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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The rise, the fall, and the resurgence of a man of God - the life of Caio Fabio


Introduction

Caio Fábio d’Araújo Filho is a well known Brazilian minister who has experienced the best and the worst of pastoral ministry. Without a formal theological education, Caio has written hundreds of books and has become one of most influential as well as controversial figures in Protestantism in Brazil. His story reflects how religion can sometimes be cruel and heartless and how the love and the grace of God are greater than one can ever expect.

Early Life

On March 1955, in Manaus, capital of Amazonas state in Brazil, Caio Fabio’s father, who is also called Caio Fabio, took his little baby in his arms for the first time in the hospital room, lifted him up and said:

God, if you exist and are here in this room, listen to my voice. I dedicate to you my firstborn son, and I ask that you make him a man of God, a priest, someone who carries your mark in his life. But I ask you to not preclude him from the privilege of having family, of raising children, and of knowing the love of a woman. Therefore, even without knowing why I am asking you, please God, make him a pastor. Thus, he will be able to feel the joy that I am feeling right now, of taking my son in my arms, and he will also be able of experiencing this strange feeling of proximity with the divine, that as never before invades my entire being right now.[1] (Translation mine)

What makes the event described above interesting is that Caio the father was an agnostic and did not believe in God when he spoke those prophetic words. He was born into a Catholic family; however, after getting a Law degree, he rejected the Catholic faith. At that time in his life he was not sure whether God was real or not. After seeing so much suffering in other people’s lives and struggling with philosophical ideas about the existence of God, he decided to believe that God did not exist.

Caio the father became the most influential figure in the life of Caio Fabio. For Caio Fabio, his father was a “son of a strange combination of human histories and experiences, he has lived under the mark of the surprising, of the radical, of the intense, and of the unusual.”[2] Caio Fabio’s father was handicapped and needed a crutch to walk. Thus, from the very beginning of his life, Caio the father exercised his intellect more than his physical body. He became the number one student in all schools that he attended, and at the age of eighteen, he inherited his father’s business. Thus, along with the business also came the responsibilities and pressures to keep the business profiting. At the age of twenty-one, Caio the father was admitted to law school. There he scored the highest grades and finished with the best GPA in the school’s history at that time. After graduating, he became a prosecutor of justice and moved from the capital to his birthplace, the small town of Canutama, to work. During this time, he met his wife Lacy at a friend’s wedding. Lacy was very different from Caio the father. She had not had the opportunity to go to college and barely finished high school. She worked as a teacher for a kindergarten school and was a Protestant. During the time they met, there was great intolerance among Catholics and Protestants in Brazil. The Catholics called Protestants “fanatic heretics” and the Protestants called the Catholics “image worshipers.” Thus, Caio the father and Lacy decided to respect each other’s religion and agreed on not proselytizing each other.[3] They got married in 1953 by the state court only, since they could not convince either family to go to the other’s church. The Araujo’s family prospered economically to the point that Caio the father was considered one of the richest men in the city. At one point, he become the governor’s lawyer and acquired partnerships in several businesses across the state of Amazonas. His wealth and prosperity, however, came to an end during the military regime that took place in 1964.

In the beginning of 1955, the Araujo’s family decided to go back to Manaus and on March of the same year Caio Fabio was born. He grew up in Manaus close to the Amazon forest. He was surrounded by animals of all kinds, by the mystical elements of the jungle, by hunting, and by forest legends. From the age of five to seven, he was sexually exploited by his parent’s maid. When his father found out, he sent the woman away. This early sexual experience affected his sexual development which every child goes through, making Caio Fabio a child with exacerbated sexual desires, compared to the desires of an adolescent or adult.[4]

Caio the father, even though he loved Caio Fabio, was very rigorous on the way he educated his son. Every Saturday Caio the father would bring a boy three or four years older than his son from the village, to fight the young Caio. Although this seemed absurd, Caio did not feel bad about his father’s teachings. For Caio Fabio, this served as a lesson in life. In addition, to him, his father was motivated by love and for the desire to make his son a man strong enough to face the realities of life. There was no malice in his father’s heart, but love, and according to Caio Fabio, where there is love there is no trauma.[5]

Caio the father was rich and sought sexual satisfaction outside marriage, incurring a lover. This brought great suffering to Caio Fabio’s entire family. However, the situation deepened Caio Fabio’s mother’s faith in God and caused her to renounce a cold religion to which she was accustomed, igniting a passion for God. Caio Fabio said in his confessions, “What saved my mother from a dip in total bitterness and hatred was faith.”[6] This event led the young Caio to divide his heart between his father whom he loved, but was disappointed, and his mother for whom he felt great compassion because of the suffering she was going through.[7]

