“My Gang Is Jesus”
Believe it or not: the simultaneous rise of gang membership and evangelical Christianity in Rio de Janeiro
Evangelical churches in Brazil’s favelas serve as a source of redemption for many, and there are many pastors who work earnestly to save the souls of gang members, whose numbers have grown significantly in recent years. Yet some pastors in Rio de Janeiro have become entangled in violence, the drug trade, political corruption, and the exploitation of Brazil’s poor. Complicating the issue of faith further, conversion allows gang members a path to safely exit a world of violent crime—something that might be more pressing than spiritual salvation.
In this episode, Alex Cuadros, author of the book Brazillionaires and the article “My Gang is Jesus,” featured in the February issue of Harper’s Magazine, explains how these narratives coexist in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. In his conversation with web editor Violet Lucca, Cuadros discusses the politics of evangelicalism, tensions between evangelicalism and Afro-Brazilian religions, and other factors that have contributed to the spiral of violence in Brazil.