom Sucesso”, from 2019), “Vai na Fé” has as its great asset the talent and diversity of its team of collaborators, both in the script (Mário Viana, Renata Corrêa, Pedro Alvarenga, Renata Sofia, Fabrício Santiago and Sabrina Rosa) and in the direction (Isabella Teixeira, Juh Almeida, Augusto Lana and Matheus Senra), in addition to consultants on religious themes and the world of law.

It is this diverse team, in terms of race, gender, religion and regions of the country, which has guaranteed praised scenes with sensitive and current dialogues, touching on very urgent themes in society. Including rare aspects for the history of telenovela in Brazil, which is the affectivity of black people, especially black men.

Unlike the characters usually offered to black actors who only reinforce stereotypes, such as the trickster, the bandit or the hypersexualized lover, the humanity of black men is represented in “Vai Na Fé” in the rich and successful lawyer, in the welcoming pastor, in the hardworking and loving father with his daughters, in idealistic young people who seek education and university training as a possibility of collective action to combat racism.

To make it even better, the soap opera needs to critically address the intolerance of evangelical segments against African-based religions, such as Candomblé and Umbanda, the main victims of religious racism.

In this sense, the scenes that portray Benjamin’s (Samuel Assis) visit to a ceremony in a terreiro can already integrate the rare moments of respectful treatment on Brazilian television with the religion of the orixás. Emphasis on the words of faith and wisdom spoken by Mãe Ana de Oyá, performed with sensitivity by the actress Valdineia Soriano:

We are never late for what is ours.

Even though it was short, the scene was important to reinforce the values ​​of ancestry that unite blacks in Brazil and in the diaspora, regardless of religious denomination.

As in the words of Walter Passos himself, remembered by the writer Carla Akotirene in a post about the activist’s death:

Ancestry is not in religious association. She’s in you. It is in our people, and when you persecute cults of African origin, it turns against you, like a wrongly thrown boomerang.
Walter Passos, pastor, historian, poet, activist

After four years of obscurantism, the country deserved a story full of hope, which made families have fun, celebrate and root for love and unity, strengthened by faith, which, as the poet said, “does not usually speak”.

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