It is almost time for the world’s most popular sporting event – the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It has come around every four years since 1930. In 2010, Spain took the cup in front of an audience of 700 million viewers. That was almost seven times the audience of 112 million who viewed the recent Super Bowl in February.[i]
I’m not a huge sports fan as I mention here, but something caught my eye in the news leading up to the monumental event. It was the fact that over 600,000 evangelical Christians were participating in the “March for Jesus” event last week preceding the World Cup.
“We’re here to represent our faith and show the strength of the evangelical population, which continues to grow,” said Jardson Carioca, a 30-year-old bus driver who attended the march with 50 other members of his church…[ii]
Last year, this same March drew over 2 million people.
Two million Christians from all over Brazil trekked the streets of Sao Paulo over the weekend to join in on the country’s largest religious gathering, “March for Jesus.” The annual event, organized by Pastor Estevam Hernandes of Renascer em Cristo, or Reborn in Christ Church, and other Pentecostal churches, included speeches and prayers from pastors, political figures, and entertainment from various Brazilian gospel artists.[iii]
“March for Jesus” is a much larger movement that has been around since 1987. The popularity of the marches in Brazil may be due to the growing population of evangelicals. This burgeoning sector of the Brazilian population was not alone on the streets this year in protest.
‘March for Jesus’ is just one of many marches taking place in Brazil, leading up to the FIFA World Cup. Although the event was a peaceful demonstration, thousands more have taken to the streets across the country to protest the soccer tournament to demand better public services such as education and health care, while highlighting social corruption and the high cost of staging the World Cup.[iv]
Most of these demonstrators accuse the government of spending billions on new stadiums while leaving the poor and homeless lacking.
“The World Cup has done nothing to help us,” said Diana, a manicurist who has been on a list for a government-subsidized house for a decade. “So we decided to use it as a platform to make our voices heard.”
Taking advantage of the global attention focused on the country for the world soccer championship, other groups are staging protests to air their grievances.[v]
These groups are crying for help. They have been demanding more government spending on education, health and subsidized transport.[vi] What we need to notice is that these cries are coming in the midst of 600,000 Christians who are publicly expressing their faith in Christ.
Amid the country’s tense social condition, “March for Jesus” organizers say their event is peaceful with the sole purpose of gathering evangelicals to publicly express their faith.[vii]
I am pleased to know there are such large groups of Christians expressing their faith in Christ. That said, this is a country in desperate need of practical answers to questions affecting their everyday lives. Why not publicly demonstrate faith through providing Biblical answers to the many grievances being voiced next to them on the streets?
I recall a trip to Brazil about ten years ago where I was involved in actively sharing the gospel of Christ. During that same week, I read F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. By night, I read about the tyranny that results when a nation of individuals abdicate their responsibility and turn control over to the central planning of the state. By day I ministered amid that very reality. That week I came to better understand the enslavement of the people to which we were ministering. It is an enslavement that we are becoming more and more acquainted with in the US. I believe it is an enslavement that results in part from not proclaiming the whole gospel.
There is freedom in Christ through his blood. This secures freedom throughout all eternity. But, this does not mean that Christ’s work does not alter the temporal. He is in the process of redeeming his creation. There is movement in history from slavery to freedom.
We may not promote a “social gospel” as defined today, but that in no way implies that God’s Word does not address social concerns. Scripture applies to all of life. As Christians we can provide Biblical answers to these masses crying for help. Expressing our faith, marching, praising and worshipping Christ are a wonderful, visible statement. But as Christians, let’s go beyond this. Let’s let the Bible speak to the issues raised by these tens of thousands of protestors. To do otherwise would be akin to “whistling past the graveyard”, or better yet, “singing praise songs past the slums”.
These masses are calling on the state to be their savior. They are demanding better education, health care, security and a myriad of other subsidies. They are crying out for the state to continue to intervene so that they can be delivered out of their poverty and live in peace and security. Why not let them know that this will never work?
The policies of state intervention do not attain their professed goals. They cannot do so, for they are in violation of God’s commands, and this is His world. Foreign aid does not help the poor; price controls create an imbalanced, chaotic market; minimum wage laws result in unemployment; profit restrictions increase consumer costs; enforced economic equality means a radical political inequality; in short, all attempts by the state to abolish poverty serve only to intensify it in one way or another.[viii]
This is God’s world and His light reaches into every corner of it. We should not preach an abridged gospel. True freedom comes through submission to its Author. His commands are outlined in God’s word. As the world protests and cries out for freedom and security, let the Christians standing by take a pause in their praise chorus to show practically how God’s Word provides the only answers. Let us preach the whole gospel, lest in “Marching for Jesus” we march alongside our countrymen into further bondage to the state.
[viii] Chilton, David, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators (Tyler, TX: The Institute for Christian Economics, 1981), 205.