Monday, September 18, 2006

Church and Politics, the Filipino Excuse

Today is Sunday, my lazy Sunday. Time to rest, time to relax. No church for me today. I haven't been to church since two weeks ago, when I went to Phoenix to visit my friend, and he invited me to go to church with him. In fact, I have gone to church only five times in the last three years. Twice in an an actual service, twice sitting outside the church at Greenbelt three. I don't even know if you can consider that attending church. And once to take pictures of the church that my grandparents and relatives are funding in our province.

In the last fifteen years of my life, I have been so turned off by churches. Note, I'm not necessarily turned of by religion per se, but churches and congregations in general. I grew up literally right next door to a church that my family built, but I never felt good attending. It was a chore. And it was a bore. Then when we moved to Hawaii, my grandparents took us to the church, and it was the longer services I've ever attended. Two hours. Sometimes three. Sometimes four. What the heck? Who has the attention span for that long?

Then there were more rules. Men must wear long jeans, no shorts. Women must wear skirts, to the knees and not any higher. Men should have short hair. Women should have long hair. It's bad to lust. It's bad to masturbate. It's bad to do this. It's bad to do that. Almost everything is bad. I became filled with more questions than answers.

Then there's the topic of hypocrisy. Those that preached the word became the sinners themselves later. Boy, what an example.

I'm not turned off by religion and spirituality. In fact, I embrace it. I am just so turned off by its ambassadors, those who are supposedly chosen to represent the word, to deliver his message.

Though I still have many questions, I am beginning to reconcile myself and Christianity. My relationship with Him is a personal one. That is between God and me. He knows my heart, and only he will be able to judge me.

I will not go around preaching to people about God and Christianity and how everyone must repent and come to church and do this and do that or else you will suffer His wrath and burn in hell and blah blah blah as some people do. Instead, I will live in goodness. I will stand for love. I will stand for justice. And I will live my life in that manner, so that others may see me as an example. Along the way, I will stumble and fall. Blame it on human nature. Blame it on the devil. Blame in on me, for being weak.

Sooner or later, we have to come to speaking about my beloved Pinoys and their love of religion. We've all heard it before, The Philippines is the biggest Christian/Catholic nation in the East, with at least 80% of the population being Christian/Catholic. So the Philippines is such a religious and spiritual country, and one would think that with a collective prayer by the millions, the country would be blessed.

Not so. The country is full of corruption, dirty politics, extreme poverty, rampant discrimination, and blatant disregard of humanity. How is one country that is so reliant and so "churched" on the good teachings of religion and the Christian faith be so backward? How can a deeply spiritual people who learned the tenets of love and care from their religion be so unloving and uncaring towards each other?

I do not have the answer. I only have the views of a Filipino American. But since I also majored in Political Science, and from a religious private school, a Jesuit one, I believe I have a little bit of understanding about the Philippine situation. So here's my theory on the relationship between spirituality and politics in the Philippines.

I do not believe that the Filipino people are as deeply rooted in religion and Christianity as they believe they are. Otherwise, they would be making wiser decisions when it comes to politics and electing their leaders. Instead, they are bought. I go to church on Sunday. Then you can buy my vote tomorrow, OK?

Next, we have politicians who claim to be spiritual, religious, and God-fearing. I think they are spiritually crooked, religiously corrupt, and fear only losing power. Granted some of them are really trying their best to do well for their constituency, but there are just so many of them, I probably shall call them the "Filipino Legion of Doom" from now on. How often do these politicians hold forums for their constituencies to discuss issues that affect them?

In the US, I have shaken hands with Governors, mayors, councilmembers, and other politicians. They serve me. I do not serve them. I am their voice. For they know, that even a Filipino immigrant like me, have a large voice, large enough to call on the masses if they failed to serve me. Thanks to the power of organization and the media.

In the Philippines, conversely, people are expected to kiss the asses of their politicians. Accordingly, politicians think the people serve them, and not the other way around. If I accidentally stepped on the shoes of a politician, I might get shot right then and there. OK, fine. I might be beaten up. But If I stepped on the shoe of an American politician by accident, all I need is a simple "Sorry."

This post is getting hella long. I hope that when Filipinos go to church, they will ask themselves, what is my reason for coming to church?

I go to church today. Will my vote be bought tomorrow? Will I sell my soul to the devil come election time?


jef said...

I'm inspired with this post...I've made one just like this hehe:-)

Alternati said...

hey, I got here thru Jef.

Although raised a catholic, I now consider myself an agnostic. Anything made by man (religion included) is fallible. I learned (and still am) a lot of enlightening tenets from Catholicism, but I agree with you that those who teach them suck. They are one of the reasons why I turned to agnosticism.

Then again, If only they'd act less authoritative and holier-than-thou then their flock may be more lenient when they do acts of hypocrisy. Religion meddling in government affairs is so El Filibusterismo (aka the Pinoy "The Count of Monte Cristo")

Filipino politicians corrupt not because they're Filipino (although nationalism should deter them), nor because they are catholic (although morals should make them think twice)... It's because they're human and susceptible to greed. I'm not rationalizing what they do, Heck, My personal stand is making corruption in the government a capital crime.

Whenever a politician or celebrity or athlete (or whatever) dedicated their victory to God, it makes me gag... We know they are rejoicing for their own glory and that once all the confetti has fallen, they would see God only as often as they do the IRS (Unless they work there)

(my comment, jumped from this to that. it seems incoherent.. oh well)

I, like you, think of Religion as something personal without the rules and factions of religion.

