Superstition comes with a hefty price tag

Superstition comes with a hefty price tag

Edir Macedo is 5-foot-6, slight, and 68 years old. He has deformed fingers, a sparse crown of graying hair, and more than 5 million followers, whose donations over the last 36 years have made him a billionaire.

Thus begins a 2013 profile in Business Week, which adds:

In Brazil, where he was born and raised, he is a major national figure, the subject of dozens of criminal inquiries, and the owner of Rádio & Televisão Record, a media conglomerate that runs the country’s second-largest television network. He is known to most everyone by the title he created for himself: He is O Bispo – “The Bishop.”

Macedo is the founder of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, a Pentecostal denomination specializing in prosperity theology, which links faith to financial success.

Well, “O Bispo”, we now learn, has spent a sizable chunk of his $1.4 billion stash in recreating King Solomon’s first Holy Temple in Jerusalem – in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

It is reported here by that, drawing on Biblical depictions of the temple and archaeological findings, an extraordinarily elaborate shrine has come to life. at a cost of $300 million. The a 74,000-square-meter building occuplies 40 plots of land that were converted into a single bloc. It took four years of planning and building by 1,800 workers.

The structure includes classes for 1,300 children, chairs imported from Spain, Jerusalemite stones from Hebron, television and radio studios, a helicopter landing pad, candelabra and prayer shawls from Israel, marble from Italy, 10,000 LED bulbs, two giant screens, an American management company to oversee the premises, a parking lot for nearly 2,000 cars, “and, yes, one God”.


The inauguration ceremony of the new Solomon’s Temple was held earlier this year in the presence of thousands, including Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, local officials and members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG).

A band was playing and a choir was singing praise to the Lord. Bishops and priests in white gowns with golden sashes were walking on the red carpet carrying an Ark of the Convenant. A presentation screened on the stone walls described the history of the believer — from Abraham to UCKG, of course.

At 126 meters long, 104 meters wide and 55 meters high, this mega shrine is thought to be the biggest in Brazil, and one of the largest in the world.

So if Rio de Janeiro is known for the statue of Christ the Redeemer, Sao Paulo could soon be known for Solomon’s Temple.

And that’s quite an achievement for a rather young evangelical movement that started no more than 37 years ago in a makeshift shed in a Sao Paulo suburb, advanced to a little morgue and today numbers at least 10 million followers in various countries, including two communities in Israel.

Macedo was born and brought up Catholic, but at the age of 25 he became an evangelist. He had studied theology in religious academic institutes until he became so passionate about spreading the word of God that in 1977 he abandoned his career as an economist at a public institute and started the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God with several partners.

They believe in the old and new testaments, and that each Christian is first and foremost Jewish. This is the root of the deep connection to Judaism and Israel. At the UCKG, many prayers are in three languages — Portuguese, English and Hebrew — and prayer halls are decorated with a range of Jewish symbols. During this summer’s conflict in Gaza, a mass prayer for Israel was held at the Solomon’s Temple.

Macedo rarely gives interviews, but in response to one request, he answered a few questions in writing, stressing the strong bond between Judaism and Christianity.

The biblical faith is one. It is impossible to separate Christianity from its Jewish roots. Jesus and his Twelve Apostles were Jewish, and he didn’t ignore the principles of the Jewish faith. On the contrary, he enhanced and completed what Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had started. Psalm 122:6 says we need to pray for Jerusalem and we do it all the time, in our rituals and in our radio programs.

Macedo made the decision to build a replica of the Holy Temple eight years ago, when he visited Jerusalem. He wanted all members of his church to be able to step at least once in their lifetimes on the same ground and stones that Jesus allegedly walked on.

The Solomon’s Temple is a way to reconstruct the Biblical principles of faith as God himself meant. This is not a temple of the Universal Church, but a universal temple – for all humanity, of every race and faith, for anyone who wishes to know the God of the Bible.

For Brazil’s new middle class the church offers a way to extend their thanks for the economic growth they’ve enjoyed in recent years. Many people make donations, and the church expands in a way that allows it to also work with the poor and others facing hardship.

But wealth can also be a source of trouble, says

The new, rebellious evangelical movement, which also has been growing rapidly on social media, has already been drawing fire from other Christian sects. The church and its leaders have been blamed for allegedly using donations and charity funds for personal interests, and several legal cases are ongoing.

