Associate Professor Cristina Rocha is an ARC Future Fellow and Director of the Religion and Society Research Cluster, Western Sydney University, Australia. She co-edits the Journal of Global Buddhism and the Religion in the Americas series, Brill. Her research focuses on the intersections of globalisation, migration and religion. Her publications include: John of God: The Globalisation of Brazilian Faith Healing (Oxford University Press, forthcoming), The Diaspora of Brazilian Religions (with M. Vásquez, Brill, 2013), Buddhism in Australia (with M. Barker, Routledge, 2010), Zen in Brazil: The Quest for Cosmopolitan Modernity (Hawaii University Press, 2006).
“‘I love Hillsong and Australia!’: Young Brazilians’ Fascination with the Global North”
Brazil is the largest Pentecostal country in the world and is the home of several global megachurches. Yet many young Brazilians are flocking to Australia to experience Hillsong services and study in its college. This paper investigates the presence of Hillsong in Brazil and the forces that attract young Brazilians to Australia to experience the megachurch in its home soil. Drawing on two years of research in Australia and Brazil, I argue that young Brazilians’ fascination with the Australian megachurch is due two overlapping reasons. First, in its slick presentation (pastors’ and bands’ way of dressing and speaking; services which are like rock concerts; professional production values of church services) and material culture (flyers and conference booklets created by skilled graphic designers), Hillsong emphasises fashion, excitement and youth cultures. Australia’s own status in Brazil as a ‘First World’ country means that it is imagined as a perfect place, by contrast with Brazil: its streets are clean and safe, its locals are completely honest, its public transport works well, it lacks class divisions, and it is technologically sophisticated. Hillsong’s endeavour to accomplish its motto of ‘excellence’ in every aspect of its enterprise just adds to this imaginary of perfection that fascinates young Brazilians. Overall, this paper shows a multi-polar cartography of religious globalisation. Rather than a one-way process of ‘reverse missionisation’ (where Global South Christians travel to convert the now secular Global North), the spread of Christianity in the era of globalisation is actually rhizomatic, in that peripheries and semi-peripheries can become centres and vice-versa. As colonial and settler societies, Brazil and Australia received flows of Pentecostalism from the US and Europe, but in the past decade flows have moved sideways as Australia has become a centre of new ways of being Pentecostal for young Brazilians.