27 Jul The Crisis of a Religion
By Sisa Zaragoza
From Chris Brown’s hold departure order to the crisis in Tandang Sora, our timelines have been flooded with news about the Iglesia Ni Cristo, and admittedly all of us have been clicking on the links – member or not. Truth be told, what is going on inside the walls of Iglesia is really none of our business. After all, statistics show that our country is still a Christian dominated country and only a good number are members of the said religion. So what is it that made us reach for that mouse and click on the said links then? Maybe it is the exclusivity of the religion that got everybody so curious as to merit the clicks. Many of us know a little about the INC, and many of us are either too ashamed to ask about that certain religion or we feel that it is intrusive to the members of the INC if we start questioning them about their beliefs. After all, they are all our friends and we just don’t want to get into a fight about religion.
In an article in ABS-CBN we found that it wrongly labeled the said religion as a Christian sect. Even if we haven’t done much research on the INC, we know for a fact that they are NOT Christians. Interacting with our INC friends has brought us to understand that they do not celebrate Christmas, nor do they celebrate Holy Week. It is to their belief that Jesus Christ isn’t God, and is in fact, just another major prophet. And believing so doesn’t make them a Christian. To be a Christian, you must be a follower of Jesus Christ, acknowledging Him as God the Son, who came down to save us from eternal damnation. Jesus is the Christian’s Lord and Savior, thereby following his teachings. You become a Christian if you are a follower of Christ Jesus, and that is the end of it all.
But this is not really our point. What we are trying to drive at is this, we have become so curious with other people’s religion that we click all the links and read the stories about them – the so-called abduction, the hostage (was that fake?) drama, the plea for help via youtube, and the numerous accusations that embattles a family that descends from their “Sugo,” their prophet, the great old Felix Manalo. And really, that is just a family squabble and not exactly news that could turn around the lives of the Filipino people in general. We’d rather read on the many ways that the government is turning around our transport system as to decongest the traffic in EDSA. Heck, we would rather read on Kris Aquino’s gown for the SONA. Kasi chismis lang talaga ang basahin ang tungkol sa problema ng isang pamilyang hindi natin naiintindihan kung bakit nagkakagulo ang magkakapatid, at pati ang ina, na kung tutuusin mo’y tinuturo naman sa biblia na mahalin mo (4th commandment in the 10 Commandments states “Honor your Mother and Father,” it doesn’t get any clearer than that does it?), ay nasama sa mala-telenovelang dramang ito.
It doesn’t concern any of the lives of us Christians on what happens inside their church, yet we continuously read and share their stories and flood our timelines with baseless opinions and judgments about a movement that we know too little about. And sadly, we base all our opinions in what we were conditioned to think. We judge or formulate our opinions based on what we were taught as kids, what we learned from our religion classes, etc. And that is what we stand for, because that is our politics.
But then again, we can’t be just prying eyes hurling opinions about people, situations and circumstances based on the little knowledge that we have. We have become too curious for our own good. Pakiramdam natin lagi na lang importante ang ating mga opinion. Pakiramdam natin may maitutulong ang ating mga opinion. Sa totoo lang, WALA, because again, we really don’t know what is going on, who is telling the truth, in this issue. A domestic squabble is a domestic squabble. It is up to them to fix it.
In all honesty, it isn’t just Iglesia ni Kristo who have “scandals” such as this. It isn’t exactly news to us. Wasn’t it taught in our religion classes that one of the reasons why Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli, among others created the Protestant faction was due to their disgust of the corruption in the Roman-based Catholic Church? Wasn’t it also true that the Church of England was born because of Henry VIII’s obsession in his annulment with his wife Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Bolyn? Wasn’t it true that the Catholic Church excommunicated Galileo who said that it was the sun that was the center of the universe and NOT the earth?
And fast forward to our generation, how many Catholic priests were reported to have abused little boys in Rome? How many pastors, church leaders of Christian communities have been charged and found guilty or rape, sexual assault and fornication with the same sex? How many priests are there that are gay, and are actually indulging in sexual activities with men? These proves one thing, church leaders are human beings too. They are as susceptible to sin as we are. Working in the church doesn’t guarantee that you are holy, that you are sinless nor faultless. Sadly, they are not. And there are no exceptions. The pope included, no matter if the Catholic Church has declared him infallible. Again, who said that anyways? The cardinals of Vatican 1? Those who were involved in the great schism? Everybody sins, even if you feel holy. As long as you were born into this world a human being, you always fall short, you falter, you get tempted. And that is the sad fact. (To read more, click here)
Every religion has its own chaotic past or present. Every religion has its own share of wrongs and misgivings and it doesn’t give us the right to judge any religion based on these, because if these were to be the basis of everything being true, then there should be no religion in this country, nor the world in general. Religion doesn’t speak for your belief in God. It is just an institutionalized form of worship system with a set of culture, traditions, practices and what have you. It is made by human beings based on their knowledge on how to best worship God. And even that doesn’t make any religion perfect, until human beings become one. So we urge everyone to respect each other’s religion be it Christians, INC or Muslims. We simply co-exist and respect each other’s privacy, yes even if they are atheists, agnostics, Rizalistas, spiritists, among others; even they deserve our respect for the simple reason that they are human beings too. And really, their belief system or the lack thereof is their issue, not ours.
And then you see things like this in your timeline.
And we all went crazy upon seeing this. We begin to make assumptions that just like him (as influenced by the drama of the current crisis that has plagued this church today), this religion is a foul-mouthed, money-making, entitled bunch of assholes. When in reality, these types of believers do not represent even a great percentage of its flock. And to be really honest, we, Catholics and Born Again Christians alike have a good number of assholes in our midst, who like what this person represents, is also an entitled sort of uh, person. They may or may not be as foul mouthed as this person (or those that we have seen commenting and tweeting especially during times of crisis such as the onslaught of the Yolanda typhoon), but certainly we have the “holier-than-thou” hypocrites that made us want to stop going to church altogether. Some people have been so engrossed with what their religion dictates and by the power of the “scare the people tactics” we have indoctrinated ourselves to the last letter of the bible that which we follow. We have been so focused on our fears of losing the favor of God if we make a mistake that we have become soooo good (by our standards) that our God would want us in heaven right here, right now. See what’s wrong here? People have become so fixated on themselves and how they follow their religion, sect, practices, etc. that they have failed to realize that they have already become so exclusive as to alienate the people who need “saving.” Ano? Kayo lang ang saved? Kayo lang ang anak ng Diyos? Sige kayo na, kayo na ang entitled.
But are we really that good if we keep on shoving it to the faces of the fallen and the sinners that they will all burn in hell? How have we become so exclusive that we sometimes make others feel that they are not welcome in God’s kingdom? And how have we become so engrossed with our goodness that we do not make friends with people who are NOT of the same sect, religion, belief system such as ours? How have we become so boxed and that to be “yoked with unbelievers” is really a thing to be detested? How have we become this exclusive? Is it really that God’s kingdom is like a gentlemen’s club? Member’s only? And under who’s interpretation of the bible did that come from? Yours? And that is supposed to make me believe? Sa totoo lang, we don’t win souls this way. We just don’t.
As we write this piece, we can’t help but sing to Yano’s “Banal na Aso, Santong Kabayo.” And seeing all these, judgmental freaks have got is thinking. If being in heaven is to be with all of you, then we’d rather burn in hell.