Those Who Search for Dawn Don’t Fear the Night

There is little that divides Modi’s fascistic Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and his Vishwa Hindu Parishad from the piety movements of Tablighi Jamaat (with its millions of Muslim followers) and these neo-Pentecostal formations in Latin America, says Vijay Prashad.

Roberto Mamani Mamani, Papa Imillas.

 By Vijay Prashad
Tricontinental: Institute

for Social Research 

Jeanine Áñez, the ‘president’ of Bolivia, walked into the Burned Palace (Palacio Quemado) with an enormous Bible in her hand. ‘The Bible has returned to the Palace’, she said as she seized power. Áñez’s Party – Movimiento Demócrata Social – won only 4 percent of the vote in the 2019 presidential election, and she is not in the direct line of succession. The Movement to Socialism (MAS) controlled the majority in parliament, and its speaker – first Adriana Salvatierra and then Mónica Eva Copa – stood ahead of her in the queue. Nonetheless, as MAS officials stayed home for fear of their lives, a parliamentary vote that excluded the majority party took place in which Áñez took power. The military backed her. Very soon thereafter, the United States and Brazil sanctified this Christian fundamentalist right-wing politician as the president.

The Generals stood beside Áñez as she took her oath. Hovering nearby was Luis Fernando Camacho, whose political party (Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario) won only 0.69 percent of the vote in the presidential election. Nonetheless, Camacho is the kingmaker. He is the leader of the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz Youth Union (Unión Juvenil Cruceñista) – both bodies tinged with pro-business fascism. Camacho followed Áñez into the palace. He was holding a crucifix. ‘Pachamama will never return to the palace’, he said. ‘Bolivia belongs to Christ’.

Áñez with her Evangelical Bible, 2019.
Beneath the volcanic eruption of Áñez and Camacho is the lava-like growth of the right-wing evangelical movement. In the 2019 presidential election, Áñez was not the standard-bearer for evangelism. Chi Hyun Chung (who won nearly 9percent of the vote) and Victor Hugo Cárdenas (who won 0.41percent of the vote) had the strongest evangelical credentials. During the lead-up to the vote, it was Chi who was called the ‘Bolivian Bolsonaro’. Bolivian sociologist Julio Córdova Villazón found that these men – Chi and Cárdenas – erased the separation between Church and State and relied upon the vast network of evangelical churches and television programmes to run their campaign. After the election, Julio Córdova said that it was Camacho, the man who installed Áñez to the presidency, who legitimized his authoritarianism through ‘Bolsonaro-style religious discourse’.
José Tola, El rapto de Europa, 2019.
Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, is – like Camacho and the others – rooted in these transnational evangelical neo-Pentecostal networks. But this is not an affliction of the fundamentalist versions of Christianity – such as neo-Pentecostalism – alone; there is evidence from around the world of these sorts of authoritarian religious movements that are pickled in hatred and rooted in praise of militaries and capitalism. It is no wonder that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi – who emerges from his own authoritarian religio-political movement – invited Bolsonaro to be the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day Parade on 26 January 2020. There is little that divides Modi’s fascistic Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and his Vishwa Hindu Parishad from the piety movements of Tablighi Jamaat (with its millions of Muslim followers) and these neo-Pentecostal formations.

There is an enormous amount that they share in common.

Our researchers in Buenos Aires (Argentina) and in São Paulo (Brazil) have developed a preliminary theory of these neo-Pentecostal movements in South America. The team in Buenos Aires has published a report (in Spanish) on the Evangelical Question, while the team in São Paulo has produced an as yet unpublished document on the rise of neo-Pentecostalism in Brazil (André Cardoso and Fábio Miranda, ‘Contribuições para entender o crescimento pentecostal e os desafios para o campo popular’).

