To be honest, I was just going to make this a comment to Midway Haven’s latest article about spirituality in the Philippines. However, I decided to make it a full-on article because I have points to share that really need to be addressed to our society. The thing is, while I myself hold religious beliefs as a practicing Catholic, I think that a number of our practices need to change because even our religion is saturated with the many dysfunctions of our broken culture. Now, I know I’ve said a lot of this all before, but I’m bringing them up again due to the recent issues surrounding the Black Nazarene Festival.
Like I said, I’m a practicing Catholic in real life. In fact, if you actually happen to know me, it’s not that hard to assume that I’m just another one of the nuttier members of the Catholic Church. Heck, now that I think about it, maybe I actually am just another religious nut. I wouldn’t mind one bit if some of you out there see me as such. However, despite my religious insanity, I still have my limits and there are still a good number of things that I consider acceptable and unacceptable.
So, here’s what I have to say:
Our Prayers Often Amount To “Begging” And “Wishing”
Granted, this is usually just something I see on TV. However, due to the fact that it’s on TV, I can assume that a good number of our fellows out there think it’s a good example of how to pray. This is sad on so many levels as this is just another example of how our “fairy tale mindset” corrupts even the religious aspect of our society.
I have always thought of prayer as a good thing. Being a practicing Catholic, I have always been taught to pray often so that I might be able to communicate with God in some fashion. I know you non-Christians probably don’t agree but praying has it’s own practical application as it has helped me calm myself down in certain situations enough to make sound decisions.
However, the problem with the way a lot of typical Pinoys pray is that their prayers all too often amount to “begging” and “wishing”. As I was taught to pray both at home and at school, I was told to first thank the Lord for whatever blessings He had granted me, to swear my loyalty to the goodness He stands for, to ask for strength that I might be able to fulfill my duties as an instrument of His will and then I could, you know, ask for goodies. The issue here is that most Pinoys just seem to ask for goodies when they pray but refuse to work or act to bring them forth or, even when they do get them, they rarely (if ever) remember to thank the Lord for their blessings.
As I’ve said in a number of articles before, a lot of Pinoys have turned God into a fairy or genie that they can make wishes to. It never occurs to them that God doesn’t simply fulfill wishes because He expects us to do our part too. Indeed, it’s very rarely: “God give me strength so that I can do what must be done!” but: “God, please solve all of my problems for me!”
Our prayers are less about extolling the Almighty and asking for his boons that we may be able to better serve him but rather wishing that he’ll just make our problems disappear without us having to do anything about them. What’s worse is that, even when He does something to help, there are only a precious few who remember to thank Him. This idea only ties in with Benign0’s article about Pinoys always wanting to be spoon-fed.
Of course, I’ve mentioned this several times already but I can still see a lot of people who don’t seem to get it. Still they insist that idols like the Black Nazarene are “icons” and that they are merely images that we venerate the same way some of us carry the photos of our loved ones when we are far away. However, here’s the thing: Are you willing to hurt or kill someone for the photos of your loved ones? Do you treat those photos as if they really were your loved ones and talk to them regularly? Will you wipe cloth on the photos of your loved ones because you think that that cloth will carry the smell and essence of your loved ones?
If your answer to the questions above are yes, then I think you have an unhealthy obsession with your loved ones…
Anyway, what I’m saying here is that we really need to review how we define the difference between “icons” and “idols”. I mean (besides the obvious spelling), we should note that icons and iconography are merely decorative images. They’re in our churches to give us an idea of what God, angels and Heaven must be like. They were never meant to fully represent a given figure and we’re not supposed to give these images any kind of special attention asides from cleaning them when they’re dirty and sometimes not even then.
Actually, I think the Santo Nino in my room looks good when it’s dusty because that would mean it isn’t moving around on its own…
On Our Superficial Beliefs
Tying in with the “black and white insanity” of our culture, I know a lot of people who still see the Catholic Church as the go-to people when it comes to morality. Indeed, many members of the MTRCB as well as a good number of its founders are originally from the Catholic Church. The issue here is that, while they can be good, they are neither the only examples of goodness in the world nor do they have any kind of monopoly on goodness in itself.
We essentially see our religious leaders (not just in the Catholic Church, mind you) not as guides to goodness but as almost extensions of the Lord Himself. Relatively few of us ever think outside the box and fail to realize that some religious leaders are every bit as flawed, broken and fallible as the rest of us.