Religion & Beliefs

Gigantic Replica of Solomon’s Temple Opens in Brazil

And the minister behind the edifice wears a kippah. Read More

By / July 24, 2014

Mega-churches of the World: time to up your game.

The New York Times has a report today about a 10,000-seat replica of Solomon’s Temple in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The complex—which took four years to build, and was constructed by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God for a cool $300 million—encompasses a helicopter landing pad, an olive tree grove, and “more than 30 columns soaring toward the heavens.” The man behind the edifice is Edir Macedo, who founded the Universal Church in a funeral home in 1977 and grew it into a $1.2 billion fortune. Oh, and he wears a kippah:

Mr. Macedo rose from obscurity through his control of Rede Record, one of Brazil’s largest television networks, and his aggressive expansion of the Universal Church, during which he has fought accusations of corruption, including tax evasion and money laundering.

Mr. Macedo was jailed for 11 days in 1992 on accusations of charlatanism and fraud. He has successfully fended off other criminal investigations, including allegations by prosecutors that he and other church leaders siphoned off donations from followers to enrich themselves. In the past year, he has cultivated a somewhat wizardly appearance, growing a flowing gray beard while occasionally donning what appears to be a skullcap like those worn by many observant Jews.

He sounds kind of like a cross between the Pope, Rupert Murdoch, Jim Bakker, and Nate Fisher, which is to say, amazing. Apparently his fixation with Solomon’s Temple is part of his quest for legitimacy: Judaism has a few thousand years on the Universal Church’s 37, after all.

The local Jewish community seems unperturbed.  “On the one hand, there’s the favorable way in which Jewish culture and history are treated in the structure,” Brazilian rabbi Nilton Bonder told the Times. “On the other, there’s the bizarre aspect of the project’s dimensions and aggressive marketing.”

Indeed.