With the up and coming events of Holy Week, I find myself writing this article as a kind of review of the Philippines’ own brand of “Christianity” and how it has been corrupted by our culture of failure and misused by those in power to control the masses. Now look, I was raised Catholic as well and I am also a practicing Catholic, even though I do take cues from Gnosticism here and there (guess that makes me a heretic or something, burn me). However, after reading a bit of the Bible, I came to see that there are actually a lot of discrepancies with the values that many of us Filipinos consider “Christian Values” compared to what is actually espoused in the Good Book.
For our Non-Christian readers, this is more about the influence of the typical Pinoy’s idea of what is “Christianity” than it is about defining Christianity itself. However, if you think this is too “preachy”, I won’t really mind that much if you decide not to read it.
As I’ve said, I’m a practicing Catholic and that means I go to church every Saturday (because I’m busy on Sunday) and I pray the rosary almost every day. However, I am willing to admit to the fact that these do not make me a good person. I go to church and pray the rosary to ask for forgiveness for the daily dickery I do. That’s right, I am such a jerk and a troll to other people that I have to ask God not to take a personal interest in punishing me. I do not think that doing so makes me “good” in his eyes, it just means that I’m willing to admit to the wrongs that I’ve done and I also try to promise God that I’ll fix some of the stuff that I’ve done later on. I’m not exactly to confident about the last that I said though…
But enough about me. Anyway, as I’ve come to see, a lot of people in the Philippines do not see their religion the way they should. Christianity, as I’ve come to understand it through both the Bible and some of my more devout friends, should be a philosophy or lifestyle. It is about espousing the ideals Jesus put forth into our daily lives, holding ourselves to a higher standard and making ourselves accountable before a Greater Being. Unfortunately, here in the Philippines, it’s a different story. Allow me to point out some of these ideas to you…
God is a fairy!
This is probably one of the most egregious things I’ve noted in our culture. I have been through quite a bit and time and time again, I find myself in the presence of people who are convinced that God is some sort of fairy or genie who grants wishes. Never mind even that the original genies of Islamic lore are nothing like the way most of us think of them.
These are people who like to sit and pray (often in an unfelt way) and actually expect God to fulfill all their expectations even when they themselves do nothing. And then, when nothing happens, these people play the victim card and either say that they’re being victimized by the system or that God Himself abandoned them even when it’s clear that it was they who abandoned themselves. This is not at all helped by the many fantasy-themed teleseryes we have that are chock-full of Deus Ex Machina moments that would be outrageous or even laughable to a more progressive audience. Even a certain local show I remember about a little boy who is supposed to be “favored” by God, has elements of this even though I could feel that the writers of the show were trying very hard to shake it off.
Look, I’m a believer because I can attest to God’s benevolence. I think that He does answer our prayers but, if we want to make the best of it, we have to learn to look around and use wisely what we find. The best way I can describe God’s benevolence is similar to the following: You find yourself lost in a forest and, while looking around, you suddenly find a knife or a compass which any survival expert can tell you is essential for surviving the deeps woods. Or say, you find yourself in a dark room and suddenly find a small flashlight in your pocket.
However, what most Pinoys expect is that when lost in a forest, they will be rescued from the forest by Coco Martin on a helicopter or, when trapped in a dark room, will find a classy smartphone that can also allow them to watch local TV and play video games.
Everything is About Fame and Pride, Again…
It is stated in the Bible that God doesn’t exactly appreciate people who make a big show of praying or helping others. It is said that doing something good and showing it off to others is often just a way for some to make themselves look “good” in the eyes of the people and not in the eyes of God. Praying loudly in front of a lot of people or giving alms or aid to the poor with media coverage is only meant to please the public eye and is not something that is endorsed by God.
Instead, the Bible asks us to be quiet and discreet about our good deeds. Pray in a silent and largely unseen place instead of where everybody can see you (unless maybe there’s some disaster or something) to show your sincerity. When doing something good, it’s best to do it when no one is looking and don’t try to make it such a big issue because there’s more good to be done in a world that seems saturated with evil.
Unfortunately, this is not what happens in the Philippines. People always make a big show of things from garish weddings, celebrities shown going to church and pretending to be reflecting on their sins (which could probably fill a football field), politicians giving away dole outs (that I think actually belong to the people anyway) with their names writ large upon it and sadomasochists who masquerade as “penitent” people. I once knew one of these “penitents” who would boast on and on about how he was part of a spectacle in a town plaza.
The Philippines has a Special Place in God’s Heart
I have always believed that God loves us all equally, even those who do not seem to know Him. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, how old you are, who your parents are or who your spouse is, God loves you the way only a doting father or loving mother could.
Problem is, a lot of Pinoys don’t see it that way. A lot of them insist that, since we’re probably the only predominantly Catholic country here in the Far East, He must have some special interest in us.
Well, I would agree that we do have some advantages compared to other countries in the world. A Ukrainian friend once told me that we Filipinos are very lucky to have so much food all-year-around. But while God does bless us with natural resources, we utilize and manage them poorly and often require aid from other countries just to make the best of them.
Yes, we have a special place in God’s heart, but so do the children of Latin America, his rowdy Irish sons and daughters, the troubled peoples of Africa, the snobs up in Western Europe, the impoverished masses of India, the ever-hairy Americans, his Jewish kids who never seem to stop arguing and just about everyone else. Just because we’re “special” doesn’t mean we’re His “favorites”. We aren’t God’s only kids and he has to look after so many, especially all those kids in Africa who are now infected with AIDS or are starving to death. If anything, I think we should stop being a burden to God and learn to help ourselves so He can take His attentions to where it’s really needed and, if we can afford to do it, maybe even help in His efforts.
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