During the military coup of 1964, Caio the father lost all the properties he owned and the entire family decided to move to Rio de Janeiro. Caio Fabio was eleven years old when he left Northern part of Brazil for the first time. This sudden shift from the North to the Southeast of the country almost took him to a state of schizophrenia.[8] In addition to the pressure of moving to a totally new place, Caio the father became suicidal due to the financial crisis.[9]

Several events took place in the lives of the Araújos while they were in Rio de Janeiro. The most important ones were the conversion of Caio the father and the involvement of Caio Fabio with drugs at the age of thirteen. Caio the father’s conversion happened after he noticed some ladies of Lacy’s church discussing the subject of faith. At some point, one of the ladies asked the other to open her Bible in Hebrews chapter 11 verse 1. The definition of faith amazed Caio the father, who listened to the ladies conversation from the outside of the church. The book of Hebrews made him curious about the rest of the Bible. After delving into reading the Gospels, he surrendered to Christ and converted.[10] It was a radical conversion. So much so that he quit the law office, took the money of the cases he had won and returned it to his patrons, and began to preach the Gospel. His office became a place to meet people in search of a spiritual council. Many miracles happened during that time. Caio the father began to pray and fast "like a Tibetan monk."[11] He spent weeks and weeks confined just for the purpose of prayer.

Different from his father, Caio Fabio was getting even further away from God. He first enjoyed his father’s salvation, especially because it brought peace to his family and reunited his father and mother. But later, he hated it because his father was becoming a religious fanatic. During this time in Rio, Caio Fabio got involved with delinquent kids who led him to drugs and sex. Caio Fabio’s lifestyle and his father’s new faith inevitably created a great gap between them. Their relationship was being slowly damaged by Caio the father’s sudden moralism. Caio the father began to condemn the entire world as he watched television or as he talked about Caio Fabio’s friends. The situation drove the young Caio Fabio to distance himself from his parents and their faith and brought him closer to drug addiction and a wild lifestyle. His father and mother, however, were constantly praying for Caio Fabio’s life and conversion.

During this time, Caio the father decided to go back to Manaus and become a Pastor/Missionary for the Presbyterian Church.

Caio Fabio’s Conversion

In 1973, Caio Fabio was exhausted and tired of life. From thirteen to eighteen years old, Caio Fabio had experienced all possible things in terms of discovering the limits of a sinful life apart from God. At the age of eighteen, he considered himself tired and old. Consequently, he decided to give up his life. He left home high on drugs riding his motorcycle towards the house of a friend that he knew had a gun. He had decided to commit suicide. On his way, he found a church so crowded that he stopped to see what was happening. He stood in front of the building trying to understand why so many people were gathered there. While he was standing there, a young man who recognized him from school came toward him. This man saw something strange on Caio Fabio’s face and asked him what was happening. Caio Fabio said that he wanted to kill himself. The man told him to not do that and to give God a chance. He invited Caio Fabio to enter the church and listen to the preacher. That church was an Assembly of God and those Christians were Pentecostals. While in the church, Caio noticed the ecstasy and the noise of the people. He even thought to himself, “I am high, but these people here are higher than me.”[12] At some point, the preacher asked a question that caught Caio Fabio’s attention. “Do you know why on the top of the cross of Jesus had an inscription written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek, This is Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews?”[13] The preacher’s answer opened Caio Fabio’s understanding for the reasons he was so wild. He began to cry, left the church, and went back home. That day, the Jesus that he had only known by name, to whom he had instinctually and traditionally prayed to, visited him as a personal revelation, totally different from the Jesus made by a religious culture. Jesus revealed Himself personally to Caio Fabio and his conversion was as radical as his father’s. Three months later he could not do anything other than preach the gospel to everyone.[14]

The Rise of an Evangelist

Caio Fabio began to preach in the squares and streets of Manaus, as well as in churches from all denominations. At the age of nineteen, he started preaching on TV where he gained fame for his eloquence, good sense, and wisdom. Miracles, healings, and exorcisms happened naturally in the lives of the people who went to him asking for prayer. At the age of twenty he married Alda, a girl that he met during his time in school, and at twenty-one he was ordained a Presbyterian pastor.

