May 9: The day millions of Filipinos will turn their backs on the altar
But today, I need help from Filipinos to explain to this foreigner, yours truly, about faith in the Philippines. Because I’m not getting it.
For the headline to this article, I had originally written “Filipinos will turn their backs on Jesus”, but my wife scowled at me. “I don’t like that!”
So I dialed the headline language down, in respect of her sincere belief, which is as pure as faith can be. From the heart, deeply.
Which confuses me even more.
If we step back from the heart, from the soul, and look at the human face of faith in the Philippines, it is clear that there is a disconnect between what the priests say, and what the priests do. And those of other cloths and pulpits as well. There seems to be no CONVICTION among them to do what Jesus Christ preached, and died for. For Christians, the idea is that we should believe in Him, that Christ and His way and sacrifice is the path to salvation. Other faiths have similar paths based the idea that being a flawed and sinful man or woman is not good enough. We should be principled. We should be good.
We should sacrifice of ourselves to rise above our manly sins.
I’ve read much of the Bible. I was a student for several years. Genesis and Exodus are good reading. Not airplane reading, mind you, but good for the mind and spirit. Frankly, though, I couldn’t get through Deuteronomy or Numbers. Hard reading. I love Psalms, and have done that book page by page, for the poetry and the richness of meanings. Exodus, terrific. Job made me aware that God deals harshly with the wayward. I was discouraged during the reading.
I read Job and I’m surprised more faithful here in the Philippines don’t tremble at what they do, and at what their friends and family do. There is a lot of sin going down in the Philippines. Judges, senators, representatives, agency officials, mayors, governors . . . they are thieving and lying as if God were just kidding. As if Job were a joke. The main principle in the Philippines is that a law is broken only if you get caught. And forgiveness is just a “Hail Mary” away.
Kindly cite which book of the Bible that idea is found in, that we sin only if we are caught.
But I digress.
Back to the Bible.
The New Testament changes gear. It is the soft side of God, through a very kind and compassionate man, His Son, Jesus Christ. The first four books are from the perspective of four disciples: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These books are the staples of every Christian’s beginning bible studies, and many a child carries a disciple’s name on his birth certificate, in respect of the faith into which he was born.
As we move on through the New Testament, we get to Acts. This book is an entertaining recounting of the work of the apostles during the founding of the Christian Church. It’s not a precise history, exactly (it is rather an adaptation, favoring certain themes and events), but meaningful, for sure. Luke is believed to have written Acts and the idea was to show that “virtue is better than vice” [Aune, David E. (1988), “The New Testament in its literary environment”].
“Virtue is better than vice”
“Virtue is better than vice”
I repeat intentionally. It is a lesson that seems not to have registered on Filipino public servants, or Filipino voters.
“Virtue is better than vice.” Well, is that not what Jesus Christ taught, lesson after lesson after lesson? How to put good in our minds and hearts, to put peace ahead of fighting, to think of others, to be humble, to heal rather than rend?
So I don’t get it.
I don’t understand the election survey polls that suggest half the voting base in the Philippines would opt for a known thief or a self-professed murderer. Or, to a much lesser extent, that it is okay to use a sacred house of worship for a political photo-op.
I don’t understand why the Catholic Church is complacent, as if the best the caretakers of faith can do is sit back and watch, impotent. It makes them sinful in my book, enablers of the most powerful sinners in the nation. I rather think Jesus would storm through Philippine cathedrals throwing out the priests. Then he’d worry about the money changers.
What kinds of disciples for Christ do Filipinos make, anyway?
Well, regular readers know my visual mind, the way concepts become metaphors or images. In my physical vision, it strikes me that the 2016 election Act, the selections made by Filipino citizens, will be as if the whole Christian congregation, on a quiet Sunday morning, decided to rise from the pew.
And turn their backs on the altar.
Do I have this picture wrong? If I do, kindly explain to me what faith means to Filipinos.
I have the suspicion that something a great deal more serious than the selection of a president is happening on election day.