I don’t know if this only happens in Brazil or if it’s worldwide phenomenon, but yesterday I saw an article that just made me really upset about evangelicals in my country.
In Brazil, there is a famous Pentecostal church called the “Universal Church of the Kingdom of God” (Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus — or simply IURD). They must have like 5,000 temples all around the world, and Mr. Macedo, the church’s president, owns a major TV network called Record (Rede Record de Televisão) – which is not an evangelical TV network, though. Record is the second-largest TV network in Brazil and competes fiercely with Globo, which has been #1 in audience rates ever since I was born.
At the exception of Globo, the latest fashion among TV networks/channels has been to broadcast evangelical programs during the late hours of the night — and the programs are paid, and very well paid, by the corresponding churches, of course.
Then there is this guy called Valdemiro Santiago. He used to be a pastor at IURD, until 1997, when he left due to problems with IURD’s leadership and founded his own church, the World-Wide Church of the Power of God (Igreja Mundial do Poder de Deus). The World-Wide Church must have approximately 1,500 temples throughout Brazil, and Mr. Santiago’s sermons can be watched in many TV channels at night and during pre-dawn hours.
So, once this context has been explained, I can finally say what’s been bothering me. Predictably, Mr. Macedo and Mr. Santiago constantly publically criticize each other — which is already ridiculous, since they’re both birds of a feather. But last Sunday their little verbal war managed to get uglier just a notch. Record’s Sunday night show, Domingo Espetacular, aired a story entitled “discover the secrets of the millionaire apostle” — obviously talking about Mr. Santiago.
Although I do believe that (provided it is all true, of course) it is inadmissible that Mr. Santiago has bought thousands of acres of land in the country and so many other things with the money donated by his church’s followers, I also think that it is unbelievable that Record has aired a story about it. It’s just embarrassing — and it gets worse if you take into account that, as I said, they’re all just birds of a feather.
Personally, I don’t think that what they preach is really the gospel. Not in most occasions, at least. On the other hand, I do know that it’s through their sermons that many people hear of the gospel and end up wanting to learn about Jesus’ teachings. I mean, I do disagree with what they preach — like that we can somehow “command” God to do things for us or that when we make a contribution God is “obliged” to bless us in return and so on –, but I guess that, since I can’t stop them from doing it, (John 16: 8) my responsibility is to preach otherwise through my own life.
“But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” (Philippians 1:18)
“My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long— though I know not how to relate them all.” (Psalm 71: 15)
But here’s what I don’t understand: why do they think that they’re doing the right thing by publically attacking each other like that? Do they not know that they’re brothers and that they should love each other? Or haven’t they ever read 1 John 4: 20? Did they forget that they’re both equally fallible as human beings, and that Jesus loves them both in the exact same way? Why do each of them think that they’re so much better than the other? Where did they get that idea from? ‘Cause I may not be any theologian or anything, but one thing I know: they sure didn’t take it from the Bible.