By the age of twenty-three, his television programs were transmitted to half of Brazil. When he was twenty-six years old, his TV shows were broadcast to the entire country. In 1983, when he was only twenty-seven years old, Caio Fabio was the final preacher of the largest evangelistic congress in the nation. The importance of this congress was seen as it brought together many of the evangelical theologians, presidents of church denominations and para-churches, and pastors of Brazil.[15]

Caio Fabio used evangelistic strategies to spread the gospel to as many people as possible. As a consequence, he created a Christian organization called Vinde (Vision for National Evangelization). Through Vinde, Caio Fabio expanded his reach beyond his denomination. He built a partnership with other evangelistic ministries, such as, Student Crusade, Youth for Christ, and University Biblical Alliance. As a result, Caio Fabio became an itinerant preacher, receiving invitations to preach in conferences, and crusades (in soccer stadiums and gymnasiums) from North to South, from East to West of Brazil.

Caio Fabio preached every day and on some occasions many times a day. He counseled those who came to him asking for advice, visited people at the hospitals, and went to prisons to minister the gospel. At some point, his trips to Rio and São Paulo were becoming so frequent that he and Alda decided to move from Manaus to Niterói in the state of Rio de Janeiro. In Niterói, Caio Fabio became a pastor of a local church, while at the same time kept his schedule of preaching throughout the country. In 1982, Caio Fabio spoke to approximately half million people.[16] In 1983, Caio Fabio traveled almost three times per week, every week, to speak in different regions in the country. He preached more than six hundred different sermons that year. All of this demanded hours and hours of studying and writing. In 1984, due to a high level of stress, Caio Fabio became sick and had to slow down the pace of the activities he had established for his ministry. In 1985, he left the local church dedicating himself exclusively to his itinerant ministry. During the years that followed, the number of invitations to travel increased. In addition to national crusades, Caio Fabio received invitations to preach in several other countries. He only accepted to preach in five of them. In 1988, Caio Fabio began a process of frustration with himself. He was becoming more and more religious (in a bad way of the term). He was speaking to pastors and leaders, he became known in every corner of the country. His books were widely read by the evangelical community in the country and everybody wanted his presence in their churches. However, he missed the simplicity of faith and ministry he had in Manaus. He felt as if he had been domesticated by the church. Commenting about this time, Caio Fabio said he had become the church’s pet.[17] He also became the face of the evangelical movement in Brazil. However, deep inside, Caio Fabio knew that God had not called him to become great or famous. So, the fame he acquired among evangelicals and the nature of the call he received from God were battling within him. By the end of 1989, Caio Fabio had already spoken to more than seven million people,[18] during sixteen years of ministry. In 1988, Caio Fabio moved to the United States for two years to learn English. Even though he was living in the United States, he kept recording TV programs and video classes to be shown in Brazil. He also kept writing articles for Christian magazines as well as books. During this time he took some classes at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. He also delved deeply into the work of the French philosopher and theologian Jaques Ellul.

A feeling to do more than to preach the gospel grew inside of Caio Fabio during the time he was in the United States. Thus, he decided to go back to Brazil and start a social ministry alongside his evangelistic ministry. He was tired of philosophy and decided to do something practical for those who were at the margins of society.

Caio Fabio then created the AEVB (Brazilian Evangelical Association) and the Factory of Hope. The AEVB was mainly created to represent the evangelicals and their interests to the nation. Even though the image of pastors and evangelicals by this time was not sound due to the growth of the health and wealth churches in the country, Caio Fabio became the first president of the association. As president, Caio faced a religious system in a state of decomposition. He witnessed several cases of corruption, Mafia, and even murder among pastors.[19] His increasing exposure to the worst of the Brazilian church disappointed Caio Fabio, especially regarding religion.

The Factory of Hope was a non-profit organization created in the facilities of an old factory. The organization helped thousands of poor people (especially children) to find not only hope but also education and food. One million eight hundred dollars were spent to remodel the old factory and transform it into the Factory of Hope. In 1993 and 1994, Caio Fabio also got involved in a social movement called Viva Rio. The movement was created to promote a peace culture and social development in the city of Rio de Janeiro.[20]

Since 1990, Caio Fabio experienced another level of recognition. Now, not only the church heard him, but also the society in general. He was no longer discussing matters of faith alone but also speaking about economics, politics, anthropology, public safety, etc. That led to a social escalating, going from walking with church people only to walking with businessmen and politicians. Many of these people began to look to him for advice and help.

