BY RAFAELA DE OLIVIERA
Can we tell God from a manmade king?
Can we tell love from a promise ring?
Can we tell the Kingdom from the kingdom where we lay our head down at night?
You are my country.
Gable Price and Friends, “You are My Country”
Today, the world’s political and social climate is rife with polarization. Our society demands that we take a side. And when we do, we’re either turning our backs on or getting excommunicated by any number of people. This polarization is fueled by hatred, by blind faith in one side, and by a complete rejection of the “other.” Thus our world is simplified, split into a dichotomy of good and evil. There is no middle ground. There is no space for communication, for understanding, for peace.
How many times have I fallen into this pattern? How many times have I let myself be filled with hatred, with anger for those who stood on the other side of the political spectrum—with confusion? How could they think that way? How could they act that way? How could they not see what I see or want what I want?
Last year, though, I had a wake-up call.
This wake-up call was from none other than Jesus Christ. I’ve identified myself as a Christian for most of my life and, honestly, it’s been great—10 out of 10 recommend. I’ve been filled with love (and not to mention great food from my amazing church fam). As I’ve grown older, though, I’ve learned the weight of what it means to call myself a Christ-follower. It’s more than just receiving Jesus’ love. It’s also about responding to it through my actions and even my thoughts, about giving myself back and actually following him (Luke 9: 23). I’m called to an agape love, a sacrificial love. I’m called to a life of surrendering my own views and desires so that I can be filled with His. And you may be reading that and thinking it’s crazy or sad, but it’s honestly brought the most joy, peace, and love into my life. By knowing more of Him, I’ve learned more about myself and about this world.
So, how has that affected how I approach polarization?
You see, when I decided to surrender my political ideology to Jesus, I began to see both sides more clearly, and, more importantly, I began to see that there was a lot more room in between. Like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a novelist and political prisoner under the Soviet Union, I saw that “the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts.” We all have a bit of evil, just in different ways. In the same way, we’re all a bit good.
So, how do I respond to political and social issues?
By not taking sides or, rather, by taking the side of Jesus and His Kingdom instead of the kingdom where I “lay my head down at night.” This side is founded on love, always good, and as I believe, always true. It’s hard to imagine how one could do that. It’s even harder to imagine how whole communities can do it.
This past semester, however, I’ve learned a lot from a Brazilian Christian environmental group, the Pastoral Commission of the Land (Comissão Pastoral da Terra, CPT). CPT is fueled by love. Since the 1970s, they’ve worked to protect the land and people of Northern Brazil from the destruction of industrialized agriculture and “exploration,” due largely to Brazil’s energy transition. According to their coordinator, “land is a gift of God to all,” and their organization is motivated by the Gospel to see these rights come into fruition, to protect these rights.  Consequently, they’ve stood against both conservative and liberal policies and administrations in an effort to take the side of Jesus, in an effort to love people.
On the other hand, as I’ve looked at the relationship between Brazilian Christians and their government, many Pentecostal groups have also stood out. Many are outwardly politically affiliated and thus have a large influence in the political sphere itself. Leaders such as Edir Macedo, the lead pastor of the second largest Protestant denomination in Brazil, has gone as far as anointing conservative leader Bolsonaro, praying that he can “transform” Brazil and make it a “new country.” In his speech Pastor Macedo stated that “the Lord chose this man to lead the more than 210 million people” in Brazil, to help people in need. This same Bolsonaro, however, has stood for policies that directly harm many in need, enacting policies, for example, that permit the demarcation of indigenous lands for industrial expansion in the energy sector. 
My research on the energy transition in Brazil and the involvement of religious groups like the CPT and the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (Pastor Macedo’s denomination) has opened a new conversation for me regarding the complexity of Christian influence in Brazilian politics. At the same time, it has left me personally convicted and with a choice. I can continue to stand on one side, like the Universal Church—the side my church, school, or family stands for—against another side. Or I can choose to stand with love and for love, like the CPT, to stand with Jesus in the in between.
I’ve made my decision. And I hope that this post can help you rethink and re-evaluate your views too. Continuing to push people away won’t get us any closer to a better tomorrow–it’ll only get us to a more divided and hate-filled one. So, give love a chance. It won’t be easy, so I recommend giving Jesus a chance too. He’s not only the ideal, He’s also the way (John 14:6). Knowing more of Him changed the way I see the world– and who knows, maybe it can change yours too!
The Bible: https://www.biblegateway.com
A Short Sermon Jam on Jesus’ Love: https://youtu.be/2E4Pdik0wuY
The Sermon that made me reevaluate my political ideologies: https://youtu.be/txZ9zUQL2xQ
A song, by me, on discovering His love: https://youtu.be/RLN8GVK8HGc
On the two groups addressed:
March by CPT for land rights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyFILnRpMKI
People being removed from their homes for energy expansion, covered by CPT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ETH_OOcXqw&t=554s
The CPT website, which has resources in English about what they do, but also what is happening in Brazil with regards to environmental and social injustices regarding land: https://www.cptnacional.org.br/publicacao/category/25-cartilhas
Bolsonaro being anointed: https://youtu.be/7LW5ehyaCnIAn article on the influence of Pastor Edir Macedo: https://newrepublic.com/article/153083/demon-slaying-pentecostal-billionaire-ushering-post-catholic-brazil
 Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr Isaevich, 1918-2008. The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation. First edition. New York : Harper & Row, [1974-78]., 1974, https://search.library.wisc.edu/catalog/999468310902121.
 Total, Dom, and Thiago Ventura. “‘Terra é dom de Deus para todos e não para um pequeno grupo’, defende coordenador da CPT.” CPTnacional, 25 Apr. 2018, https://cptnacional.org.br/publicacoes/12-noticias/conflitos/4332-terra-e-dom-de-deus-para-todos-e-nao-para-um-pequeno-grupo-defende-coordenador-da-cpt.
 “Bolsonaro diz que ‘biodiversidade’ e Amazônia estão ‘à disposição’ em encontro com empresários em Israel.” Revista Fórum, 2 Apr. 2019, https://www.revistaforum.com.br/bolsonaro-diz-que-biodiversidade-e-amazonia-estao-a-disposicao-em-encontro-com-empresarios-em-israel/.