Explorar os incautos, os idiotas e os ingênuos é muito melhor: basta um pouco de saliva, decorar vários versículos da Bíblia e o milagre está feito: o dinheiro corre como água direto da fonte para a sua conta bancária.
Os exploradores da ingenuidade alheia são, como diria Marx, o ópio do povo, os maiores traficantes das crendices dos mais simples, os aproveitadores dos sofrimentos dos desprovidos, os criminosos de gravata e Bíblia na mão.
Como diria Einstein, duas coisas são infinitas no mundo: o universo e a idiotice humana, e ele não estava seguro quanto à primeira. Ou como diria um bookmaker inglês: nunca, alguém perdeu dinheiro apostando na estupidez humana...
Os pastores estão aí para provar que tudo isso é verdade...
Paulo Roberto de Almeida
Forbes Magazine, 1/17/2013 @ 7:00PM |46,530 views
The Richest Pastors In Brazil
Meanwhile, the number of Protestant evangelicals has soared from 15.4% of Brazil’s population just a decade ago to 22.2%, or 42.3 million people. It’s likely that the downward trend for Catholicism will continue and it’s estimated that by 2030, Catholics will represent less than 50% of Brazilian churchgoers.
So why are evangelicals taking over Brazil’s religious scene?
One of the evangelicals’ most appealing qualities is their belief that material progress results from God’s favor. While Catholicism still preaches a very conservative look to an afterlife instead of earthly riches, evangelicals–especially the ‘neo-Pentecostal’ ones–are taught that it’s all right to be prosperous. This doctrine, known as ‘Prosperity Theology,’ is in the foundation of the most successful evangelical churches in Brazil.
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The value of material progress in Brazil’s evangelicalism is explicit and actively promoted. Aline Barros, a Grammy-award winning singer-turned-preacher who has over 900,000 followers on Twitter, puts it like this: “What have you done for the Kingdom of God? What have you produced for God? If you are alive, you’ve got the breath of life–produce!”
It seems to be working. As has been widely reported, Brazil has experienced a period of great economic growth over the past few years. The country’s economic success has not only lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty, but it has also raised the expectations of a new lower-middle class–known as the ‘C Class.’ With the very rich and the very poor remaining staunchly Catholic, the majority of Protestant evangelicals in Brazil are in this category, and they have found in the religion a way of being thankful for their good fortune as well as an excuse to enjoy their new status in society without guilt.
In other words, they are eager to give back to the church, to perhaps bear some of the load. This has ended up turning some churches into highly lucrative businesses and making some leaders into multi-millionaires. It’s the so-called “Industry of Faith.”
Take “Bishop” Edir Macedo, for example. The founder and leader of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, which also has temples in the United States, Macedo is by far the richest pastor in Brazil, with a net worth estimated by several Brazilian business magazines* at $950 million (one government arm in Brazil estimates an even higher sum). He is continuously involved in scandals, mostly due to allegations that his organization had siphoned off billions of dollars of donations intended for charity. There have also been official charges of fraud and money laundering. Yet Macedo has managed to keep his flock of followers throughout the years.
One of the fathers of the modern Prosperity Theology, Macedo even spent eleven days in jail in 1992 due to charges of charlatanism. Macedo has denied all the accusations against him in Brazil, but he is still under prosecution by US authorities as well as Venezuelan authorities.
As an evangelical writer, he stands out with more than 10 million books sold, some of which are extremely critical of the Catholic Church and a number of Brazilian Afro-religions. His biggest move was in the late 1980s, when he acquired control of Rede Record, currently Brazil’s second largest broadcaster. His other assets include a newspaper, Folha Universal, which has a circulation of over 2.5 million in Brazil, a news channel, Record News, music label companies, state-of-the-art properties and a $45 million Bombardier Global Express XRS private jet. Macedo’s spokesperson said he would not comment on personal affairs.