One of the common features of the findings in Argentina and in Brazil is that these movements are growing at an astronomical rate, doubling in twenty years. In both countries, these movements have jumped into the electoral sphere, where they have begun to define an ‘evangelical vote’. This consolidation of evangelism in politics polarizes sections of the working class and peasantry. The analyses from our two offices are very close to each other, and they both point to at least five features of these movements:

Heart in a Heartless World     

Over the course of the past few decades, as social inequality has increased, the purchasing power of the urban and rural poor has declined while the time and money for leisure activities has been reduced. With the cuts in social spending, State-funded community activities have also lessened. This has meant that in the neighborhoods of the poor, commercial and State-funded avenues for social life have vanished. Near Brazil’s favelas, the storefronts are now occupied by a line of neo-Pentecostal churches, by liquor shops, and by a few restaurants. It is these neo-Pentecostal churches that operate as one of the key places for social life in these working-class communities and as an employment agency for its members. As the Church becomes a hub for social life – including music lessons – it attracts young people into its ranks. Few other outlets are available for the working class.

‘Gender Ideology’

In South America, the feminist movement, particularly the movement for abortion rights, has strengthened. In reaction, these religious currents have consolidated a patriarchal response. They make the argument that the elite is trying to colonize the families of the poor by eroding the authority of the father. These piety movements and their political allies routinely uphold patriarchal attitudes towards women, seeking to retroactively control all aspects of their lives and keep them subdued and submissive. 

RSS leader Mohan Bhagwat often says that women should not work, that they should rely upon their husbands. By putting the Father on a pedestal, these movements take their authoritarian ethos of the Strong Leader into the heart of the family.

TV Santhosh, Blood and Spit, 2009.

Camacho’s statement that Pachamama – an indigenous Andean spiritual concept – has no room in the presidential palace in Bolivia is just one of a million pieces of evidence that suggest the deep hatred that this seam of evangelism has for any form of life that does not follow its precepts. Both Áñez and Camacho have made racist statements about the indigenous communities of Bolivia, whose faith they consider ‘satanic’. The RSS view of Muslims and the adivasis (indigenous), and the Tabligh’s view of apostates (murtadds), mirror this attitude.

Made in the USA

Our teams in Buenos Aires and São Paulo find that this form of evangelism was exported from the United States. Anthropologist Rita Segato suggests that there has been a concerted effort to export this form of religiosity into the Global South as a means to disorient and fragment the working class and peasantry and to undermine national liberation movements. Indeed, in the 1960s, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and others pushed a narrow and suffocating form of Islam through the World Muslim League to undermine the growth of socialist movements from Indonesia to North Africa. Just before he was executed, the Egyptian leader of the Muslim Brotherhood Sayyid Qutb described his organization as part of a tendency that he called ‘American-made Islam’.  

Evidence for Segato’s view came to us a decade ago when Dr. Kapya Kaoma and Political Research Associates showed how U.S. conservative evangelicals – assisted by the U.S. government – pushed an agenda of homophobia in Africa (Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda). Little wonder that these currents – including the current led by Áñez and Camacho – are cosy with the military and with imperialism. Even if the push comes from the U.S. evangelicals, or – in the case of this ‘American-made Islam’ – from the CIA, it finds its own allies amongst ruling elites and others who drive an agenda rooted in older religious forms but weaponized for their aims.

‘This is Not Your Dad’s India’. Protest in New Delhi, December 2019.
It is out of this deeply violent seam of authoritarian neo-Hinduism that the BJP government in India passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that undermines the right of Muslims to be Indian citizens; and it is out of this seam that it has shut down Kashmir and now parts of the North-East and sent in the police forces to attack the students at Aligarh Muslim University (Uttar Pradesh) and Jamia Millia Islamia University (New Delhi).

The Prosperity Gospel

Neo-Pentecostal churches and neo-Hindu gurus operate amongst people who are often the poorest of the poor, and yet it is amongst these social groups that they promote a ‘prosperity gospel’. It is not merely that these tendencies use the opportunities of the modern world – the media and the market – to push their aims; it is that they promote the values of neoliberalism amongst the working-class – be an entrepreneur, don’t become a trade unionist.

