The evangelical phenomenon grows in Venezuela; they say their faith cures cancer

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Rojas wears an orange tie with a fat knot, suspenders, an aesthetic shirt vintage or old and dark pants that have a few sizes left over, or missing a few kilos inside to stand firm in the flesh. It is Sunday morning and the church door is guarded by a couple of fervent and well-dressed believers who welcome visitors.
The famous Plaza de La Candelaria is just in front. There, worldly pleasures that do not fit in worship coexist in harmony. The young people show their muscles shining by the oil or the sun in the gym machines that the city council has placed on the asphalt for those who do not have money to exercise in private.
At another point in the square, which is quite large, the old people from Caracas play dominoes at tables prepared for the national pastime par excellence, and just in front of a socialist bakery sells more or less hard breads left and right. Coffee? “There is no, mommy.” And the bathroom? “There’s no water”.

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                    Sputnik / Esther Yáñez Illescas

Entrance and main facade of the Evangelical Church Christian Imperial Center located in the popular and central neighborhood of La Candelaria in Caracas

In Venezuela, the majority religion is still Catholicism: according to the latest data From the 2018 Latinobarometer, Catholics account for 67% of the country’s religious population. But in recent years the faithful to the Gospel have grown exponentially, reaching 18% according to the same meter.

Pastor Rojas believes that the years of crisis in the country have been decisive for the increase of the faithful in his church and in the rest of evangelical churches distributed throughout the national territory.

“I think that the countries where there is poverty, need, scarcity, people tend to look for God. If not, they make their money a god. Many people have been converted by the crisis in Venezuela. The church is full, lately there is a lot people I don’t even know, “he says in an interview with Sputnik.

Faith is everything

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                    Sputnik / Esther Yáñez Illescas

Sunday worship in the Evangelical Christian Imperial Center Church

It is a sunny Sunday in February and indeed the church is an uproar. The doors inside door is huge. They are several plants of faith, prayer and merchandising Christian. The pastor has just officiated his cult. On Sundays there are five cults with several different pastors who teach their word, pray, sing, participate in a dedicated audience that dances and raises their hands in their stands; and the most important: cure sick of physical and spiritual evils.

“We do what we call ‘anointing of anesthesia'”, explains Rojas and completes: “I impose my hands on the heads of the faithful and they fall as dead. It is what Christ did in the Gospel. He heals their faith.”

There is a row of fallen as dead on stage and a tumult that demands faith for their healing. There is music, instruments and miracle spectators. On the floor, faithful adults and also children, men or women with different requests to God. The party lasts about 30 minutes and then the prodigy occurs. They say they are already cured.

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                    Sputnik / Esther Yáñez Illescas

Young girl faithful to the Gospel with a pastor in the “liberation room”, in the process of healing physical and spiritual diseases

“It is that this is a church of war and that is why we cure sick people of all their ills, physical or spiritual ailments,” says Mari Cruz González. She is also a pastor, and a hairdresser in her spare time. He is preaching in a separate special room that they call “the liberation room.” There come individually different people with different requests. It is a private anointing.

“We cure cancer, tumors, flat feet or free them from evil spirits,” says Mari Cruz. “We have that power because we pray every day and please the Lord. He deposits that authority in us. Thus we bring out the demons of the restless people because they have entrusted themselves to witchcraft or because they simply had not found the way of faith. “he adds.

At that time there are two people in the release room. One is young, says feeling restless for a couple of nights. She has been worried since she argued with her husband “because of another woman.” Mari Cruz and Pastor Rojas are releasing her. The woman bows her head and screams. You have nausea Shout louder. Mari Cruz gives her a bucket so she can vomit.

“Get out! That’s how you are going to be free! Let go!” Shepherds tell her while they hold her hair and head so she doesn’t get lost in vomit. In the end there is an explosion of voices and the young woman cries relieved.

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                    Sputnik / Esther Yáñez Illescas

A lady in the process of healing her illness with a pastor of the Imperial Christian Center

The other person awaiting his release is a 74-year-old woman who was diagnosed with prolapse by doctors and pees all the time. Besides, now her vagina hurts and that’s why she went to the pastor. The procedure is the same as the previous one.

“I give glory to my father, I feel the power of God and the holy spirit healing me, father. I came with a great faith and I knew that you were going to heal me. Thank you, blessed father,” the lady cheers with joy. He says it is already cured.

“There are many controversial aspects of the evangelical movement and healings are one of them, “Jordi Puig i Martin, a researcher in Sociology of Religion at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, ​​assesses in dialogue with Sputnik.” In Protestantism, healing by the laying on of hands is affirmed. If in classical Protestantism this is still symbolic, like a prayer, in Pentecostal churches it is literally accepted, “he adds.

