Any discission on the future of the “gay rights” movement in the Philippines has to start with the teachings of Filipinos’ Christian faith — because, at the moment, religion is stubbornly baked into Filipinos’ sense of identity. But, Christian teaching in general — and Catholic dogma specifically — categorically lists homosexuality and its derivative lifestyles and aspirations as inherently sinful.
So the question is, What’s it gonna be?
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The true sustainable foundation that needs to be laid to pave the way for gender and sexual orientation equality is to put the secular state over and above the Philippines’ Catholic cultural roots when evaluating the question of gay and gender rights. For now, prevailing notions on sexual orientation in Philippine society draw heavily from Christian teachings. The popularly-perceived place held by homosexuals in Philippine society is framed by religious thought from which originates the stigma of the “sinfulness” of their lifestyle.
The trouble lies in the manner with which Filipinos choose to practice their faith. Most Filipinos are Christians when convenient. When there is a need for spiritual inspiration, Filipinos turn to prayer and to God. But when it comes to their lifestyle choices, God and dogma become mere afterthoughts. Thus…
Filipinos are Christian in need, heathen in deed.
Unfortunately for Manny Pacquiao, in quoting bible verse to issue his indictment of homosexual lifestyles and aspirations, he hit Filipinos at their most sensitive spot — the space where Christian teachings come in direct conflict with their lifestyle choices.
Suffice to say, Filipinos are sexually active outside of marriage, are generally open to homosexuals and their lifestyles, practice artificial conctraception, and separate from their spouses whether or not they have the Church’s blessings to do so. All of these are, absolute violations of Church teachings.
Yet, Filipinos are also a prayerful lot. Worse, this prayerfulness and deference to divine will and intervention is intricately interwoven into their politics and state affairs — routine full-on (even institutionalised) contravening of the doctrine of separation of church and state.
So, on one hand, Filipinos strongly profess their Catholic identity and, on the other, also aspire to be seen to be espousing the un-Christian trendy progressive liberal attitudes towards sexuality and gender that are being discussed in Starbucks cafes all over the world. Perhaps that aspiration to be seen to be “progressive thinkers” and a part of that whole fashionable movement is what motivates many of these part-time Catholics to join the howls of protest against Pacquiao and, for that matter, anyone who dares express the conservative position on the issue of “gay rights”. Indeed, Interaksyon.com columnist Jessica Zafra goes as far as asserting that this progressive — and trendy — position is not subject to debate.
This confused way that Filipinos cling to their Catholic moral framework (when convenient) while angrily pumping their fists about “gay rights” (when in a trendy mood) merely makes for an amusing case study — the spectacle of a backward society trying to be part of a modern global discussion on next-generation social conventions that, in practice, can only be built on a solid foundation of secular institutional governance. Unfortunately for Filipinos, theirs is a society that, at the moment, as neither. Secularism continues to play second fiddle to a de facto theocracy propagated by an entrenched medieval-style oligarchy that counts as its key member the powerful Philippine Roman Catholic Church. And institutional governance? That’s an even bigger joke in the Philippine setting. There is none such in practice. Institutional governance — like Roman Catholic practice — is a facade that masks a primitive feudal regime that is motivated more by patronage than by the spirit of the written law.
In short, Filipinos, in the process of living double lives miss the point of both (1) being Catholic and (2) aspiring to be a modern people. Because, really, you cannot be both. Catholicism is built upon a medieval non-negotiable belief system that is written in black and white that constrains the efforts of no less than the pope himself to “modernise” its institution.
Modern social ethics are being built upon a thought framework that is open, invites critical scrutiny, and encourages debate.
The call to action, therefore, is for Filipinos to make a clear choice.
Do Filipinos want to be good Catholics? Or do they want to be good members of a modern secular society.
It is not an easy choice for most Filipinos — because making the right choice requires one to apply a lot of modern thinking.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.