Edir Macedo is a new kind of Pope in control of an enormous neo-Pentecostal denomination he created from scratch. Macedo travels in luxurious private jets using a diplomatic passport–protecting him from prosecution. He owns a bank and a large television network. This New Republic article, “How a Demon-Slaying Pentecostal Billionaire is Ushering in a Post-Catholic Brazil”, by two English-speaking authors–Alexander Zaitchik and Christopher Lord–examines connections between prosperity preacher Edir Macedo and recently elected president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro as well as Macedo’s alleged connections with the Colombian Cali drug cartel. The authors show how impoverishment provides fertile ground for the prosperity gospel, particularly in poverty-stricken areas of Brazil.
Illustration by Adhemas Batista (shortened here)
Edir Macedo has a church, a bank, a TV channel, and a Moses complex. And with the election of Jair Bolsonaro, he has emerged as the country’s most controversial kingmaker.
February 7, 2019
The headquarters of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God does not resemble your typical megachurch. Its eighteen stories dwarf the big-boxes of the Texas and Missouri exurbs. Behind pillared walls of imported granite and marble, a 10,000-seat sanctuary features neither crosses nor organs, but a menorah motif running from entrance to pulpit. Men in shawls and skullcaps that look a lot like Jewish tallits and yalmukahs conduct ceremonies next to Hebrew-inscribed Tablets of Stone and a gilded Ark of the Covenant. The building is meant to be a supersized reproduction of the biblical Temple of Solomon, but by way of Caesar’s Palace.
This is São Paulo, not Vegas or Jerusalem, and the men onstage are Pentecostal pastors, not rabbis. To be more precise, they are Neo-Pentecostal pastors, practicing a syncretic stew of the prosperity gospel, millenarianism, miracle healing, demon invocation, and exorcism, while boasting a level of Judeophilia weird even by the generous standards of Christian Zionism. Once a spiritual outlier, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) stands at the forefront of Brazil’s rapid transformation into a Catholic-minority country. Its seven million members constitute Brazil’s second-largest Protestant denomination, after the Assemblies of God coalition.