As a result, Caio Fabio became involved with social projects of Rio de Janeiro’s government. He was seen by artists and politicians as a mystique figure or as someone who would make the social projects work. People required his presence at events and inaugurations and treated him almost like a superstar. As a result, the media looked for him incessantly asking for interviews. Little by little, Caio Fabio began distancing himself from God's original call for his life. In essence, Caio Fabio knew that nothing of this fame was part of God’s original call for him. All the “success” became a burden to him.

The Fall

In 1994, tired of being exposed to the media and of being the representative of the rotten side of the Evangelical Church, Caio Fabio began to pray to Jesus to be freed of that situation. However, he knew that leaving the movement was not something easy, especially being a known figure to over 30 million evangelicals from all denominations.

In 1995, God began to answer Caio Fabio’s prayer. In November of that year, the police found cocaine in the facilities of the Factory of Hope. However, since the factory was located among the slums of Rio, to find drugs in that context was apparently expected. The problem, however, was that the media and political authorities (more specifically the governor of Rio) had already bought the idea that the factory was covering some criminal activities. The governor wanted to close the factory due to political reasons.[21] Later, Caio received several anonymous letters telling him about the plan that resulted in placing cocaine in the Factory of Hope, making him and other workers innocent.

In 1998, God continued answering Caio’s prayer. First, he got involved in an extra-marital relationship with his secretary, leading him to the end of his ministry among evangelicals (as he wanted) as well as the end of his marriage with Alda. He stopped preaching, cancelled all crusades, and no longer published books or articles. Later on that same year, Caio was accused of being involved in a plot against the president of Brazil, Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Caio Fabio was sued by the president Cardoso for crime against the president. However, later and unexpectedly the president removed the file from the court.

These were times of extreme suffering for Rev. Caio Fabio. He went to the abyss of his existence. In an interview to a local magazine Caio Fabio said, “1998 was the worst year of my existence, where everything happened to me, where I felt the pain of loss, anguish, depression, and decided for three years taking care of myself, my health, take some time for my family, staying quiet in absolute silence.”[22]

Caio suffered rejection not only from the church, but also from society. The church rejected him for the betrayal of his wife and divorce. Society rejected him for the accusations of political maneuvering in exchange for money. Just a few friends and his family stayed loyal to him and believed his claims of innocence in the case of the political controversy. He was ostracized from society and church, and as a result he found his call again.

The Resurgence

Caio isolated himself for not knowing what was happening in his soul. He lived in ambiguity for everything evil he experienced was new to him. He walked in darkness after walking in the light for many years. During this period of isolation, God gave Caio dreams after dreams. Some were prophetic dreams, others symbolic ones of which were not made clear to him.[23] One of the dreams that repeated constantly was that Caio was like Samson. He beat all the Philistines and destroyed them all. After destroying them, he came to God and said, “God I killed all your enemies.” God answered, “My greatest enemy you have not yet killed!” Then, Caio asked, “And who is your greatest enemy?” And God said, “You are my greatest enemy!” So Caio got his sword and cut his hair and put it on the altar of the Lord saying, “Lord, to you I give my weakness.”[24]

So, through dreams, God showed Caio that the huge person he had become had to die. God also showed Caio that he needed to create deeper roots in God and in the relationship with Him. From that point on, a smaller Caio resurged to shepherd God’s people; however, he continued without the boundaries of religion.

In 2000, Caio received a prophecy about an invisible gate where millions of invisible people would pass through and would be blessed. The same prophet also said that God was preparing a new wife for Caio. A few years later, a friend of Caio Fabio gave him a domain in the internet and asked if he was interested in posting articles and devotionals there. At the same time, a publisheing house offered him a space in its building in Copacabana beach where Caio could speak about almost anything. That space was later called Coffee with Grace and attracted hundreds of people. Alson in 2000, Caio Fabio married Adriana, a former pastor that he met during the signing of his book promoted by the publishing house.

Caio Fabio’s web site counted almost one million, one hundred thousand hits during the first month alone. The positive reaction towards his website led him to write more than he had ever written in his life. He wrote about church life in general, theology and devotionals, but what was really drawing people to his website was the section where he answered the letters of his readers.

As an extension of the conversation that was going on in his website, Caio Fabio was invited to speak in Brasilia for a group of brothers and sisters. From that meeting, Caio and the people who met that day created the movement The Way of Grace. This new model of community later spread to other cities of Brazil and some countries (including Portugal and United States).

