Public religion and public theology: the message of justice and affirmation of pluralism in a divided and commodified society
Date added: 25/04/2017
MISSION THEOLOGY IN THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION (MTAC)
Brazil National Conference – Recife
24-27 April 2017
Public religion and public theology: the message of justice and affirmation of pluralism in a divided and commodified society
Because the spirit of the Lord has filled the world,
and that which holds all things together knows what is said,
Therefore, those who utter unrighteous things will not escape notice,
and justice, when it punishes, will not pass them by. (Wisdom 1.7-8)
What can a church do in a minority condition in a situation which the Christian faith is recognised widely as the spiritual and cultural foundation of national identity, though massively represented by another particular tradition? What can be expected of such a small church in a vast country, with deep and long-standing inequalities, against a backdrop of continuous social change that never seems to stabilise in favour of the poor, the weak, the vulnerable majority? What can the church do in a situation in which political power and the administration of justice are perverted by money, vested interests, deceit and outright disdain for the popular will and in which the majority of Christians seem to support these distortions? How can this church respond faithfully to its call and mission? These are some of the questions facing the Brazilian Anglican Episcopal Church and to which it has responded in ways that need assessment and discussion at this precise juncture. They define some of the possible contours of an analysis of what can be expected of the public engagement of Brazilian Anglicans and the extent to which the latter is integral to their witness and mission in the Brazilian context. They may also allow for a reflection on the contribution this can bring to the wider presence of Anglicanism, as a communion of churches, globally in our time.
In what follows I will seek to address these questions, sometimes obliquely, by reflecting on the implications for the church of current trends turning religion into a public actor and leading to the emergence of a discourse on public theology. I introduce a few comments on the history and position of Anglicanism in the context of Brazilian Christianity, to establish its minority and distinctive profile, and move to introduce the trends towards the publicisation of religion and theology, to end with some implications for an emerging understanding of mission in this multilayered context.
Profile, vocation and vicissitudes of the Anglican proposition in Brazil
Anglicanism has a long-standing presence in Brazil, dating back to the early nineteenth century (1810), even before independence. However, for about eight decades, this presence was fundamentally restricted to Britons and other foreigners passing through or residents in the country. Roman Catholicism was the official religion of the Brazilian Empire and no other religious manifestation was recognized nor any proselytizing allowed among Brazilian citizens. Despite this, British chaplaincies were installed in several cities along the Brazilian coast. Immigrant churches were permitted, with the condition of not doing mission among Brazilians. By the mid-1850s the imperial regime began to authorize, or at least not to suppress, the conduction of non-Catholic missionary actions among Brazilians. The first Protestant church organized was a Congregational one, led by a Scottish missionary, Robert Kalley, in 1855. With the proclamation of the Republic and the separation of church and state in 1889 and 1891, respectively, broad religious freedom was legally secured, although the exercise of such freedoms took much longer to be culturally recognized. It is at this moment that the first Anglican missionaries arrive in Brazil from America, in 1890, to plant a church in the country.
The early decades of the twentieth century were still marked by multiple forms of discrimination against non-Catholics (Protestants, Spiritists, followers of Afro-Brazilian religions, etc.), with gradual acceptance of the historic Protestant churches. Identified by liberal sectors of the Brazilian political elite since the mid-19th century as a necessary cultural companion to Brazilian economic and social modernisation, Protestantism arrived in a subaltern way, through localized missionary initiatives and the establishment of immigrant wage-earning workers in a slave-based economy. Adding to this the own demands of the faith – learning to read, encouraging lay participation, and austere personal ethics – the Protestant proposition was very demanding in a strongly hierarchical society still marked by slavery, thus limiting its possibilities of expansion among the rural and urban masses. The Catholic reaction sought to characterize that profile as alien to Brazilian society, liable to doctrinally and culturally undoing genuine faith and the community ties that supposedly united the country around Catholicism, and encouraged mistrust and acts of rejection towards the first generations of converts.
Given the strategy of Protestant penetration in the late 19th and early 20th century, the line followed by Pentecostal missions from the 1910s went largely unnoticed, having from the outset focused on peripheral areas of society (small towns in the South and Southeast, the urban periphery of large cities, the North and Northeast of the country, and the poor working population, including blacks). This voted Pentecostals to stigma, rejection, or invisibility until practically the first half of the 1980s[ii]. Despite their phenomenal growth as of the 1970s, Pentecostals continued to face multiple forms of misconstrual and even contempt, especially as a reaction against their strong proselytism and demanding personal ethos, though they can no longer claim discrimination, in a context in which they already represent over 10% of the total population and have an undeniable presence in the political life of the country[iii]. Since the 1990s, “evangelicals”, the generic term for all Protestants in Brazil, have been definitively assimilated to the majority society and have participated intensely – not without much controversy and some clear contradictions – of daily life and national public life.
The Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil (IEAB), which is one of the smallest Protestant denominations in Brazil, has characteristics that at once explain its appeal to people in search of faith alternatives and generate difficulties of understanding and acceptance by others regarding the Anglican ethos. Perhaps the best-known features of its ecclesial identity are its welcoming attitude, uncensored and without prior conditions, and its non-legalistic ethos. But Brazilian Anglicanism is also marked by its ecumenical commitment, regardless of the prevailing theological line in parishes or dioceses (plurality being the rule in them), and by a consistent vocation to take on progressive positions on social and political affairs. This latter feature does not necessarily imply that the official positions taken by the House of Bishops, Diocesan Councils or the General Synod are shared unconditionally at the church grassroots.
It is remarkable that for decades IEAB has been aligned firmly and without setbacks to the causes of the most vulnerable and oppressed groups in Brazilian society, when other important Christian churches have experienced discontinuities and retreats in their ethical positions, both politically and socially. Not surprisingly, this proximity to the themes and demands of the sectors most affected by the unequal structure of Brazilian society has also produced impacts within the church itself.
Some of such impacts have been affirmative and represented advances that the church welcomed without any difficulties. Thus with regard to the full recognition of female ordained ministry, since 1984; the commitment to human rights and diaconal service; the denunciation of gender violence; and the welcoming of homosexual people as full members of local communities. Other impacts have led to heated debate, tensions and crises (including localised schisms). Thus with the emphasis on the issues of liberation and socio-political engagement, in the 1970s and 1980s, and the issues of recognition of the ministerial vocation and matrimonial union of homosexual couples, since the late 1990s.
An unintended effect of this proximity has ironically been the tendency for the Church’s message and ethical proposition to traditionally appeal more to urban middle class people. The ability to directly attract members among poor, non-white and socially peripheral sectors in the society has grown in the last three decades, especially in the new dioceses, but this has not yet been enough to make Anglicanism an attractive option for broad sectors of Brazilian society. Thus, there remains a relative mismatch between the vocation of the Church to accept the demands and themes of the subaltern sectors of society and getting a positive response from them to the Anglican faith.
The persistence of IEAB’s engaged and ecumenical stance has been favoured by its very minoritarian condition and by the alternative character of its ecclesial and pastoral outlook. But this consistency has been tested in different ways, generating significant losses of lay members and clergy over the years, especially since the early 2000s. As a minority church, IEAB has been relatively protected from the profound ideological changes experienced by major Christian churches in the country until very recently, which led to political-ideological and theological-pastoral clashes between Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists, Pentecostals, etc. But the “porousness” of Anglican ecclesial, pastoral and ethical boundaries towards a positive dialogue with contemporary culture, charismatic spirituality and the agenda of social movements for better conditions of life, freedom and social rights has also generated fears and reactions in more conservative members in parishes and mistrust from Christians in other denominations.
Prevailing conservatism – theological, moral and political – among Brazilian Protestants has allowed Anglicans to assert themselves as an alternative to people disillusioned with political absenteeism or pro-government allegiance, behavioural and doctrinal control, strict codes of conduct and the authoritarianism of ecclesiastical power in other churches. This has not always been experienced without internal tensions, since Anglican membership has never been homogeneous. On the other hand, the same pastoral openness often meant that new members – lay and clergy alike – tried to shape their new communities of belonging and sometimes the Church itself in the light of visions brought from their original denominations or other traditions. Openness has often turned against IEAB’s avowed ecclesiology, producing “congregationalist” tendencies, autonomous pastoral leadership, and clergy-level breaches that led to schisms. Since the beginning of the 2000s, the Brazilian “Anglican” field has become very fragmented, as in other provincial contexts across the Anglican Communion, especially but not only in the Northeast, with the Anglican Diocese of Recife becoming a site for the emergence of new “post-Anglican” denominations as well as parallel structures (another Diocese of Recife affiliated to Gafcon), which left IEAB but claim their Anglican identity and even their permanence in the Anglican Communion.
