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Far-right Christians Blame Madonna’s ‘Satanic’ Concert for Floods in Southern Brazil

By Eduardo Campos Lima
madonna concert floods
Madonna performs in the final show of her The Celebration Tour, on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, May 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

Conservative Christians are accusing the pop star Madonna, who gave a free concert on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach May 4, of including satanic rituals in the show, with catastrophic consequences for Brazil.

The concert, the last stop on Madonna’s The Celebration Tour, drew more than 1.6 million Brazilians and fans from neighboring countries and was aired in its entirety on Rede Globo, the national TV network.

Besides a diverse cast and some sexual play that LGBTQ+ Brazilians and other minorities said spotlighted their communities, the show projected images of Brazilian human rights icons, including Marina Silva, an advocate for rainforest preservation and Brazil’s minister for the environment, and Marielle Franco, an activist and politician who was assassinated in 2018.

Evangelical Christian pastors and digital influencers with ties to former President Jair Bolsonaro have attacked the concert and posted dozens of videos on social media with analysis pointing out purported diabolical behavior and attacks on the Christian faith. They have connected the concert’s licentiousness with unprecedented floods that have devastated cities in Rio Grande do Sul state and killed 147 people.

A video by motivational speaker Pablo Marçal, who combines career insights with Christian ideas, said Rede Globo, a target of the Brazilian far-right in Brazil for its criticism of Bolsonaro during his time as president, said showing “that pornographer” during the flooding “disrespected the Brazilian people that were drowning and dying.”

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madonna concert floods
Madonna performs in the final show of her The Celebration Tour, on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, May 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Bruna Prado)

Marçal said that juxtaposing the two was equivalent to “making offerings with the corpses from Rio Grande do Sul. Anyone with a basic spiritual understanding knows what happened,” Marçal said in the video.

Baptist Pastor Aloizio Penido, a prominent Christian leader from the city of Juiz de Fora, told media that the concert was “an insult to God,” and that the images drew an “association with the worst possible segment in society.” He pointed to a picture of Che Guevara and “other anti-Christian leaders.”

Penido also called out the concert’s “agenda” and an implied “endorsement of LGBT people and striptease.”

Penido objected in particular to the funds spent by the Rio de Janeiro city government on behalf of the show.

Lutheran Pastor Romi Bencke, head of the more liberal National Council of Christian Churches, said that the idea of God’s wrath provoking great catastrophes is an outdated concept of how God operates that trivialized the suffering of people in the flooded areas. “The idea of a God of war and punishment is back. But God is not enraged. God is love and compassion. He is not vengeful and is not punishing the people of Rio Grande do Sul,” she told media.

“I wonder how a person who lost a family member or a house in a flood feels when confronted with the idea that he or she is being punished by God. It’s inhuman,” she affirmed. Bencke, who is from Rio Grande do Sul, has friends and relatives who have been severely affected by the catastrophe.

madonna concert floods
A man rows a boat on a street flooded by heavy rains, in Sao Leopoldo, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, Saturday, May 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

She said the use of such ideas in modern times raises questions about the motive. “Why are those ideas being disseminated? Who’s making money with them?” she asked.

Bencke thinks that the digital influencers and religious leaders who have been spreading prejudicial ideas are “taking advantage from the people’s lack of discernment in order to make money and become famous.” She argues that some of them should be criminally investigated for such acts.

Some religious leaders in the flooded region echoed the sense that the disaster was a result of impiety, if not a single event. A Roman Catholic priest in the city of Novo Hamburgo, one of the most impacted areas in Rio Grande do Sul, released a video earlier this week in which he implied that the floods are a consequence of atheism.

“Could it be that there’s a message from heaven with all those rains and floods? Rio Grande do Sul, according to surveys, is the most atheist state in Brazil, many times carried away by its intellectual and economic pride,” said the Rev. Marco Antônio Leal, adding that “God wants the people from the state to kneel down and believe in Him again.”

Another Christian influencer has pointed out that Rio Grande do Sul is one of the states with the highest number of centers of Umbanda and Candomblé, African Brazilian religions associated by many evangelical Christians with the devil, so it’s paying the price now.

madonna concert floods
A fan dances while waiting for the start of Madonna’s last show of her The Celebration Tour, on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, May 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Bruna Prado)

Baba Diba de Iyemonja, a prominent Umbanda leader in Rio Grande do Sul, said that the African Brazilian religions are often made scapegoats when a calamity occurs. “We filed a lawsuit against that digital influencer. That has been only the most recent in a series of aggressions that we have been suffering over the past years,” Diba de Iyemonja told RNS.

Diba de Iyemonja pointed out that numerous Umbanda and Candomblé adherents have been impacted by the floods, given that many of them are poor Black people who live in vulnerable areas that were inundated by the swollen rivers.