Hassan Hallaj, Caravane, 2011.
These movements draw from older traditions, but they refashion themselves for neoliberal times. It is not as if they provide a necessary spiritual antidote for populations bereft of social life because of the neoliberal assault; other forms of ‘spiritual’ comfort are available, forms of social coexistence that are secular and progressive. But as the institutions of working-class culture are summarily destroyed in many countries; these forms – including neighborhood and trade union gatherings – are overrun by the well-funded religion-oriented assemblies. A genuine sociology of these neo-religions should not avoid looking into the dark corners, where the ruling elites sit and write their support with cheques; in the bright lights, we see the working class stumble in and seek a soul in soulless conditions, but the lights are so bright that they often cannot see into the corners.
Aye subh ke ghamkharo, is raat se mat darna.
Jis haat me khanjar hai, us haat se mat darna.
You who search for the dawn, do not fear the night.
Do not be afraid of the hand that holds the dagger.
Fear is the ethos of this neoliberal religiosity. The Pakistani poet Ahmed Faraz saw this fear and shrugged. He counsels bravery.
One of the brave ones is Bolivia’s Evo Morales, now in exile in Argentina. When he was in Mexico City, he spoke to The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald about the coup in Bolivia, and about the social forces afoot in South America.


Vijay Prashad, an Indian historian, journalist and commentator, is the executive director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and the chief editor of Left Word Books.

This article is from Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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14 comments for “Those Who Search for Dawn Don’t Fear the Night

  1. Semi LJ
    December 27, 2019 at 14:56

    Things are tough all over. Even in the Beltway but the Beat goes on, let’s hope we don’t get beat on. What did Rick say in Casablanca? Try #1o or was …..? I came here for the waters? , I stick my neck out for no one? The Germans have outlawed miracles? It ain’t easy being easy ? No, that was Dandy Don on Monday Night Football. There is still hope, maybe? Not Rick, that was Uncle Joe. Peace on Earth. Goodwill to men.

  2. Fran
    December 27, 2019 at 13:49

    Obama was at Modi’s Republic Parade in India in 2015, the first president to do so, but why is the author not concerned about that? He seems to cherry-pick who to be concerned about. He also fails to mention that Muslims support the Congress Party in India and not the BJP. Fewer minorities mean less Congress Party members. Religion ran daily life in India way before formalized Government. The majority of Indians have no intention of getting rid of their religious roots but the author would like them too.

  3. nup
    December 27, 2019 at 02:08

    Racism/Gender are not issues that drive the radical tablighi Jamaat, the article misinforms when considers those issues to compare with tabligh. Further, RSS has no strict religion, unlike tabligh, RSS accepts Muslim members who are not Islamist. The article is unreadable.

    It is sad to see in-coherent Vijay Prasad article on the site where Robert Parry once wrote.

  4. TS
    December 26, 2019 at 15:51

    >‘The Bible has returned to the Palace’, she said as she seized power.

    This from the woman whose home-made porn sex scene has made the rounds on “social media” ….

  5. Drew Hunkins
    December 26, 2019 at 14:36

    This is a very insightful piece by Prashad.

  6. OlyaPola
    December 26, 2019 at 06:01

    “When a Chief Justice Reminded Senators in an Impeachment Trial That They Were not Jurors”

    The rule of law is a favourite cloak of the rule of men.

    December 19, 2019 at 12:09

    Your comment is awaiting moderation a.k.a Godot.

    “How much more elegant to let the Left render itself toothless, forever atomizing
    itself ”

    Left/Right are enmazed in a linear frame/oxymoron sometimes known as
    “represntative democracy” which is/was designed to facilitate linear modulations of
    social relations; akin to a suspension system to dissipate energy in attempts to
    “manage” oscillations/vibrations within “tolerances”.

    Those so enmazed are always rendered petitioners/supplicants denied their own
    agency whether they are workers or not as illustrated by the Bolshevik project which
    is in lateral process of transcendence through portals such as the Russian Federation.

    Agency can be expressed in various modes including but not limited to, “pretending
    to work for which others pretend to pay” – a significant component of the ongoing
    lateral process of the transcendence of the “Soviet Union” through the portal of the
    Russian Federation, whilst Mr. Gorbachev and his associates attempted to “reform”
    the Soviet Union and external opponents sought to undermine the “Soviet Union”,
    both acting as accelerants and multipiers in the on-going lateral process of

    In order to mask the agency of others opponents have resorted to questions such as
    “Who lost China?” and mantra such as “America won the “Cold War””

    “Exploring unknows there are varying methods including but not limited to
    embracing doubt, resorting to belief to bridge doubt to attain confirmation/comfort
    including by projection, or resorting to oxymorons such as “precautionary principle”
    of apres nous le deluge-ness.” (e.g. demonisation of “the other”), and hence in part
    why the benefits of “dumbing down” do not accrue solely to those engaged in
    “dumbing down” since attempts at doing so in some assay undermine suspension

    Consequently the “headline writer’s” assertion that “Corbyn’s defeat has slain the
    Left’s Last Illusion” is mistaken and your own contribution edited to read “”How
    much more elegant to let the opponents render themselves toothless “

    whilst time and tide continue to wait for no men.

