"That study is not about whether or not God accepts a war. He accepts," announces American pastor Ralph Drollinger in one of his weekly Bible studies, with an expressive but leisurely voice, calculated so that visitors to his website follow his reasoning. He then explains that the biblical phrase "blessed are those who work for peace, because they will be called children of God" (Matthew 5: 9) refers only to "how the faithful should lead their personal lives." That is: it is not valid for governments, which can go to war.
Biblical studies are analyzes of parts of the Bible intended to be understood and applied to personal life or that of a community. That “Bible study” by Drollinger, published in May 2018, had, according to the pastor himself, the objective of helping members of the US government to reflect on “the threat of war with Syria, Iran and North Korea” – movements initiated by US President Donald Trump – and convince them that going to war is blessed by the Bible itself. Days later, Drollinger would be even more explicit in his preaching, by asking: "You, as a public servant, help reduce the secular anti-biblical tendency towards pacifism and non-interventionism, that will lead to a growing global chaos!"
It was not the first nor would it be the last time that the founder of the evangelical ministry Capitol Ministries would find in the Bible a justification for the most radical actions of the Trump administration. In short, the goal of the church founded by Drollinger is basically to "convert" politicians and public servants to an evangelical Christian vision of politics that fits perfectly with the vision of the American ultra-right. "Without that guidance, it is much more difficult to reach public policies that satisfy God and are beneficial to the progress of the nation," Drollinger summarizes in one of the studies on his website.RELATED
While the US president rejects the agreements on global warming – and openly questions whether it actually exists – Drollinger denies in another Bible study that man can impact the environment. “Everyone must be sure about His ability and willingness to sustain the ecosystem of our world,” he says, and concludes, in an exalted voice: “What glorious truths God gave us! They are slapping fashion theorists who try to scare us with global warming. ”
And if someone questions whether Trump's greatest promise – building a wall on the border with Mexico to prevent the entry of immigrants and refugees – can live with the Christian principle of compassion, he has a ready response. "It is understood in Genesis 11 that nations, by God's designs, must have different languages, cultures and borders," he reasons. "The immigration laws of each nation must be based on the Bible and strictly enforced, with the absolute confidence and guarantee that God approves such actions." Who guarantees it is the pastor.
Capitol Ministries – a name that means "Capitol Ministries", a symbol of the US Congress – was founded in 1996 by former basketball player Ralph Drollinger to "create disciples of Jesus Christ in the political arena around the world." The pastor's idea was to take his previous work into politics, focused on evangelizing athletes.
But it was in 2017 that Drollinger made his leap to the forefront of world politics, when he founded the first group of studies dedicated only to members of the Trump administration. The weekly meeting, in an undisclosed location, brings together ten members from the highest levels of government, including the vice president, Mike Pence, and the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo; The former director of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt, who articulated the United States exit from the Paris Agreement, also participated.
Drollinger's preaching has a practical effect on a government that more than once acknowledged having been elected thanks to the evangelical vote. In the past, one of his sermons was used by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to justify the detention of thousands of immigrant children in poor conditions on the Mexican border. "I would quote the apostle Paul and his clear and wise order, in Romans 13, to obey the laws of government, because God commanded the government for its purposes," Sessions replied, invoking the Bible and not US law.
While the press in his country reacted, shocked, Drollinger insisted on exposing his footprints behind the statement. "I had the honor of teaching him about that matter and many others," he said. The phrase, in fact, is a repetition of Drollinger's basic manual, and Sessions frequented his Bible studies when he was in government.
In search of Bolsonaro
Funded by Pence and Pompeo, Drollinger himself said on his website, Capitol Ministries also uses the influence of the US government to fulfill its “divine” mission: to dominate the world. Since last year, he opened chapters in five Latin American countries – Mexico, Honduras, Paraguay, Costa Rica and Uruguay (his representative in Uruguayan territory is Pastor Alex Medina, according to his website) – announced that it will open in two others – Nicaragua and Panama– and has just landed in Brazil.
The pastor of the Baptist Church Raul José Ferreira Jr, who will be responsible for conducting the Bible studies in the Senate and in the Chamber of Deputies of Brazil, says that, “God allows,” he will also guide Bible studies in the Executive, along with President Jair Bolsonaro and his ministers. “We are working really hard so that there can be at least one meeting between Pastor Drollinger and President Bolsonaro, so that from there we can develop a job. But, even if the president is not among them, we are going to try to build a job inside the Civil House (equivalent to a presidential secretariat), together with the ministers directly linked to the (government) palace, ”he says.
“Our idea is to reach the level of the presidency of the republic and of the ministers, at the first step. We have a slogan that is ‘first the firsts’, that is, first the first. Through these relevant people we can change the fate of our nation, ”says Pastor Ferreira Jr, who, appointed by the regional director in Brazil, went through a week of training in Seattle with Drollinger and his team.
The objectives of Capitol Ministries in Brazil are ambitious: to conduct individual biblical meetings with parliamentarians, especially with the unconverted, in addition to weekly collective meetings, and even ensure that each member of the National Congress receives the printed studies, by email and by message from text. "Our goal is to rebuild the nation from Christian values that are forged through the study of the word," says Ferreira Jr.
