“I came here to find healing for my arthritis,” says Valeria, sitting on the pew of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, known as Pare de sufrir, or stop suffering. “I was raised Catholic, but I came to know God in a different way here.”
The pastor, a Mexican citizen who has never lived abroad, addresses the congregation in a distinctive Brazilian accent. He promises healing to the faithful, and tells them God wants them to be wealthy. After the service, a line is formed. Members of the congregation file to the front to have bottles of water blessed and made holy. Some bring photos of their family, rubbing them in the “Dead Sea salt” heaped across the floor.
Outside the church, a poster advertises the Monday service. “A prayer for prosperity” is the theme, printed in bold alongside pictures of a sports car, a stack of money, and a luxury apartment.
Pare de sufrir is one of a new breed of evangelical churches preaching prosperity gospel, a theology that says that success and health are a mark of divine favor. According to these beliefs, the promises of the gospel are for the here and now.