  7. December 25, 2019 at 16:14

    They essentially have created another means to divide us! All while at the same time they have also created the very reason we must now have that war

  8. Punkyboy
    December 25, 2019 at 11:42

    Religion is the most dangerous cancer on this earth. Forget money, religion is the root of all evil. How close we are in America to living under these same fascist conditions is plain to see in who is our Vice President, who is our Secretary of State, and how many in Congress, military, and “security” agencies are “born-against” evangelicals, or Zionists. These are extremely dangerous people – they have clout and they have money, and their goal is to implement God’s Plan for America (and the world) and especially God’s Plan for Women. For the last three decades, in the shadows they have been worming their way up from local government positions, school boards, etc.,creeping into the highest halls of power. Americans for the most part, being Christians themselves, do not see the danger posed by these fanatics and either partly agree with them or simply ignore them as crackpots – which they are – but very, very dangerous ones.

    • Selina
      December 27, 2019 at 19:56

      Your overwrought first sentence is challenged by the existence of Quaker’s, the Ba’hai faith, Zen and other “religions” that counsel and model peace and inclusion. Hatred leaks from your diatribe. Which is – ironically – part of the glue and the allure of all “extreme” organizations. As I think Jung commented, whatever you worship is your God. Whatever the outer organizational garb – political or religious – when power and money are God, then you have extremism and patriarchy. Dominance over. No wonder Jesus threw the money changers out of the Temple. And in those terrible 40 days and 40 nights in the Wilderness, Jesus remembered and knew the difference between God’s voice and that of the fallen angel, Lucifer. His choices in that harrowing Wilderness demonstrated his honoring relationship with God, with profound Wholeness and a deep consciousness of the nature and place of the ego in the cosmic/earth design.

  9. December 24, 2019 at 23:32

    well put William

  10. Roger Milbrandt
    December 24, 2019 at 18:03

    This is a fascinating and informative article up until approximately the point in which the “Prosperity Gospel” is introduced. At this point, the prose collapses, it become almost unreadable, the we are suddenly advised to watch the Glen Greenwald interview of Evo Morales. I get the feeling that somehow the article has been hijacked.
    Couldn’t someone – maybe Prashad – explain what happened?

  11. December 24, 2019 at 16:24

    4200 religions to help save us from?

  12. December 24, 2019 at 10:25

    Not sure I can buy into the idea that there is an active partnership between capitalism and evangelism but there is little doubt that they are sympathetic in many ways. What the evangelicals are about here and in Latin America is attracting people who have been passive Catholics and offering a more vibrant alternative using the modern tools of communication. One cannot miss the growing power of Protestant evangelism in the United States as well as in the countries south of us. Zionist Christians are but one example. Trump has climbed aboard and much of what he claims to believe is attentive to the Evangelical political aims.

    As a sympathetic Catholic, I lament the passivity, along with its mea culpa posture, which has captured the Catholic Church. Pope Francis has tried to put some backbone into Church leaders under him but so far it is not evident in the words and actions of the bishops and archbishops where I live. The Catholic Church is more than sexually abusing priests and that is understood by hundreds of millions of practicing Catholics around the world. Catholicism has much to offer and offers much. To outsiders looking in, they must wonder if that is true.

  13. December 24, 2019 at 08:35

    The narrative of a war on Christianity, I believe, has finally been exposed. As I have often stated on this forum, the establishment and their media engage us in a checkers game while they are playing chess. Years ahead of us they have been waging a false pretense of some moronic war against Christians for several years. Turning what has been essentially a large cultural assimilation, due to their very own actions around the world, into a manufactured war against the working class against each other under a facade of a religion war. They essentially have created another means to divide us! All while at the same time they have also created the very reason we must now have that war! For their chosen secular religion is endangering our existence as a free and civil society as it is compliant to the destruction of democracy. What little we have of those fake titles today anyways.

Comments are closed.