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Following in Macedo’s footsteps is Valdemiro Santiago. A former preacher within the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, he was reportedly expelled from the institution after some misunderstandings with its boss, of whom he was a protégé. That was enough for him to found his own church–the World Church of the Power of God, which has more than 900,000 followers and over 4,000 temples, many of which are adorned with images of him on billboards. He made headlines last year after reportedly dropping $45 million on a private jet identical to that of Macedo’s. Several Brazilian business magazines estimate his net worth at $220 million. A call and email to Santiago’s church were not returned.
Then there’s Silas Malafaia, the leader of the Brazilian arm of the Assembly of God, Brazil’s biggest Pentecostal church. The most outspoken of his colleagues, Malafaia is constantly involved in controversies related to the gay community in Brazil, of which he proudly declares himself to be the biggest nemesis. The supporter of a law that could classify homosexualism as a disease in Brazil, Malafaia is also a prominent figure on Twitter, where he is followed by more than 440,000 users. In 2011, Malafaia–who’s worth an estimated $150 million according to several Brazilian business publications–launched a campaign called “The One Million Souls Club,” that aims to raise $500 million (R$ 1 billion) for his church in order to create a global television network that would be broadcast in 137 countries. Those interested in contributing to the campaign can donate sums starting at $500 (R$ 1,000), that can be paid in installments. In exchange, donors will receive a book.
Possibly the most active in multimedia among Brazilian preachers is the singer, composer and televangelist Romildo Ribeiro Soares, simply known as R.R. Soares. As the founder of the International Church of the Grace of God, Soares is one of the most regular faces on Brazilian TV. Another former member of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God–he is the brother-in-law of Macedo–the self-entitled “missionary” Soares is said to be the humblest among his peers. His private jet–a King Air 350 — is worth a “modest” $5 million. Soares’ estimated net worth (also from several Brazilian business publications): $125 million. Soares’ spokesperson did not return calls or emails.
The founders of the Reborn in Christ Church, “Apostle” Estevam Hernandes Filho and his wife, “Bishop” Sonia, oversee more than 1,000 churches in Brazil and abroad, including several in Florida. With a combined net worth estimated at $65 million by several Brazilian business magazines, the couple made international headlines in 2007 when they were arrested in Miami, accused of carrying more than $56,000 in undeclared cash. Some of the money had been stuffed between the pages of their Bibles, according to U.S. customs agents who detained the couple at the Miamiairport. They were returned to Brazil a year later. They are also still under prosecution in Brazil for a number of other crimes, including for the collapse of ceiling at one of their temples, which caused 9 deaths.
The arrest and allegations in Brazil of systematic embezzlement have resonated loudly. In December 2010, Brazilian soccer star Kaka, who was friends with the Hernandes couple and a member of their church, left the institution, reportedly because of their leadership mishandling of money. Kaka had reportedly donated more than $1 million (R$ 2 million) to the church during the time he was one of its most well known members. A spokesperson for the Hernandes couple did not respond to emails and phone calls.
Becoming an evangelical preacher in Brazil is the dream of many young people across the country. Contrary to more traditional protestant churches that require their pastors to have at least a masters degree, the neo-Pentecostal churches such as the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God offer intensive courses to “create” pastors for as much a little as $350 ( R$ 700) for a few days of classes. It’s not only about money (Malafaia pays up to $11,000 per month to the most talented members of his pastor’s crew, according to Veja SP magazine), but also about power.
Many Brazilian pastors have been given diplomatic passports in the past few years. Some, especially those who lead big churches, are courted by politicians at election time, not to mention that as in many countries around the globe, churches are exempt of taxes in Brazil, which can sometimes create a very convenient loophole.
As the Bible says, faith moves mountains. And money, too.
*Estimates for net worths were based on numbers reported by Brazil’s Public Ministry of the Union and Federal Police, as well as estimates of the value of each pastor’s private holdings, as reported by Brazilian media, including magazines Veja, Exame, IstoÉ, IstoÉ Dinheiro and newspapers Folha de S. Paulo, O Globo and O Estado de S. Paulo.