“There are pastors who claim to be able to cure diseases with the imposition of their hands on the faithful. And it is perverse: if the person is cured, it is thanks to the pastor. But if it is not cured, it is because of the person’s little faith. In addition, when a pastor has ‘cured’ someone of his popularity soars, his church members increase and income from tithing increases, “notes Puig.

Tithing, crisis and politics in Venezuela

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                    Sputnik / Esther Yáñez Illescas

A faithful passes the basket for offerings in Sunday worship

The tithe that the faithful contribute to the maintenance of the evangelical Church is the 10% of your income. Puig i Martin says that there is nothing “dark” in its financing but “meridianly transparent”. “Apart from tithing there are large donors, especially Americans, who contribute dollars to churches and evangelical media,” he says.
“One of its main characteristics is its great adaptation to the capitalist and consumer society. For example, they were pioneers at the time in betting on donations on-line. Given that, it is not surprising that as a movement they have a lot of capital, “explains the academic.
The rise of the evangelical movement is not exclusive to Venezuela but is a phenomenon that runs throughout the Latin American continent. For the sociologist of Barcelona it is “a progressive boom, an exponential growth whose beginning must be sought decades ago.”

According to Martin, many reasons explain why “Latin America becomes Protestant,” as it is commonly said: presence of American missionaries, seduction for everything that comes from the United States, a very basic and unintellectual theology that anyone can become in pastor, absence of unified hierarchy, a very emotional experience of faith …

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                    Sputnik / Esther Yáñez Illescas

Decorative tapestry inside the Imperial Christian Center

“But normally there are two great reasons: the resignation of the Catholic Church from popular spirituality, and the support of conservative political sectors to a Church closer to their interests,” he summarizes.

In Venezuela, politics and the Gospel intermingle to the extent that the Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, constantly affirms in his speeches to be a Christian and a devotee of God. In December 2019, Maduro surprised by asking to develop a “powerful” Christian evangelical movement “to raise the moral values” of the country.
In that same speech he approved the creation of an Evangelical Theological University of Venezuela and launched a plan to remodel and recover evangelical churches in the country. At that meeting they went 1,730 pastors.
Another name that does not go unnoticed and that is closely linked to this growing movement in Venezuela is that of pastor Javier Bertucci, who became famous when he decided to run for the 2018 presidential elections. He founded his own party and bet on a very media election campaign in which he dedicated himself to distributing soups throughout the national territory in one of the hardest moments (and more hungry) of the Venezuelan crisis. He was third in votes reaching almost one million at the polls.

Bertucci is not a controversial figure. He was criminally prosecuted in 2010 for smuggling 5,000 tons of diesel fuel to the Dominican Republic and its business network – which includes companies in Panama and Miami. He appeared in the famous Panama Papers.

Why do evangelicals get into politics?

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                    Sputnik / Esther Yáñez Illescas

In the center, the envangelic pastor Eusebio Rojas in his church in La Candelaria, in Caracas. He is accompanied by two pastors from the same church

Puig i Martin replies: “When the time comes, they realize that politics can also be an instrument of evangelization. In addition, here also appears the dangerous ‘theology of prosperity’: if a person comes to have political power, it is a demonstration that he is blessed by God, and therefore that his political ideology is the good one, the true one. ”
“Glory days are coming,” Bertucci said when he announced his presidential candidacy.
“Days of glory are coming,” Eusebio Rojas also says Sunday in his church. He is sitting next to four other lower-ranking pastors and telling what his life is like when he is not there. He is also a pastor, but of the country. It has a farm in a land about three hours from Caracas, sowing and raising cattle.

Rojas is affable, open and it shows that the community loves him. In just 30 minutes several women have come to greet you and offer you some food. Cazón empanadas are his favorite offerings and there are those who know it and arrive with a greasy bag from the bakery on the corner.

The pastor talks about his life while reading the Gospel on his cell phone where he has saved some of his favorite chapters.

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                    Sputnik / Esther Yáñez Illescas

Some chapters of the gospel on the cell phone of Pastor Eusebio Rojas

“Notice that before I got into this, I didn’t know anything about the Gospel, only that I stopped being drunk,” Laura Urribarri laughs, a 69-year-old faithful who approaches the pastor to kiss her hands and give her a hug.

“But since I met him [al Evangelio] I realized that all my ills were supernatural, like this economic crisis, which is also supernatural. The same thing happened to Venezuela that happened to Israel, who forgot about God because he was well and built his idols. The town was contaminated but we are getting out of it, “he says.

Urribarri turns with a smile and gets into the cult of the day. From the outside, the songs of the faithful who are participating in some anointing of anesthesia are heard in the background, leaving offerings, raising their hands and praying with absolute certainty that this is the only way to be happy and to save themselves from absolutely everything.

Greasy dogfish empanadas never felt so good. There is no fault in any obstruction in the arteries that will be released under the faith of the laying on of hands on any Sunday in a church of war. It is the word of God and the shepherd on earth.

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