I have long been fascinated by Brazil, the fifth-largest country in the world, now boasting a population of over 200 million. In October of last year I finally realized my dream of visiting this amazing country, and it far exceeded my expectations.
I have long been fascinated by Brazil, the fifth-largest country in the world, now boasting a population of over 200 million. I love the samba music of Antonio Carlos (“Tom”) Jobim, the elegant classical guitar music of Heitor Villa-Lobos and the haunting performances of guitarist Baden Powell. As a child I pored over a 1960 National Geographic article about the new capital city of Brasília, marvelling at the notion of a planned metropolis in a youthful and growing nation.
In October of last year I finally realized my dream of visiting this amazing country, and it far exceeded my expectations. In 2014 my first book was published in Portuguese translation by Edições Vida Nova (New Life Editions) under the title, Visões e Ilusões Politicas. Its release coincided with a hotly-contested presidential election, and during that time I received a large number of Facebook friendship requests from enthusiastic readers. I began to learn the language, intensifying my efforts last March and continuing to the present.
In late spring I received an invitation to speak at a conference sponsored by two organizations, l’Abri Brasil and Movimento Mosaico. The title of the conference was Ideolatría, whose overall theme explored the relationship between political ideology and idolatry. I was privileged to deliver two keynote addresses at this event, which took place in the central Brazilian city of Goiânia, about three hours by car from Brasília.
New Kuyper fans
Three things struck me about my visit. First, Brazil is a very large country. I had hoped to touch base with more of my online acquaintances during my visit, but many told me in advance that it was simply too far away for them to attend. Canada’s territory may be larger, but Brazil’s is not far behind, exceeded only by Russia, China and the United States.
Second, while Brazil has the largest Roman Catholic population in the world, the evangelical protestant portion is growing quickly and now constitutes some 22 percent of the total. I was told that the Pentecostals are by far the largest denomination, boasting between 15 and 20 million members. The Baptists have around 8 million. The Presbyterians have only around 800 thousand.
Nevertheless, and this is the third point, the Reformational vision associated with Abraham Kuyper and his heirs is gaining ground dramatically across denominational lines. In one of my addresses, I quoted Kuyper’s “every-square-inch” passage in Portuguese (“Não há um único centímetro quadrado . . .”), eliciting an enthusiastic audience response. Not only are Baptists and Pentecostals increasingly onside of this vision, but even Lutherans in the far south of the country, which received large numbers of European immigrants after the Second World War, are reading Kuyper and Herman Bavinck with appreciation.
During my visit I fell in love with the people of Brazil. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality of my hosts and by their deep affection for me and for my written work. I could not have imagined becoming so taken with an entire country in such a short time, but that is indeed what happened. A number of people gave me gifts, including a compelling CD recording of Stênio Március, a Christian musician whose style can only be described as a sophisticated form of Brazilian jazz. Another presented me with a beautiful leather-bound Bíblia Sagrada – a Portuguese-language Bible, from which I am trying to read a portion each day.
And now I can easily say: Eu quero voltar! I want to go back! God is working mightily among the Brazilian people to advance his kingdom, and I am honoured and gratified that he has permitted my work to play even a modest role in this. My lifelong fascination with Brazil has become a profound love for a truly beautiful people, who have manifested God’s grace in their lives and communities, and are increasingly shining the light of that grace to the rest of the world.
Deus abençoe o povo brasileiro! May God bless the Brazilian people!
David T. Koyzis is the author of Political Visions and Illusions (2003) and We Answer to Another: Authority, Office, and the Image of God (2014). He teaches politics and humanities at Redeemer University. More photos on page 20.