Jesus in the Guava Tree – Mockery and Memes against Brazilian Pentecostalism

Religion and Senses of Humour - Stephen E. Gregg

Leonardo Vasconcelos de Castro Moreira [+-]
Independent Scholar
Leonardo Vasconcelos de Castro Moreira has a PhD in sociology from the University of Warwick (United Kingdom). He is thesis was focused on the Brazilian Pentecostalism diaspora, more specifically the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in Madrid, Spain. He won the Peter B. Clarke Memorial Essay Prize in 2018 – an award given by the British Sociological Association’s Sociology of Religion Study Group (Socrel). He is an independent scholar.


This chapter aims to exam the outsiders’ views of Brazilian Pentecostalism by analysing the ‘Jesus in the guava tree’ episode, which was narrated by Damares Alves, the current Minister of Women, Family and Human Rights in Brazil who is also a Pentecostal priestess. The event was publicised through a video in which Alves talks about how she saw, as a ten-year-old kid, Jesus Christ while she was attempting suicide on the top of a guava tree. After the video reached a broader public, Damares was the target of jokes, memes, and mockery on Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and even in regular media vehicles. The characteristics of the jokes and memes follow what Christie Davies (1998; 2011) called ‘stupidity jokes’ in which a social group is treated as stupid; Alves was treated as someone who does not know the role and meaning of Jesus in a many memes. However, a few memes also pathologised her experience by accusing it of madness and even the use of hallucinatory drugs, following a common trait of Modern society of mocking of ‘laughing at the lunacy’ (Cross 2013). This episode illustrates the common views of outsiders’ on Brazilian Pentecostalism – a religious movement that has grown fast in the country in the last decades, but Catholicism still is the major religion in Brazil. Outsiders often consider Pentecostals as obsessed with money and with a strong will to believe in anything that their leadership says (Campos 1999: 356; Mariano 2012). Moreover, the ‘Jesus in the guava tree’ event has much to say about how the internet became an area of struggles between political and religious views through humour and memes (Börzsei 2013; Campbell et al. 2016; Kulkarni 2017; Chattoo 2018), what is the contemporary image that outsiders’ have regarding Pentecostals in Brazil, and what are the differences between outsiders and insiders views of humour.

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de Castro Moreira, Leonardo Vasconcelos . Jesus in the Guava Tree – Mockery and Memes against Brazilian Pentecostalism. Religion and Senses of Humour. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Nov 2023. ISBN 9781000000000. Date accessed: 16 Aug 2022 doi: 10.1558/equinox.43242. Nov 2023

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