“We’re now struggling to ensure that federal relief resources will reach us. We are traditionally forgotten at those times,” he added.

Whether or not they saw the floods as divine retribution for Madonna’s antics, evangelicals debated the themes of the show. 

“I wouldn’t attend the concert because Madonna’s music doesn’t reflect my spirituality and my Christian morality,” said 33-year-old lawyer and evangelical Késia Medeiros. “But everybody is free to go and be happy about it. I was glad to see older LGBT people, who suffered so much in the 1980s with homophobia and the beginning of AIDS, now being able to celebrate and have fun in Madonna’s show.” 

Medeiros, who is a member of a Pentecostal community in Parnamirim, dismissed the idea that Madonna was summoning Satan in her show. “She just found an artistic way of expressing herself — and of making money,” said Medeiros. 

As for the floods, they “have impacted Christians and non-Christians alike. It’s not something spiritual. It’s the consequence of human actions,” she said.

Eduardo Campos Lima is a Brazilian journalist, independent researcher and contributor to Religion News Service. 

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6 Responses

  1. Apparently these Christians in Brazil don’t realize that their Brazilian Carnival festivals have numerous displays of sexuality, LBGT, and other things. Somehow, they don’t complain about those.

  2. Have these far right people never read the scripture where it is written: (I know, it’s a rhetorical question…)

    First epistle of Shaul to Corinthians 5: 11-13; & 11:31-24: ” You judge among yourselves and put away from among you wicked immoral persons. Judge yourselves within the church and Let GOD judge those without (outside) the church. For if we judge ourselves, we are chastened by the LORD, and thus, will not be condemned with the world.”

    Of a truth, I am not understanding the far-right obsession with the likes of A list celebrities like Madonna, T. Swifty etc. It’s like Christendom do not have enough of their own theatrical drama. I mean, what do they expect the ‘world’ to act like?

    Honestly, far right evangelicals act like children with cookie crumbs all over mouth, hands and garment, but turn around and point finger at the baker of cookie and scream ‘he’s the cookie monster’. Oy vey.

    I wonder what they make of natural disasters plaguing their own backyard especially in the southern US. Are those disasters signs of blessings of YHVH? Are they saying, GOD is a respecter of persons when it comes to judging transgressions? The far right evangelicals are the picture of the ‘hypocrites’ Yeshua savagely denounced in HIS “Woes to Pharisees” sermon.

    Listen here: YHVH has controversy with ALL nations of the earth. HIS anger is towards the wicked and the sinful in ALL nations of earth including Christians. The reason why natural disasters tend to fair far worse and often deadlier in certain regions of the world is SOLELY because of poor infrastructure. U.S is lucky in that regards. But this luck can only be prolonged to a certain threshold. And then the hour glass of luck will be exhausted.

    1. To quote Scriptures, “The rain falls on the just and unjust alike.” Likewise to quote what a Rabbi from Nazareth said about the Tower of Siloam in Luke 13:

      “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

      IOW, accidents [and natural disasters] happen and death can come unexpectedly to anyone, irrespective of how righteous or how sinful they are. To put it bluntly, “Sometimes [another name for excrement] happens.”

  3. I didn’t know whether to laugh or roll my eyes when I read this.
    I just attended this show, and it was literally a celebration of Madonna’s four decades in the industry – a great recap of many songs (and “what were we thinking” outfits) that are part of the soundtrack of my generation.
    Madonna even had three of her kids perform with her – David on guitar and vocals (they performed a duet), Mercy as an AMAZING pianist (who even did a short concerto as an interlude), and Esther as a dancer (with a solo on the dance favorite “Vogue”). Add in a lovely tribute Madonna did to her peers who are no longer with us – Michael Jackson, Prince, and George Michael (who would ever guess she’s outlive all of them?).
    I’ve been to my fair share of Madonna shows over the last three decades (can’t believe I’m typing that!), and this show was her tamest. It wasn’t to shock or to “make a statement” – it was to say “thank you” to her fans (and given the ending and her age, I would not be surprised if this is her last major tour). And given all the division nowadays, my friends and I were smiling at the few hours that this show was able to bring together people of all races, ages, and beliefs to laugh, dance, and sing along.
    This “far right” group is reaching for anything to blame, when sometimes, there’s nothing to blame at all.

    1. FWIW, I am old enough the remember when “Borderline” and other songs came out on her debut album.

  4. ‘Christians’ of today never look at their own sins, but are quick to accuse others of their’s. The bible makes it abundantly clear that sin is NOT possible for any repentant sinner living in Christ. 1 Jn, 3:4-10. If God was wanting to punish anyone for their sins it would be those who call themselves His kids.

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