Public theology and public religion: pluralized faith beyond temple walls and denominational borders
There is a triple movement in the Brazilian context that is producing a profound transformation in the status of “religion” and “faith” both as fields of social practices and as themes. This movement is interconnected and produces tensions and cleavages, but also new forms of rapprochement between new and old ecclesial and socio-political actors. But it opens a new window of opportunity for Anglican witness in Brazil.
The lines of force of this triple movement are as follows:
(a) An intense religious mobility, with loss of space for Catholicism and an increase in religious plurality in Brazil, particularly intra-Christian (with the appearance of dozens of new denominations and independent churches), but also beyond Christianity (through de-syncretisation and autonomisation of Afro-Brazilian religions; growth in numbers of “non-religious” people and Spiritists; and increased diversity of other minority religions);
(b) A remarkable Pentecostal emergence, both in numerical terms and socio-political mobilisation, opening a new chapter in Brazilian religious history, introducing a form of public religion unrelated to Roman Catholicism, carrying out an innovative dialogue with Brazilian culture[iv] and opening up the space of political representation and the formation of the public agenda to other voices originating in the periphery of Brazilian society. This same emergence has bifurcated in the last decade with the emergence of a Brazilian “new Christian right”, led by the Pentecostal parliamentary elite and media-savvy pastors,[v] and the theological and behavioural pluralisation of Pentecostalism itself, leading to more open, complex and ecumenical expressions[vi];
(c) A reactivation and expansion of the ecumenical and socially progressive field of the churches in the context of the political experiment lived in Brazil from 2003 and interrupted by the institutional coup of 2016. The Lula and Rousseff administrations opened unprecedented channels of dialogue and negotiation with different Brazilian religions, in an effort to respond to religious pluralisation and the Pentecostal emergence, and the Brazilian ecumenical movement became a visible and empowered interlocutor, particularly in the field of social, educational and cultural policies. The spaces of dialogue and action created by the new governmental dynamics also allowed the progressive and leftist sectors of the different religions to meet and recognize each other in those meeting spaces. Closer links between institutional ecumenism and grassroots ecumenism developed in this context, although the diffuse nature of the latter makes it difficult a more sustained articulation. Finally, those spaces also enhanced the contact between the ecumenical minority and the secular camp of organized civil society and radical social movements, facilitating a greater perception of the plurality of the Protestant camp among secular activists.
This blending of socio-religious trends has produced profound changes to the visibility and perception of the place and contribution of religion in social life. It also impacted self-identifications and the internal dynamics of the Brazilian religious field. This is a broader process, which some authors have described in terms of the concept of public religion[vii] and within which, I argue, theology once again becomes a public discourse on public things.
Whereas this process opens new opportunities for faith to demonstrate its historical relevance and broaden its spiritual appeal to hitherto unreached segments of the population, it also reintroduces the conflictiveness of the political[viii] at the heart of the theological and ecclesial dynamics. I say “reintroduces” because in spite of the spiritual and metaphysical rhetoric of traditional theology, modern theologies, in dialogue with the “social question” (the labour movement and socialism), in certain versions of the Catholic Action, European political theology, Latin American liberation theology, radical evangelicalism or subaltern and minority theologies that emerged in the last quarter of the 20th century, had already variously positioned themselves alongside dominated groups and exercised prophetic critiques of existing powers. Conflict, antagonism and the articulation of radical theological perspectives are therefore not new.
The novelty seems to be the displacement of the locus of debate to the public space (including the state) in the context of an expansion of interlocutors beyond theologians and even Christian believers. The locus of theological debate overflows the ecclesiastical sphere in several points: by polemics emerging in the political-institutional field itself (via public policies, parliamentary debates and judicial cases); by the growing recognition of theology and the sciences of religion in higher education and academic research; through clashes between social movements and the religious right; through the broad transnational circulation of religious agents (missionaries, theologians, diaspora communities and social activists) and their participation in global debates and campaigns; last, but not least, by the huge role of the media in setting the agenda and steering public debate. Additionally, the polemical, agonistic character of the debate on themes of great social repercussion has opened up theological arguments to support and criticism from lay and secular discourses, ranging from sexuality to genetic engineering; from environmental, racial and gender justice to the implementation of social policy programmes by religious organisations; from the defence of religious freedom to issues of state regulation in the economy and the impact of globalisation on national identity.