Ralph Drollinger, along with Pastor Raúl José Ferreira Jr.
photo: author s / d, public agency
The director of the ministry in Brazil and pastor of the Baptist Church, Giovaldo Freitas, told Agência Pública that there is a distinction between the work of Capitol Ministries and that of the Evangelical Parliamentary Front, made up of politicians from different parties acting in an organized manner in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate. “Our goal there is not evangelicals. Biblical studies are for those who do not have a relationship with the church, with God. It is evangelizing, walking together, praying. There, if by any chance some recognize Christ as their lord and savior, they may become part of the FPE (Evangelical Parliamentary Front), ”he says, despite acknowledging that collaboration with evangelical parliamentarians is fundamental and that the first biblical studies will be conducted in offices of deputies and senators of the Front.
The man from Capitol Ministries in Brazil
Negotiations for the arrival of Capitol Ministries to Brazil began in 2017, Freitas explained. That year the pastor was part of the Global Leadership Summit, an American evangelical organization that conducts major training events for business leaders around the world. In one of the group's events in Chicago, the pastor was invited by the coordinator of Capitol Ministries in Latin America to participate in the organization of the arrival of the ministry to Brazil.
Freitas then went through Drollinger's training in Washington with people from all over the world. “There were several people from Latin America, some from the Caribbean, from Europe, people from Asia … People from Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Bermuda, Bahamas, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Mexico, Holland, Romania, Russia … ”, remember. And he adds: "At that meeting there were eight senators and two deputies (Americans)." The pastor did not want to reveal the names of the politicians present, but said that there was also, for the occasion, a panel with the presence of three members of the Trump cabinet: Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry , and Agriculture, Sonny Perdue.
According to Freitas, religious ties have borne political fruits: "That Secretary of Energy has even held talks with our Minister of Mines and Energy exactly because of the arrival of Capitol Ministries," he reveals. Since then, the pastor describes that several negotiations took place in the Brazilian Congress, in addition to meetings with Itamaraty ambassadors and with the chief of staff of the then president Michel Temer, "to decide some things" about the launch in Brazil.
Although he says that the intention of the ministry is not to "raise flags", the pastor admits that there is a natural approach with the parties that are further to the right. For him, the new government, by Jair Bolsonaro, is the ideal setting for the arrival of Capitol Ministries in the country.
According to the law professor and director of the Legal Center on Gender and Sexuality at Columbia University, Katherine Franke, the export of fundamentalist missions from the United States to Latin America, with the backing of the federal government, violates the principles of state separation and church established by the United States Constitution. “The government is promoting religion as an official project and that clearly violates one of the clauses. Moreover, the government is promoting a particular vision of religion, without doing so impartially. And that is a second type of violation, ”says the specialist to the coalition of media that are part of the“ Transnationals of the faith ”project.
Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua
Drollinger denies that his organization lobby, and hardly recognizes that his goal is to convert politicians to Christianity. But Capitol Ministries arrived in Honduras through the US Vice President himself. In June 2018, when Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández made an official visit to Washington, Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo suggested that he start a chapter of Capitol Ministries in the presidency and Parliament.
In 2017 Drollinger recruited Oscar Zamora, a Peruvian pastor who studied Theology at West Coast Christian College, in California. Since then, Zamora travels the continent negotiating the opening of ministries in the parliaments of the region. Maintains a discreet profile and avoids giving interviews. Pastors, as with Freitas, are recruited from the Global Leadership Summit, a program he leads in South America. Three of Drollinger's pastors said the meetings are funded with US resources.
In March, Drollinger and his wife traveled to Costa Rica to meet with a group of congressmen at a breakfast convened under the slogan "Rebuilding a nation" – name of the book of its authorship – at the Radisson hotel, in an elegant neighborhood of the capital .
“I want to tell you that Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked me to say hello. These two men love Jesus Christ with all their hearts and they are making an impact, literally, in the whole world, ”Drollinger said at the meeting, and said:“ If you conquer political leaders for Christ, you will have residual conquests for your country. ; they will have huge, very positive effects on the direction that Costa Rica will take. ”
But not only proudly right-wing governments have approached Capitol Ministries. During the commemorations of the 40 years of the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua, led with pomp by Daniel Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, in the midst of a political crisis that killed more than 300 people, he took more than 500 protesters to jail Thousands to go into exile, Drollinger was there.
According to a press release, it was Ortega himself who invited Capitol Ministries to open the ministry in the country. This is linked to the war against the Catholic church led by the Nicaraguan government, one of the sensitive points for re-election in 2021. In the event, Ortega declared: “We know that if the people to whom God entrusted the destiny of the nation were born again, our deputies would legislate according to the Bible. ”
Thus, before thousands of people, Drollinger highlighted the Christian values of the country and thanked the opportunity offered by the Ortega government. According to the official newspaper La voz del Sandinismo, he added: "I pray for your nation, I pray for you, I pray for government leaders so that we can all reflect the values of Christ every day."
Translation: Diajanida Hernández. This article was originally published by Agência Pública.