By ABC News via Nightline
Faith is sometimes so intoxicating that it can even fill the sick and suffering with the improbable hope that a 10-year-old will heal them with a simple touch.
Such child healers in Brazil are only part of the growing chorus of self-anointed miracle workers. The explosive spiritual movement is 44 million followers strong.
“Anyone can become a pastor,” Professor Eduardo Refkalefsky, who studies the business of churches in Brazil, told ABC News’ “Nightline.” “[Anyone] can open a church.”
Evangelical Christianity is the fastest growing religion in Brazil, and some say it’s threatening the Catholic Church’s historical dominance in the country.
But with millions of souls and millions of donations at stake, critics say that many bogus merchants of faith are turning huge profits with false promises.
Enterprising evangelical pastors benefit from a total lack of regulations, Refkalefsky said. Many pastors lure new worshipers with visions of prosperity and health, he added.
To those in his church, Brazilian evangelical Pastor Arodo offers not only to exorcise inner demons or to counsel couples, but to provide chiropractic care and promises of wealth.
When asked whether the Catholic Church can compete with his brand of Christianity, Arodo told “Nightline,” “Absolutely not, because… what I have is a gift from God. It’s not mine. It’s a gift from God.”
At Arodo’s church, believers line up to offer donations, and in return he splashes them with his own special holy oil.
“Don’t skimp on an act of God,” Arodo told his worshipers. “Stand up and come here with your money in hand.”