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Our Filipino Christianity and Our God-concept

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“When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. And that's my RELIGION.” - Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865,
Sixteenth President of the USA

"The rich swell up with pride, the poor from HUNGER." - Sholom Aleichem, 1859-1916, Ukraine-Born American Writer

“If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them”. – Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992
"In all institutions from which the cold wind of open criticism is excluded, an innocent corruption begins to grow like a
mushroom - for example, in senates and learned societies." - Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844-1900

I do not consider myself religious in any way - lest someone charge me as riding the high morality
horse; hereunder I only want to highlight the believers' inconsistency to their professed
Christian religion or belief system.

I address all Christians though Roman Catholics are the majority in the homeland. Not
our Muslims who generally see their religion as a way of life and internalize their beliefs, and
therefore not comparable to the "split-level" or compartmentalized Christianity exhibited by
Filipino Catholic Christians.

Sometime ago, I attended a wedding ceremony. I normally do not attend such happenings but
can not say no this time. During the Mass, I guess it's part of the churchy game plan, the
officating priest talked about what is labeled as the two greatest commandments of God, that
is, love of God and of neighbor. I will not elaborate on the first love though I believe many so-
called christians concentrate on that. God is supposedly all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, etc.
(as I remember my grade school Baltimore Cathechism rote); therefore God must be so self-
sufficient and thus should not want -as I see it- more love and attention.
My interest is in the second love, the commandment or teaching of loving one's neighbor. This
commandment refers to loving in the "Good Samaritan"- sense, per one of Jesus' parables.
This parable teaches and encourages Christians to be helpful or charitable (to total strangers that
is, beyond family, relatives, friends). It is on this account that many self-proclaimed
Christians, Filipino Christians, fail.

One sees inconsistency or outright hypocrisy -especially when done knowingly- when people,
especially those who have attained material success or wealth and thus ability to help, claim that
they love their christian God but at the same time not really care about their neighbors, most
importantly, the neighbors in need. It seems many Filipino Christians (Catholic, Protestant,
Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, etc. varieties) spend so much time on God trying to buy their
"salvation" by saying "Praise the Lord", "Love God", "Jesus is Lord", mouthing special
prayers or incantations, etc. Such exercises remind me of the biblical Pharisees and
Sadducees.

Our so-called Christians seem to remember their God when they feel the need to directly ask
for more favors or through intercessions of their favorite saints, by praying - for more
financial "blessings," to be free of sickness, etc. (reminds me of Bruce Almighty character
which made me really have LOL). They see their God as a sort of granddaddy or Santa
Claus and their saints as facilitators (when saints should be seen as role models to be
emulated). Essentially Filipino Christianity as escape from reality.

Thus, if our so-called Christians are materially successful or other, they attribute it to their being
"blessed"; same if they are physically normal, unharmed in an accident, etc. It makes one
wonder about those who are sick, harmed in accidents, born physically abnormal,
killed/murdered, etc. Are these latter ones, not blessed? And those Africans, young and
old, dying of hunger or being massacred; are they not blessed that they therefore suffer or
die prematurely?

With these mindsets, those who have become wealthy or have attained upper middle class or
higher economic status, seem to profess, knowingly or unknowingly, a sort of "prosperity
theology". They think God loves them because they are successful in their material pursuits.
They are oftentimes enthusiastic supporters of Globalization or Neoliberalism in the homeland,
and often suggest or imply that the poor are poor either because the latter folks do not work
hard enough, or are sinners; or at best, deservingly destined to be impoverished and to
suffer. I have personally heard this sort of statements from people I know who are Catholics or
"born again.".

Belief in such a theology exaggerates the Bible's teaching on blessings by God, affirming and
upholding the rich --without analyzing systematically why some are rich and many others are
poor. Thisindividualistic and self-centred distortion of theology soothes the conscience of the
affluent, but poses radical challenges in the articulation of social and economic justice.