Under these conditions, public theology sometimes appears as a mediation tool between polarized and antagonistic perspectives, aligns itself to one of them or seeks to create new resources of argumentation and mobilisation that may broaden the spectrum of plurality in public debate and collective action[ix]. The discourse of faith cannot simply bypass or disarm the implicit or explicit conflictiveness of the political, inasmuch as it is situated in the public space and participates in its dialogues and confrontations. The dislocated locus and the broader spectrum of interlocutors strongly problematise dialogical perspectives in their bias toward consensus or agreement, challenge discourses of mediation and reconciliation to be articulated in more complex ways, and press against the artificiality of the boundaries between the world of the churches and the public world of activism, government and culture.
The criss-crossing trends mentioned above have thus politicized the discourse of religion as much as the spaces of religion, with several implications. Social and religious pluralisation reinforced the use of the language of rights to make room for and do justice to (i) the highly discriminated black and brown majority; (ii) the indigenous minority, threatened by the advances of agrobusiness in forest areas and indigenous reserves and by violent disputes for possession of the land; and (iii) multiple movements in defence of women, sexual minorities, the environment, access to housing, public health, etc. And the 2000s political conjuncture of openness to people's demands for the enforcement of rights and participation has strengthened the rapport between the ecumenical and progressive sectors of the Christian churches and the state, opening opportunities for influence, but also for articulation with secular social movements.
While pluralisation was positively received by the ecumenical and progressive field of the churches, it generated strong tension with Pentecostals. While the Pentecostal emergency provided huge political visibility for evangelicals in general and created spaces for an influence on public policy and legislative change never enjoyed by Protestants and other religious minorities until then, it also painfully exposed evangelicals’ unpreparedness for political action, particularly their corporatism and fragile public ethics. Finally, the intensification of political and ideological polarisation in the past few years in Brazil and its outcome in the formation of a strongly anti-popular and illegitimate government, massively supported by the evangelical parliamentary elite, was reflected in a cleavage between “conservative” and “left-wing” Christians that spread beyond political allegiances.
Affirming plurality, freedom and social justice in an unequal, authoritarian society in struggle for democratisation
In this context, IEAB's public standing has unequivocally aligned with the ecumenical and progressive field, participating in emerging ideological and political clashes or being affected by the repercussions for the church of the direction of social conflictiveness[x]. This alignment however is not unambiguous. It does not reach all corners of the church and does not manage to take stands on many elements of the public agenda. Sometimes the church responds belatedly or fails to articulate a coherent position. Sometimes it becomes a ring of heated dissension (particularly in the wake of recent political polarisation in Brazil). It cannot escape both the heavy toll of Brazilian lingering cultural authoritarianism and the fragile social adherence to democratic agonism – which lead to styles of leadership and ecclesial community relationship to voting and decision-making procedures that sometimes exacerbate disputes among clergy and laypeople. But it seems to me undisputed that the church has not officially taken any conservative position on major issues over decades, which is quite an achievement.
What implications can we draw from this analysis for a public theology articulated from an Anglican perspective, in the context of public religion, and for understanding its place in a contemporary conception of the church's mission? I would like to offer a few personal views as follows.
A first implication, clearly present in positions taken by the church, has been to assume positionality as a consequence of a gospel-based stance, that is, to deny the existence of a neutral and consensual space of affirmation of the common (sense or good). The common appears in this perspective, first as what is popular and marginal, as that which concerns the needs and demands of “the people”, namely, those excluded, discriminated against, kept on the margins of the majority society. Although the church’s message and mission embraces everyone, its enactment addresses different “constituencies”. It takes sides as public religion. The common, as the popular and marginal, is the reverse of the majoritarian, because it is articulated from the perspective of a wide band of losers and invisible people who, despite their large numbers, are treated as peripheral, dispensable or even as uncomfortable or threatening to privileged groups. The majoritarian is, in fact, a power discourse managed by elites who seek to filter and control who is granted access to the public space, who is recognized as a legitimate interlocutor or participant, who deserves to be heard in their demands for justice and inclusion.[xi] If it fails to take a critical stand on majoritarian discourse, Anglican public theology risks being captured by it, in the name of pacification, “orderly” participation, “civilized debate”, or observance of rules of access to decision-making spaces that, in fact, further alienate subalterns from the public sphere and asks for “patience” or deferment of justice that insult their human dignity.
Secondly, the positionality of the Church's voice reverberates internally, because there is no automatic alignment of its members with the voice of the hierarchy or collegial instances of the Church. In other words, the Church’s public theology of affirmation of justice, of the value of social, political and cultural plurality and of respect for and collaboration with other Christians and members of other religions, does not always produce concord and sometimes has a price to pay in order to exist. It takes a great deal of pastoral discernment and flexibility to navigate the fine line between the peacemaking beatitude and the urgency of prophetic denunciation aimed at the infidelity of God’s people and the corruption and oppression of the powerful.