• Top photograph by Marco Antonio Teixeira/Globo/Getty Images.

12 responses to “Superstition comes with a hefty price tag”

  1. barriejohn says:

    Things are going from bad to worse in Brazil now that Cathlic power is on the wane. What have the people done to deserve it? Read this and weep:

    Under evangelical pressure, Silva has changed her party’s position on gay rights. And Rousseff, a Catholic who has rarely used faith in her political career, is now presenting herself as a good Christian. “Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord,” she quoted from Psalms at one campaign stop.

    “The evangelical vote will be decisive in this election,” said Rodrigo Delmasso, a pastor of a Brasilia-based Pentecostal church, who is running for a seat in the city’s legislature.

    “As the community grows it’s natural that our share of political representation grows too,” the 34-year-old pastor said during a campaign stop where he handed out bumper stickers and posters to metro workers…

    “Brazil is a real democracy. It’s only a matter of time before we have an evangelical president. That’s a fact.”

  2. L.Long says:

    “Brazil is a real democracy” and is going down the tubes!!!!
    Anyone who thinks democracy is so great well here is a good example and look at all the towns and cities in ‘merica. The USA founders knew pure democracy was bad and could become evil to easily. Which is why they put in the Constitution & Bill of Rights and a republic of laws. And if you think the xtians are so much better than the muslins then lets see how many non-xtians will be moving to Brazil in another 20yrs. Let’s see what happens to atheist/secularists that are there and they start making any really loud noises. Nothing like a majority of sheeple to make things go really bad. And sheeple is not an insult that’s what they call themselves…the sheep of christ & jesus our Shepardl Or even worse the slaves of christ, jesus our master, and they thing this is something good.
    Yes calling them stupid is wrong, they do not deserve any compliments.

  3. Robster says:

    Wow! What an impressive building. It has that Cecil B DeMille School of architecture look about it. There were thousands of extras involved in knocking the thing together, the Earth would have moved/been moved and zillions of Brazil’s poor have been made even poorer by this excessive godbot. What a monumental waste of money. When the thing is abandoned, when the money runs out, it’ll become a great ruin full of tangled vines and jungle.

  4. Matt Westwood says:

    Give it its due: the building of it probably provided employment for thousands of otherwise destitute people.

  5. barriejohn says:

    L.Long: You’re dead right. He should have built a pyramid, because that would perfectly fit in with his “Prosperity Gospel” racket – the people who “prosper” are always the ones at the top!

    Let’s hope it’s not long before it ends up looking like this:

    (Heritage USA, Fort Mill, South Carolina)

  6. barriejohn says:

    Closer to home, the Conservatives want to ban people and organizations with “unpalatable views”, even if they don’t “directly support violence.” We’re on a slippery slope here; they were talking on the news this morning about using “lie detectors” (polygraphs). How long before they can imprison you for thinking wrong thoughts?

  7. barriejohn says:

    Mrs May has just announced to the Tory faithful that she wants to reintroduce the so-called “Snoopers’ Charter” (surveillance of private emails, etc). She received a standing ovation.

  8. barriejohn says:

    More Brazil Nuts:

    Mark it down as a poor night for Brazilian democracy and tolerance. The penultimate televised debate before next weekend’s presidential election was overshadowed by the homophobic rant of one of the fringe candidates.

    Levy Fidelix is a conservative and former journalist who has no hope of winning, with a support rate below 1%. But given almost equal airtime to the leading candidates on national television on Sunday, he let rip with a torrent of invective.

    The presidential hopeful claimed homosexuals “need psychological care” and were better kept “well away from [the rest of] us”.

    He joked that Brazil’s population of 200 million would be reduced by half if homosexuality were encouraged because “the excretory system” does not function as a means of reproduction.

  9. Broga says:

    @barriejohn” People with “unpalatable views”? I guess that includes most of us here. The definition of “unpalatable” is, of course, subjective which means that Mrs May, desperately seeking approval from the Tory nutters, has plenty of choice.

    Do paedophiles have unpalatable views? I think that many politicians would find the views of atheists more unpalatable than those of paedophiles.

  10. barriejohn says:

    Broga: The thing is that they’re saying, “You can trust us with these powers; we won’t abuse them.” Even were that so, will they still be in office in five years time?

  11. Robster says:

    Hi barryjohn, thanks for the link. In the post they say they’ve got a baptismal font, I prefer Times New Roman.