Overall, I believe that the church hierarchy and its lay leaders in the Philippines to date,
have failed to properly send the christian message -the "good news." For one, the Catholic
Church in the Philippines has historically been identified as a chief defender of the status quo and
as part of the Establishment. The Catholic Church in the homeland has been mainly a church of,
for the rich elite and left the impoverished to bear it.

The church teaches its starving faithful that they will inherit the kingdom of God via
the "beatitudes". I see that teaching as disgustingly cruel, a perpetuation of the God-
concept that is cruel and narcissistic, of creating and expecting humans to spend their time
praising God and asking for salvation while they suffer in their existence.

I do not think the present church leaders and ministers conspire to mislead the poor. But it
appears these men-of-God learned erroneously or inadequately themselves and therefore taught
badly throughout the centuries.

It is only after Vatican II in the 1960s (and thanks to then Pope John XXIII a saintly priest with an
authentic, simple peasant background) that some in the hierarchy became concerned about
social realities, especially the predicament of the poor and tried to impart social consciousness for
the ignorant masses and social action, e.g. throughBasic Christian Communities in the
Philippines and even more radically,Liberation Theology as widely preached and practiced in
Latin America in the late 1960s-1980s. Unfortunately the reign of Pope John Paul II turned back
all these enlightened beliefs or interpretations of Christianity and the gains of Vatican II. Thus, the
Roman Catholic Church in general and the hierarchy in our homeland is back to being for the
status quo, more a church for the rich despite its lip-service of being the church of the poor.

If one is to believe that man was created in the image of the christian God, then that God in
the preceding must be discarded since it is a cruel and distant God -inasmuch as many of
his supposed creatures are left to suffer. It is therefore the urgent and primary task of the Catholic
Church in the Philippines to emphasize the "love of neighbor", of the neighbor in need; to
teach more fully this critical or major part of christian teachings.

It behooves the church hierarchy to stress the need for internalizing this teaching so that each
Filipino Christian, and especially those who have power to change or influence the direction
of the homeland will lead with honest, utmost social concern and moral ethics in their
governance and business dealings, but most especially towards the poor native majority.

The world is not just a stage on which man works out the eternal salvation of his "soul".
Forget the emphasis on loving God with incantations and formulas or staying within the confines
of otherwordly or afterlife concerns, or spending most time protecting the church as an institution.
Instead the Catholic Church in the Philippines and its members should be responsible and put
emphasis on loving one's neighbors, that is, by seeking and fighting for justice, by informing
themselves and teaching the ignorant mass about their rights for a just society.

For no social system is just if it deprives its people of those earthly goods which are
necessary for a truly human existence, whether the system is market-driven capitalism or
socialism or Marxist-Leninist-Maoist-what-have-you communism. It is by teaching/informing.
striving and acting for a just society can believers demonstrate their love of their christian God.

Oftentimes in the history of man, cults or movements led by great men with their great
teachings/ideas are revolutionary. But as they proliferate and become a major part of
society, of the Establishment, those movements become reactionary and pillars of the status
quo, if not moribund.

That is how Christianity since the 4th century started to gradually change, that is, when
Constantine made it the official religion, be it catholic, orthodox, protestant, etc. became. To me,
much of the authentic Christian followers were from that long past era.

- Bert

Riches (noun). A gift from Heaven signifying "This is my beloved son, in whom I
am well pleased." - John D. Rockefeller, 1898

The rich man may never get to heaven, but the pauper is already serving his
term in hell. Alexander Chase, 1966

"Upang maitindig natin ang bantayog ng ating lipunan, kailangang radikal nating
baguhin hindi lamang ang ating mga institusyon kundi maging ang ating pag-iisip
at pamumuhay. Kailangan ang rebolusyon, hindi lamang sa panlabas, kundi lalo
na sa panloob!" --Apolinario Mabini La Revolucion Filipina (1898)