Thursday, April 27, 2006

Our Christian God, Religion and the Common Good (Updated)



"Many Filipinos are what I call Sunday-religious, that is they go to church every Sunday, take in confession and communion, but the rest of the week they bribe and do corrupt deeds..." - Mrs. Pura Santillan-Castrence, Author As I See It: Filipinos and the Philippines
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

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Hi All,

[I do not consider myself religious in any way - lest someone charge me as riding the high morality horse; here-under 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. Muslims 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 Christians].

Recently, I attended the wedding ceremony for the only child and daughter of a friend..  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 officiating priest talked about what is labeled as the two greatest commandments of the Christian 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 Catechism 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 (of course, the commandment or teaching of loving one's neighbor does not refer to sexually loving one's neighbor). It 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, beyond family, relatives, friends). It is on this latter account that many self-proclaimed Christians, i.e. Filipino Christians, fail.

One sees inconsistency or outright hypocrisy -especially if done knowingly- when people, especially those who have attained material sucess/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. I define the term neighbor(s) as those outside the traditionally understood Filipino nuclear/extended family and even close friends. 



It seems many Filipino Christians (Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical/Fundamentalists) 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.

These 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). They see their God as a sort of granddad or Santa Claus and their saints as facilitators (when saints should be seen as role models to be emulated). 


Thus, if they 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"


These wealthy/rich "true believers" think God loves them because they are successful in their material pursuits. They are oftentimes enthusiastic supporters of absolute economic globalization in the homeland, and often suggest/imply that the poor are poor either because the latter folks do not work hard enough, or are sinners or at best, destined to be impoverished and to suffer. 

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. This individualistic 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 defenders of the status quo and as part of the Establishment. 


The Catholic Church has been mainly a church of, for the rich elite and left the impoverished to bear it. It teaches the latter 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 the truly great Pope John XXIII's Vatican II in the 1960s that some in the hierarchy became concerned about social realities, especially the predicament of the poor and tried to impart social consciousness on the ignorant masses and social action, e.g. through Basic Christian Communities in the Philippines.

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 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 social justice, towards the common good.

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 otherworldly 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 masses 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 humane existence, whether the system is market-driven capitalism or state-driven capitalism (communism) or socialism.



It is by teaching and informing. striving and acting for a just society can believers demonstrate their love of their christian God (note that oftentimes in the history of man, cults or movements led by great men with their great teachings and 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. The Catholic Church seems to be headed, if not have gone this way).


- Bert




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" Fear history, for it respects no secrets" - Gregoria de Jesus (widow of Andres Bonifacio)

Of 534 previous posts, the following listed links and the RECTO READER are essential about us native (indio)/ Malay Filipinos and are therefore always presented in each new post. Click each to open/read

OUR CULTURE: (full range of our learned values, attitudinal & behavioral patterns) 
  1. WHAT WE FILIPINOS SHOULD KNOW:
  2. WHAT IS NATIONALISM [Filipino Nationalism]?
  3. Our Colonial Mentality and Its Roots 
  4. The Miseducation of the Filipino (Formation of our Americanized Mind)
  5. Understanding Our Filipino Value System
  6. The Ambivalence of Filipino Traits and Values

OUR RELIGION: (Belief Systems)
  1. Our Filipino Kind of Religion
  2. Our Filipino Christianity and Our God-concept
  3. When Our Religion Becomes Evil

OUR HISTORY: (Nationalist point-of-view) 

OUR  ECONOMY:  (Post-WW2 Agreements)
  1. President Roxas Railroaded the Approval of Bell Trade Act (Philippine Trade Act),1946 & Military Bases Agreements
  2. Bell Trade Act-1946 (Parity Rights)
  3. The Fallacy of "Philippines First"
  4. Agrarian Reform - Conflicts During Implementation
  5. 16 Years of Agrarian Reform: The Lands Are Back in the Hands of the Lords, (Part 1 of 2)
  6. 16 Years of Agrarian Reform: Are Filipino Peasants Better Off Now? (Part 2 of 2)
  7. Globalization (Neoliberalism) – The Road to Perdition in Our Homeland
  8. Five(5) Years of Reasons To Resist WTO's Globalization & Learn WTO's Multilateral Punishments to the Philippines
  9. Resisting Globalization (WTO Agreements)
  10. Virtues of De-Globalization

NOTE: Recto's cited cases, examples or issues were of his time, of course; but realities in our homeland in the present and the foreseeable future are expected to be much, much worse. Though I am tempted to update them with current issues, it's best to leave them as they are since Recto's paradigms about our much deepened national predicament still ring relevant, valid and true. In short, Recto saw the forest and never got lost in the trees. We native Filipinos have not learned from or not heeded his advice - Bert

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11 comments :

Teddy CasiƱo said...