Today, Caio Fabio preaches on Sundays in Brasilia (capital of Brazil), and on Wednesdays he talks from his house through web radio to almost all branches of The Way of Grace. In 2007, the website launched a WebTV called “Come and See TV.” The WebTV shows old and new videos from the time Caio had a TV program in Manaus, as well as other TV attractions, such as, movies and documentaries.

The Importance of Caio Fabio for His/My Culture

I came across Caio Fabio’s writings and story through his web site. As a matter of fact, when I first read his site, I did not know all the things that he got involved in the past. I first saw and listened to Caio Fabio live when I was very young in my faith (maybe in the year 2002). I went to a church where Caio Fabio was the preacher. I absolutely loved his sermon. The sermon was a little too prolix, I confess, but I had not yet in my life heard such a wonderful message. I felt honesty in his words. After that day, I confess, I became a fan of him. So, I sought after his books and audio sermons. I found more of his writings and everything else about him on his website. Reading his website, I was faced with the scandals that he was involved in. I felt sorry about everything, but I did not stop listening to and reading him. I felt like he was not trying to excuse himself from what had happened to him. I felt like he admitted his fault on his divorce episode and kept on preaching. That should not be a big surprise for Christians. Many others throughout Old and New Testament as well as Church History before him fell, repented and continued their mission. The Bible alone tells the story of several people who did not claim perfection and were greatly used by God. So, I was not shocked by Caio Fabio’s story. However, I did not notice this same graceful approach from some of the people I knew when I talked about Caio Fabio. In addition to that, many televangelists began to talk about Caio Fabio’s case on TV without mentioning his name. I really did not understand why! So, I kept reading Caio Fabio’s texts and noticed that his texts were filled with the subject of the grace of God. He actually could not talk about other things at that time. He focused almost only on the amazing grace of God. He was not speaking about a doctrine he learned in theology; he was talking and writing about something he had experienced in his life. So, Caio’s importance for my culture is his emphasis on a christocentric approach to life and to the Bible. But differently from Karl Barth, for instance, Caio’s Christ-centered message is filled with the grace of God. During many years, he was a solitary voice denouncing the abuses of the religious system in Brazil. Today, other “big names” in the evangelical church have left the term “evangelical” due to the degree of corruption within the church and have sought to worship God without the limitations of religion.

I also like Caio Fabio’s fight against moralist theology. Caio Fabio calls it pagan theology of cause and effect. He wrote four books after 1998. Two are fiction books (Nephilim and As Tábuas de Eva), and two are about God’s love and grace (Grace Enigma and Without Bargain with God). I believe these books are of extreme importance for the church in Brazil and for the advance of a sound theology.

Rodrigo Serrao

Note: Copy of this material is allowed and free, since the source is cited / A reprodução dos textos é permitida e gratuita, desde que citada a fonte.

[1] Caio Fabio, Confissões do Pastor (Rio de Janeiro/São Paulo: Editora Record, 1997), 15-16.

[2] Ibid, 16.

[3] Fabio, Confissões, 45.

[4] Caio Fabio (speaker). (2007) Conhecendo o Tapeceiro da Vida [audio recording]. São Paulo: Caminho da Graça

[5] Fabio (speaker). Conhecendo o Tapeceiro da Vida [audio recording].

[6] Fabio, Confissões, 70.

[7] Fabio (speaker). Conhecendo o Tapeceiro da Vida [audio recording].

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Fabio, Confissões, 85-88.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Fabio, Confissões, 178.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Fabio (speaker). Conhecendo o Tapeceiro da Vida [audio recording].

[15] Fabio (speaker). Conhecendo o Tapeceiro da Vida [audio recording].

[16] Fabio, Confissões, 281.

[17] Ibid, 288.

[18] Ibid, 292.

[19] Fabio (speaker). Conhecendo o Tapeceiro da Vida [audio recording].

[21] Fabio, Confissões, 443-462.

[22] Entrevista Caio Fabio D’Araújo Filho. 21 Nov. 2003. 15 Oct. 2008

[23] Fabio (speaker). Conhecendo o Tapeceiro da Vida [audio recording].

[24] Ibid.

1 comment:

Adriana Serrao said...

Oi Amore,

Lerei aos pouco o seu trabalho, mas, estou feliz por ter dado tudo certo, por vc ter arrasado em sala de aula. Eh uma bencao ver o retorno do seu esforco.

Parabens Rozinho, que Deus possa a cada dia de encher de sabedoria, e que esta seja usada para abencoar outras vidas.

Beijos e te amo,
Sua esposa,

Drizinha Serrao

ps: gostei da foto:))