Third, to think of the public theology articulated by the church through (i) its official voices (bishops and councils) and (ii) the service and prophetic action of its laity and clergy, requires an understanding of mission that resists two positions which are ultimately anti-gospel: first, trading the emphasis on a welcoming and non-legalistic ethos for the anxiety of providing a mass pastoral without a costly discipleship requirement; second, to give up proclaiming the need for personal and collective conversion in favour of a dispersed and silent presence in the midst of the hard realities of social struggles and daily life. Public theology is partly a form of apologetics in a society increasingly strained by powerful forces toward commodification of life, institutionalisation of injustice in the name of “freedom” and devastation of nature by unbridled exploitation. It is also an opportunity to hear the voice of God from other people’s mouths.
Thus, a combination is needed between forming communities of disciples imbued with the alternative values of the faith – partly represented in the Anglican tradition and the edifying stories of life and witness of today’s Anglicans, globally – and seeking to reach more people for a bold commitment to Jesus Christ. The latter aspect can be perfectly understood in ecumenical terms. It does not have to be self-referential or proselytist.
Expanding the number of committed Christians can be seen in terms of the broad spectrum of Christian options in a context in which de-Christianisation advances, through disaffiliation, indifference or nominalism. On the other hand, without Christians committed to faithful and costly discipleship the Church’s message becomes a mass pastoral, failing to engender conversion and life change, actions worthy of repentance, spaces of freedom and responsibility for one another. Welcoming, forming, engaging and mobilizing are stages of mission that are integral to the experience of public theology.
Barrera Rivera, Pablo (2016) “Pentecostalism in Brazil”, in Schmidt, Bettina E.; Engler, Steven (eds.) Handbook of Contemporary Religions in Brazil. Leiden and Boston: Brill, p. 117-131
Barreto Jr., Raimundo (2012) The Church and Society Movement and the roots of public theology in Brazilian Protestantism, International Journal of Public Theology, 6: 70-98
Burity, Joanildo (2013) “Entrepreneurial spirituality and ecumenical alterglobalism: two religious responses to global neoliberalism”, in Martikainen, Tuomas; Gauthier, François (eds.) Religion in the neoliberal age: Political economy and modes of governance. London and New York: Routledge, p. 21-36
______ (2015) A cena da religião pública: Contingência, dispersão e dinâmica relacional, Novos Estudos Cebrap, 102: 93-109
______ (2016a) Minoritization and Pluralization: What Is the “People” That Pentecostal Politicization Is Building?, Latin American Perspectives, 43(3): 116-132
______ (2016b) A onda conservadora na política brasileira traz o fundamentalismo ao poder? Paper presented at the Forum “Conservatisms, Fascisms, Fundamentalisms”, held at the University of Campinas, Brazil, 30/08/2016.
Campos, Leonildo Silveira (2016) “Traditional Protestantism”, in Schmidt, Bettina E.; Engler, Steven (eds.) Handbook of Contemporary Religions in Brazil. Leiden and Boston: Brill, p. 95-116
Casanova, José (1994) Public Religions in the Modern World. Chicago: University of Chicago
______ (2012) “Rethinking public religions”. In: Shah, Timothy Samuel; Stepan, Alfred; Toft, Monica Duffy (eds.). Rethinking Religion and World Affairs. Oxford and New York: Oxford University, p. 25-35
Chesnut, R. Andrew (2016) “The Spirit of Brazil: Charismatic Christianity among the world’s largest Catholic and Pentecostal Populations”, in Schmidt, Bettina E.; Engler, Steven (eds.) Handbook of Contemporary Religions in Brazil. Leiden and Boston: Brill, p. 76-94
Freston, Paul (1995) Pentecostalism in Brazil: a brief history, Religion, 25(2): 119-133
______ (1999) “Neo-Pentecostalism” in Brazil: Problems of Definition and the Struggle for Hegemony, Archives de sciences sociales des religions, 44(105): 145-162
Graham, Elaine (2013) Between a rock and a hard place: Public theology in a post-secular world. London: SCM
Herbert, David (2003). Religion and civil society: rethinking public religion in the contemporary world. Aldershot and Burlington: Ashgate
IEAB (2017) Carta aberta sobre a Reforma da Previdência e a Reforma Trabalhista, Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, 10/04/17. Accessed 10/04/17, http://sn.ieab.org.br/2017/04/10/carta-aberta-sobre-a-reforma-da-previdencia-e-reforma-trabalhista
IEAB (2016) Mensagem à Igreja de Cristo e à sociedade brasileira, Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, 31/3/16. Accessed 31/3/16, http://sn.ieab.org.br/2016/03.
