Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – If, as Karl Marx famously said, “religion is the opiate of the masses”, Rio de Janeiro’s Mayor Crivella must be one of the most devout Marxists ever to govern the Marvelous City.
This past week, Hizzoner convened a secret meeting of some 250 evangelical bishops and elders, presbyters and pastors at City Hall and proudly proclaimed that they (with his help) must seize the moment to promote their churches and members.
Among the benefits offered to evangelicals were (1) expedited surgery for cataracts and varicose veins; (2) moving bus stops closer to church buildings so the faithful would not have to walk so far in the rain; (3) placing traffic lights and speed bumps closer to churches so as to ensure the safety of churchgoers crossing the road; and (4) resolving the cases where the City taxman was attempting to charge IPTU tax on churches.
How to schedule your surgery? “Just call Marcia” and she’ll make sure you get operated within a week. Marcia is a member of the Mayor’s staff. His solution for tax problems is equally simple: “if you don’t call Dr. Milton, your cases will drag on and on.” Dr. Milton is, apparently, a lawyer within or with good connections to City Hall.
Before exhorting the pastors to go out and spread the good news to their flocks, Hizzoner’s staff had required all those attending to hand in their mobile phones before being admitted into the presence, presumably to keep people from reporting what he had said.
Alas and alack! Someone (doubtless an atheist or heretic) smuggled in a recording device and captured every word. This treacherous person then purveyed the words to O Globo, Rio’s mighty mainstream medium, which has made a great meal out of them.
Brazil’s MSM have long known that football, not religion, is the opiate of the Brazilian masses. After Brazil came crashing out of the World Cup on Friday, the masses were in danger of having to quit their addiction by going cold turkey. Fortunately for the junkies, Hizzoner’s ill-thought sortie into ward-heeling local politics has nurtured the people’s need for news.
The crusading Public Ministry has launched an official inquiry, always good for a few headlines. Several opposition political parties have called loudly for Hizzoner to be impeached, which is also good for a few headlines. “Marcia’s” phone number was published and had to be deactivated—no headlines but probably no cataract operations either.
Hizzoner says his talk was simply meant to spread the news of the good works he has been accomplishing in his time as Mayor, and that it’s no big deal that he just happened to be speaking to fellow evangelical leaders. No one believes him.
This tempest in a teapot will simmer for a little while, and then die down, because municipal elections won’t happen until 2020 and everyone in Brazil will be focusing on whether Lula will receive his “get out of jail free” card from the STF so he can run for President this year.