Brazilian Families and Religion

Grandpa’s Wisdom: “Too many couples marry for better, or for worse, but not for good.” Anon

The traditional family in Brazil still consists of a couple and their children. It is that family type that is the central glue that holds the Brazilian culture together. It is still true to-day though with the changes in the last three decades many families look different.

Recent statistics indicate that 1/5 of all Brazilians families live in poverty. We might describe that poverty as extreme. Yet in this the woman is often the one that maintains the continuance of her family. Many work as housemaids travelling long city distances for a minimal salary. With the roles of women in the family changing, many men find it uncomfortable and simply leave not to return. I vividly remember a woman in a church-planting project. Three children hung to her disordered skirt as she told me that her husband had left three years previously, ostensibly to find work in another city. She heard nothing more from him. If he had work somewhere, it is likely that a younger woman with no children would move in with him. So sad.

But more to the topic for to-day– the positive place of religion in homes, especially in the stable development of the children. A friend had this excerpt in his blog—here it is “Religiously aware adolescents who feel connected to a higher power are 40 percent less likely to abuse substances, 68 percent less likely to battle depression, and 80 percent less likely to engage in at-risk sexual behavior.” The statistics come from the work of Lisa Miller at Columbia University. It is interesting that this research is absolutely neutral as to the religion and of course that makes it more relevant to everyone.

Thinking of those stats I am sure that many parents wishing for successful children might consider having their children attend a church where they can get religious instruction. However leaving the teaching of religion to a church is only part of the work that is so necessary. The parents need also to be involved. What children see day after day in their home tends to be the pattern followed in life. You recall the old cliché, “Monkey see, monkey do.”

Brazil was colonized by the Portuguese who brought not only their language but their religion so that Brazil has a larger number of Catholics than any other country in the world. The Catholic church has 10,218 parishes and encourages traditional family life.

The colonists brought in untold numbers of Africans to be slaves and in the 20th century that included immigration to Brazil of Europeans and Asian populations, especially the Japanese. However these other groupings promoted a solid family life. Confused family life goes back to the slaves and the Conquistadores—the conquering colonialists—who often raised children from Indian and slave woman. Family life was disrupted often with slavery.

Known in Brazil as the “evangelicos” these protestant churches emphasize a family as a married man and woman with children. These churches provide instruction not only in church dogma but in successful living as well. Add to that the natural cohesion of “crente” (believing) Brazilian families and their home/family religion and one has a strong force for stability. Remember too that “evangelicos” now number 22.2% of the population.

I have no idea how well the Columbia University study about the power of religion on children would apply to Brazil. My own experience and knowledge of our churches and families there tell me that the “evangelicos” have a profound effect on society for good. Brazilian parents find it worthwhile leading their children to a deep faith in God. Could we learn from them?




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