Politics and Religion: Can They Mix?

 Politics and Religion: Can They Mix?*
By Marlon B. Raquel

The issue of politics and religion began to flame recently when religious leaders from different religious organizations such as Bro. Eddie Villanueva of Jesus Is Lord Church, Bro. Mike Velarde of El Shaddai Movement, and the priest-turned-politician Pampanga Gov. Among Ed entered the realm of politics or at least influence their followers in making political decisions. Some say that they should continue their calling as men of God and stop joining the bureacracy. Others argue that these people have the moral responsibility before God and the people and thus there's nothing wrong seeing them actively participating in the political processes.

The word 'politics' is almost synonymous for words like government, officials, Malacanang and the like. It its broader sense, it encompasses all the government officials, the bureaucracy, the processes within the bureaucracy, and theories associated with concepts such as elections, laws, and public consultations. Filipinos are not ignorant of these things. Some Filipinos have negative connotations about politics. Marumi ang pulitika. Pare-pareho lang sila, mga kurakot! You can hear these statements from the people who are disgusted with how our government works. Others are a bit positive. They say that there is still hope for the Philippines, that we are destined to have a glorious future.

Religion, on the other hand, is considered to be a separate and distinct entity from politics for most of us. In fact, our Constitution specifically states that there should be a separation of the church and state. One cannot argue that religion plays a vital role in Philippine history. Long before the Spaniards came to introduce Christianity in the islands (or shall I say to colonize the islands, siphon all our natural resources and make the natives slaves while Christianizing us), the Filipinos have had a system of beliefs about something or someone that was spiritual in nature and that their lives were being affected by it. The belief of anitos and supernatural creatures was a testimony that the natives were religious. These creatures, whom they considered as gods, served as the guide for the datus in leading their respective community thousands of years ago. But the Spaniards saw this stuff as paganistic, so they did all their efforts to wipe out this system of beliefs and introduced Christ as the ultimate and real God. The colonizers were successful. After few centuries, the Philippines became the first and the only Christian nation in the whole Asia. One thing though that we need to take note here: for the benefit of Christians who separated from the authority of the papacy, I could say that the Philippines is the first and the only Roman Catholic nation in Asia. With the introduction of Christianity, the colonizers introduced Roman Catholicism in the country. Not until the United States of America entered the Philippine Islands when Protestantism was introduced and embraced by some Filipinos. To date, almost 85% of Filipinos are Roman Catholics and the remaining 15% are Protestants and adherents of other religions.

Now the question is, can politics and religion be mixed? With the doctrine of separation of the church and state enshrined in our Constitution, the highest law of the land, political analysts argue that they could not be mixed. But what basically this doctrine means? When can we say that there is a union of the church and state and when can we say that there is a separation between the two entities? And why create such doctrine in the first place? During the Spanish colonization, it was the Spanish priests or friars who oversaw the administration of the Kingdom of Spain in the Philippines together with the governal-general appointed by the King of Spain. Being so religious, the Filipinos willingly submitted to the will of these Spanish friars. Disobey their rules and you will go to hell, that's what they say. Those who governed the local communities have the blessings from the friars. Most of the time it was the will of the priests that was followed than the local leaders. Because of the vast powers of Spanish friars, they have abused their authority.

The concept of the doctrine of separation of the church and state, based on my understanding, is that any religion whether the Roman Catholic Church or a Protestant church, should not interfere with the affairs of the state. They should not be part of any legislative functions. It is not the duty of the church to create laws for the people to follow. Leave it to our senators and congressmen. But we cannot deny the fact that it is the moral responsibility of the church to guard the morality of her people. Here comes the church now - lobbying against certain bills or for their approval. One example is the Reproductive Health Bill endorsed by Rep. Edcel Lagman and other members of the House of Representatives. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, the organization of Roman Catholic bishops in the country, strongly condemns the passage of the bill. Accoding to CBCP, this bill is against humanity and against the right to life. You will notice that many priests would usually include their disapproval of the bill in their Sunday homilies to persuade their parishioners not to support the bill. On the other hand, the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC), the largest network of evangelical churches in the country, issued an official statement of approval of reproductive health bill as long as its provisions do not violate the right to life. Can we call this an interference to the affairs of the state?

Our country is a secular state. We don't have a state religion. One is free to choose any religion he wants to belong. The state cannot dictate any individual. If you take a look at the old history of Israel, this Middle Eastern nation has a theocratic style of leadership. Theocracy is simply a government ruled by God. There was no virtually separation of the church and state that time. Whatever God told the kings through their prophets they would follow it. In our modern world today, there are theocratic governments. One example is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Islamic laws are being implemented. Any law created by the lawmakers that is not according to Q'uran is being abolished. It should always conform to the standards of Islamic teachings.

Is it politically right then for Bro. Eddie to run for a public office even if he is the Spiritual Director of one of the biggest evangelical churches in the Philippines and he himself is a pastor? Yes, just like when Among Ed, a priest from Pampanga, run for the gubernatorial seat in the province. There's nothing wrong if a priest, a pastor, or an imam run for political office. The same Constitution lists the qualifications of a presidential candidate: 1) A Filipino citizen; 2) Able to read and write; 3) At least 40 years old on the day of the election; 4) A registered voter; and 4) Residing in the Philippines at least 10 years prior to the election day. Nowhere in the 1987 Philippine Constitution that says a church minister is prohibited from running. In fact, I know one member of our Congress today who is also a Baptist pastor - Rep. Abante of Manila. Why should we not support a man of God from leading the country? Bro. Eddie is a former activist, the longest member of the Board of Regents - the highest policy-making body of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines where he served also as a professor, an economist by profession, holder of six doctoral degrees, a multi-awarded pastor recognized here in the Philippines and abroad, owner of ZOE TV Network which airs programs in QTV and GMA7, and a broadcaster. Leading a church which has 6 million members worldwide proves that he has excellent management skills. They say we should choose the lesser evil. Why settle for the lesser evil if there's the person who is not evil at all? No wonder why celebrities like Piolo Pascual, Kuh Ledesma, Cooney Reyes, and others publicly support him. I think Bro. Eddie deserves a chance. As long as he does not impose his doctrines to other people especially the Roman Catholics, he has my vote.

* Written January 27, 2010 at 2:00PM MNL
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...