Gud pm. I was surfing the net for Renato Constatino's Miseducation of the Filipino and came upon your blog. Any plans when to put up part 3? Thanks.

Teddy

Bert M. Drona said...

Hello Teddy,

Thanks for responding. Part 3 is already in the blogsite.

Bert

Miss F said...

Your views are definitely w0rth reading!



Ideally, a person's religious beliefs shouldn't really matters in the public sphere and on how we 'appear' to others. I think what's impoRtant is how you DEAL and relate with and act towards OTHERS, and the laws, morality, anD customs of the s0ceity where you beLong...(and not your personal, private spiritual beliefs)



Europeans and people of other nationaliTies may find it weiRd that there are "militant" atheists or atheists seeiNg the need to declarE themselves as such IN the Phils. But I believe that in a countRy like ouRs, the m0re people admit to being athEists and EXPLAIN THE REASONS, the better it will be. why? cuz it prov0kes thoughts aNd arguments, and hopefuLLy others will see that this atheiSm and/or rejection of Christian beliefs is ROOTED IN PERSONAL, IMMEDIATE EXPERIENCES.... and not see them as Sons of Satan, antichrists or freaks.



OFc0urse it also invites inane quesTions, tedious queries and insults (like, "how do you know what's right or wrong?" "why don't you just be a hed0nist, then?what's the meaning of LIFE for you then?") but that's really a smaLL price to paY. I think it would be great if non-Christian Filipinos bec0me more outsp0ken ab0ut
not being ONe and explain how they caMe to be such (like saying how Organized religion in our c0untry leads to m0re poverty, such as when p0or Filipinos decide to have m0re and more babies hoping that these kids will bring them deliverance; or when Filipinos endUre degradation and poVerty& don't do anything to s0Lve it for fuTure genErations cuz they believe they will be rewarded in heaven anyway, etc.)



Christian ideals are w0nderful and great, just liKe in other religions. I cannot imagine Filipinos not being religious because it bringS them a sense of kinship, community and feelings of lasting peace, haPPiness... but I agree with your beliefs. This hypocrisy really isn't g0od for us.



also, what surpRises me is the utter narrow-mindedNess and being dogmatic of so many Filipinos when it c0mes to reliGion. it's really quite incompreHensiBLe and ridicuLous~


sorry for ranting. anyway thanks for the w0nderful posTs.

Bert M. Drona said...

Teddy,

URL for Part 3 is: http://thefilipinomind.blogspot.com/2006/03/making-of-americanized-filipino-minds_25.html


Bert

Bert M. Drona said...

Hi Miss F,

Thank you for the feedback.

I think and believe many Filipino Christians do not realize that they are being immature in their beliefs, or less polite, i.e. hypocritical, a product of still medieval-like version of Christianity as taught and practiced by the Filipino clergy and their followers,i.e. the faithful.

Briefly, Vatican II back in the 1960s created some fresh thinking that extended to a sense of social justice in Philippine society; but unfortunately, today it is back to the pre-Vatican mindset(mainly due to the conservatism of Pope John Paul II)except for the superficial changes to the externalities,i.e. rituals: the music and use of the vernacular.

Unchanged are the "bahala na ang Diyos",etc and the concern about the afterlife and practical neglect and/or lack of desire to correct present realities.

However, please note though that Catholicism per se do not automatically cause poverty of nations: see developed Catholic nations like Italy and France for example; even Catholic Ireland has leapfrogged to great progress.

It is the medieval version of Catholicism as propagated then by Spain up to the 19th century which seems to have militated against economic progress as observable in many Latin American countries and ours.

In fact, Spain which has done away with its anachronistic version after the death of dictator Franco in 1975 (who was strongly supported by the Spanish Catholic Church for 40 years of his fascistic regime) has greatly progressed.

Spaniards are now better educated and matured in their beliefs (they are still catholic), but the power of the Spanish Catholic Church since the Generalissimo's death has greatly diminished.