Anonymous said...

yeah, that's so true about the religious people and the politicians. i wanna just say, i haven't been to church in he longest time. i can't stand hearing the mass, i actually get bored just standing there and try listen to it. but i would go to church just to pray... also the homily, it just kills me, when the priest tells you stories of other people. just doesn't make sense, i say have somebody on the crowd stand up, go to the micand deliver a real life story based on their life which is related to the gospel. i think that sounds more sincere.

Anonymous said...

Politicians have long been using the head of churches to influnce their flock. Take the INC, Iglesia ni Cristo, Joseph Estrada then won the election because of Manalo's influence over his members.
While the catholic church on the other hand posted the presidential candidates qualification so that people will then be informed as to what should be the deserving presidential bet.I think the catholic church have done a good one in this point.
Our people have long been tired of these election , because for the past twenty years our country have achieved so little.If your going to ask ordinary pedicab driver,his going to tell u that his fed up in this election .
With regadrs with your not going to church, it is your choice , remember we should rely on the truth and the thruth can only be found in the Holy bible.You will only be frustated when you look at people and the way they live .

God chooses whom

snglguy said...

Curiously, every country that was colonized by Spain ended up in deep s**t. I wonder why...

Mia said...

I agree with many of the things you said here, and there were quite a few parts that struck a chord in me. Would you mind if I wrote a post instead? I'm pretty sure that if I reacted to what you said via comments, my comment would be way too long.

(Will only be able to write it tomorrow, though.)

VegasFilAmGuy said...


Yes, Spain's former colonies are still in ruins. Although Mother Spain itself is now a rising nation.

Mia, sure, I would like to read your post when you are done. maybe you can provide a link here, under "create a link?"

jhay said...

Just like what Marx has said; "Religion is the opium of the people".

I;ve never been to a service in over 4 months. Though I'm an adviser to our local Parish Youth Ministry, going to hear mass has never recaptured my fancy in a long long time. All for the reasons you've mentioned above.

VegasFilAmGuy said...

I would love to go to church more often. I really do. But I want it to be inspiring, not a lecture. I guess I'm just really rebellious sometimes. I should just go and open my heart.

Mia said...

Ack -- I wrote a really long entry and WP ate most of it. So sadly I will only be able to point you to the first half, which deals mostly with religion vs. faith. I'll be writing the second half (politics, religion, society) only when I get over my frustration. Sorry about that.

gbert said...

I do attend church for a whole day and I don't get bored, in fact, I don't want the day to end... because I realized I needed God more than He needed me... and it's not about religion, it's about faith, it's about the faith you share with the people in your religion... and it's always good to know you share the same ideas as with the people in the church... and these people you will realize are not even more knwledgeable than you outside the church but are more brilliant with the understanding of the Bible... these are the people who can guide anyone to understand the Bible better than Einstein or Edison or Bach or Beethoven...

I agree with you Filipinos are not really deeply rooted to their religion and Christianity but when you consider the morals Filipinos still have, I still believe in Filipinos who can't be bought of their votes... those who sell their votes are those who are particularly vulnerable because of the need of money... and most of them are uneducated, helpless and hungry... those in power are the ones who made use of their knowledge to benefit themselves not to serve the people, and these are leaders who don't have good foundation in their values... and that's where people should be educated at, most importantly in values so that when they become leaders in the future, they remain moral and be able to do their duties as a leader who will serve the people... the leaders should have better understanding of the situation but they do take advantage of it, of the people who are incapable and uneducated to even help themselves...

VegasFilAmGuy said...

Human nature just to take advatange of someone else. Natural selection? Survival of the fittest? Or Filipino nature? Hmmm.

maribel, switzerland said...

The Catholic church has taught us one: Form but not substance. We go to church because it is a ritual. It has nothing to do with spirituality at all. Spirituality is beyond the church as an institution, it is having a relationship with our soul. And to maintain that relationship we have to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY OF ALL OUR ACTIONS towards ourselves and the others.

We go to church with our "best clothes", it is where we show ourselves being ostentatious.

In the Philippines being poor is a sin. One will be and humiliated.

If one comes from the province he´s judged as ignorant. Ignorance as in he does not know what is in fashion. What a shame.

Filipinos are too easy to be influenced by what they see. One can wear an expensive piece of jewelry and everybody will say: ooh, wow he´s rich. We are too judgmental and superficial. Values like honesty, rigtheousness and humility are not taught in schools. As a grade school pupil I had to watch my "richer" classmates showing off their Sanrio pencils and purses, etc. As an adult living in Europe I feel ashamed by all of these. Nobody even talk of grades in school. Children are not to openly compete with each other, the character ccounts most. Even teachers (we call them teachers) were obviously more friendly to the more well-off parents of their pupils.

Ferdinand Marcos and his wife stole a lot from the people. Stealing is an offense. Even more if committed by somebody who is a president. He wanted the responsibility, instead he used the trust of the people to amass a fortune. Supposed to be a leader. Why has Imelda Marcos still have a lot of followers? Nobody in Europe can understand that. I would be ashamed to tell the others how many shoes I´ve got, Imelda was even showing them off. I wonder when she did that, she totally forgot the beggars on the streets. She who comes from an impoverished family.

It is not human nature. It is Filipino nature.