IEAB (2015) Em defesa da democracia e da justiça social e contra o impeachment da presidenta Dilma Roussef, Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, 10/12/15. Accessed 10/12/15, http://sn.ieab.org.br/2015/12/10/em-defesa-da-democracia-e-da-justica-social-e-contra-o-impeachment-da-presidenta-dilma-roussef.
Jacobsen, Eneida (2012) Models of Public Theology, International Journal of Public Theology, 6: 7–22
Laclau, Ernesto (2014) The Rhetorical Foundations of Society. London: Verso
Machado, Maria das Dores C. (2016) “Speaking up against abortion and homosexuality: Pentecostalism and politics in contemporary Brazil”, in Leithardt, Martin (ed.). New ways of being Pentecostal in Latin America. Lanham: Lexington, p. 209-224
Mendonça, Antonio Gouvêa de (2005) O protestantismo no Brasil e suas encruzilhadas, Revista USP, 67: 48-67
______ (2008) O celeste porvir: A inserção do Protestantismo no Brasil. 3ª ed. São Paulo: Edusp
Natividade, Marcelo; Oliveira, Leandro de (2013) As novas guerras sexuais: diferença, poder religioso e identidades LGBT no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Garamond
Panotto, Nicolás (2015) Teología y espacio público. Buenos Aires: Gemrip
Reily, Duncan A. (1989) História Documental do Protestantismo no Brasil. São Paulo: ASTE
Sinner, Rudolf von (2009) Towards a Theology of Citizenship as Public Theology in Brazil, Religion & Theology,16: 181-206
Vries, Hent de; Sullivan, Lawrence E. (eds.) (2006) Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World. New York: Fordham University
Wuthnow, Robert (1994) Producing the sacred: An essay on public religion. Champain: University of Illinois
[i] Political scientist; lead researcher, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation (Brazil); collaborating academic staff in the Postgraduate Programmes in Sociology and Political Science, Federal University of Pernambuco; lay member of the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil; advisor to the Primate Bishop and member of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Diocese of Recife; former provincial representative in the Anglican Consultative Council and member of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.
[ii] On Brazilian Pentecostalism see Freston (1995, 1999); Burity (2016a); Chesnut (2016); Barrera (2016).
[iii] On the origins of Protestantism in Brazil, see Reily (1989); Mendonça (2005, 2008); Barreto Jr. (2012); Campos (2016).
[iv] This dialogue combines Pentecostal strict ethos and vision of reality inhabited by competing spiritual forces with an ethically ambiguous, but hierarchical culture, and assimilates a lot of the musicality, resilience and corporeal sociability that underpin the multi-ethnic and Catholic-based cultural matrix of Brazilian society.
[v] On the main traits of this “new Christian right”, a recent development, mostly originating in neo-Pentecostalism, which articulates the defence of traditional family and morality, against feminism and LGBT groups, to public policy choices inspired by neoliberalism, see Natividade and Oliveira (2013); Machado (2016); Burity (2013, 2016b).
[vi] Witnessing this pluralisation are urban middle class Pentecostal churches, particularly in Brazilian metropolises; a new generation of higher-education trained Pentecostals; and an increasing number of theology students and academic researchers in confessional and secular colleges and universities across the country.
[vii] See Wuthnow (1994); Casanova (1994); Herbert (2003); de Vries and Sullivan (2006); Burity (2015).
[viii] Here I follow authors in political theory who have argued for the inextricable conflictive dimension surrounding the constitution and maintenance of social and political orders, as these always seek to stabilise their hold over a multidimensional set of demands, practices and interests through drawing boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘friend’ and ‘enemy’, legitimate and illegitimate participants/stakeholders, etc. See Mouffe (2005); Laclau (2014).
[ix] I use the term in a less technical sense than a growing sub-discipline in theological and religious studies. I stress public engagement, the various levels of theological argumentation and the diversity of sites and participants in which public issues attract religious involvement or raise questions about it. On various approaches to public theology, see Graham (2013); Sinner (2009); Jacobsen (2012); Panotto (2015).
[x] It is not the aim here to provide an analysis of IEAB’s public statements or official standing on specific issues. For a sample of them, see IEAB (2017, 2016, 2015).
[xi] I developed this point in relation to Brazilian Pentecostalism in Burity (2016a).