Miss Ott said...

Ireland's progress could have been the results of their enlightenment. Remember that the poor and the dispossessed, mostly Catholic Irish, had been waging war against the rich, well connected protestant Irish before. Somehow, the two have been inching their way to common understanding that both of them are blessed people and that they are created in the image of their maker...a doer and a problem solver. The Catholics in Ireland has been shedding off their fanatical belief, as influenced by the Irish-American Catholics in the United States.

But...all those countries who failed to join the progressive bandwagon of the developing Catholic nations like Ireland and Italy, are to this day riddled with corruptions, cronyism, nepotism, and outright lack of respect for the rule of law. They still hold on their belief that they can sin but nobody will go to hell for their love ones will pray and light candles for their soul. They can lie, cheat, and plunder, through their supplications and beatitudes, St. Peter will open the door of heaven for them when the time comes.

I am sending your article to my relatives at home. The topic is well expounded.

Anonymous said...

Hello Bert,

Beliefs are reactions works to what has been and what
is.

As the world's resources grow less and population grow
more, beliefs in many things, including spirits and
Gods come to the fore.

The Christian beliefs are no exceptions. Catholics
with hard to shake beliefs may be holding on but not
for long as realities and fine reasoning are made
known to more and more people.

It has been my advocacy to look into the concept of
the Christian God and the infallibility of the bible.
It is my contention that our Catholic Philippines has
become a nightmare as the result of its biggest
destructive force which ironically can be its biggest
asset once reassessed and corrected - Christianity.

I believe if one has to change the direction of fall
of our country to one that goes upward, we need first
to settle the issues of God and the Bible.

Catholics and the Christians got God all wrong. Their
definition of God sets the average intelligent mind
into a crazy spin of confusion. Their God is in dire
need of redefinition into one that is in congruence
with the world and life's realities. The greatest
confusion coming from the dogma that God is perfect -
all knowing, all powerful, all merciful, all just,
evering in superlatives, and one who directs and helps
us grow, move and succeed.

The confusion starts from the reflection on the
perfect being, as you said, that requires rites of
praises, adoration and sacrifice. Hey, a perfect being
has everything that we can think and capable of
giving.

This confusion is multiplied into a daze of unknowing
when the Bible is read and scrutinized for consistency
and adherence to the truth. Truth asserts itself in
consistent ways. It's infallibity is challenged every
time someone goes beyond mere acceptance of the
"inspired words of the Holy Ghost" and the
completeness of its contents. Complete in every way?
As questions are asked about the bible the idea of
completely shatters in the attempt to provide answers.

A mysterious God, unaccessable, working out miracles,
speaking in parables that need an expert's translation
or interpretation, hiding from men are no longer in
the order of credibility. Unafraid to show its face to
its alleged favorite creation? Just what kind of God
is this?

The Filipinos, the whole world for that matter, need
to have a God of today and a practical bible. To have
a God of today, we need to redefine God, the
dominating Christian God the most. To have a practical
bible we need to revise the present one. One idea for
God and one guide for all are what we need to
straigthen our act toward lasting togetherness in
peace and prosperity.

Ogie

Bert M. Drona said...

Ogie,

First, thanks for commenting.

Yes, I agree with you. And we Filipinos have a long way to go (I mean generations) to attain "religious maturity" if I may say.

Though the present belief system works to create a positive illusion (it can help others personally during their times of misery or difficulties since it offers solace for one); society-wise, it has not worked for the common good.

Religion as an institution in our homeland has been more concerned about itself than what its social teachings (some from Vatican II Council) have proclaimed and tell the clergy and followers to do; it fails to have them put such in practice.

If the preachers themselves have immature beliefs, we can only expect such from those followers who strictly rely on them and have not used, if capable, their minds (it's still a religion of fear for most). Regards

Bert

Ed said...

Bert,
If God asked your advise on what to do with the Filipinos in the homeland, what would you tell God?

Bert M. Drona said...

Ed,

Define your God.

Bert

Bert M. Drona said...

Hi Misot,

I agree with your comments about the recent socioeconomic and political progress in Ireland.

Enlightenment do change people and usually for the better,as humans.

And sadly, with our kind of christianity, with its opposition to critical thinking (a product and consequence of enlightenment), continues to make us Filipinos the way we are.

I appreciate your forwarding my posting. Thank you!

Bert