Get Real, Philippines

(Commenting on

True. Our country Philippines has never come out of that benign cancer called POSOSO (“Project of So-and-So”) ever since I got baptized into a +6-decade political brainwashing experience.  It has metastasized everywhere: roads, bridges, tricycle stands, rice, sardines, t-shirts, ballpens, calamity goods – you name it, they have it.
Some 120 years of American-style democracy and being the first Asian country to proudly throw off the yoke of colonialism have not overcome it. We have a social malaise of a seeming UNREQUITTED PUBLIC ATTENTION AND/OR  ACCLAMATION that needs to be assuaged perennially. No one could adequately explain it, although our thinkers have tried. Fr Jaime Bulatao, S.J., endeavoured
to explain it in sociological tems of Filipino “hiya” and “utang na loob.” Former senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani in her 1988 report concluded that  “..based on existing sociological studies..Filipinos have personal ambitions and drives for power and status that are ‘completely insensitive to the common good. Personal
and in-group interests reign supreme.'”  Even illustrious hero and social reformer Jose Rizal wrote a book about it, the ‘Noli’ (by-lined The Social Cancer) citing general obsequiousness to friar mal-rule, and paying dearly for it with his life.
But more than a century on, it has stuck out like a sore thumb. If anything, it only managed to make us something of a sick joke in international conversation down the road.  However, it did not take long for us self-deprecating Pinoys and Pinays to explain the embarrassment away to puzzled friends and foes alike: we simply invented OINPs (“Onli n da Philippines”). We now have a social foil with which to
fence against anyone (if that proves necessary).
The question then, is, “how do Filipinos get real?”, as ascertained by blogger GRP/Kate Natividad (“Get REal Philippines”) and critiqued by foreign-born Jacques Philip, who, by his own admission, finds Philippine life exciting. These are trying times, to be sure, and we Pinoys live with our wits (and some,
at their wits’ end), ending up as ten-percentum of the general population earning dollars to prop up the economy (I, and 2 of my family, were one of them).

My thesis is that we ARE ALREADY in REAL PHILIPPINES!

No amount of templating our social quirks vis-a-vis, say, the western world will get us near to their mores anymore than they to us. Cultural Filipino IS unique – for better or for worse – and we (and our friends) better get used to it (as if we hadn’t yet!). There was a mixed tinge of humour and a touch of irony in that Tagaytay funeral car serving the needs of the residents thereat, for – after all – has anyone ever asked how much a private funeral car can cost (I have) to bring the departed to the cemetery? Verily, having a public official who owns the local ‘puneraria’ is a distinct socio-political advantage, I’d say, in terms of discounts and “free rides.” And multiply these in a number of cases – medical doctors, lawyers, engineers, ‘manghihilot,’ etc – and one gets a growing sense of a network supporting the myriad needs of the local populace. For us Filipinos, it works… and it works well!
To be sure, it breeds corruption, nepotism and political dynasties. But point out to me any nation in the world that does NOT have corruption, nepotism and dynasties. Not that I condone these things, for I am still fighting it in my own way, and (hopefully) in league with others so-minded. Merely, I point out that
it is so deep-rooted in the Filipino consciousness, it will take time for a transformation to take place, perhaps for generations yet to come.

But it will come. God bless the Philippines!

The Most-Misunderstood Quote from Mahatma Gandhi about Christians

M. Gandhi Christian quote

This has got to be one of the most misunderstood quotes of the Mahatma today.

Others have said that Gandhi hated Christians because the British occupiers of his country, India, were Christians; that the British rajs abused him and others of the Hindu faith. He was a non-violence rebel advocate, yes, but he had also held deep-seated principles. hindu ethical principles. He believed that ETHICS were what shaped the ideal person, such that the person who was steadily and deliberately climbing up the LADDER OF ETHICAL LIVING was on his way to Hindu perfection. By the same token, he expressed the belief that Christians also lived and progressed on a similar ladder of Christian ethical principles.
Yet Christianity was never founded on a set of “Christian” ethical principles. A Christian does not “work” for his salvation or perfection, but because of his/her faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Works cannot save us (Eph 2:8,9), so we cannot even boast about our “works” and “accomplishments.,” our moral and ethical way of life.
In a word, we cannot – as Gandhi believed – make all of India Christian if only the British (and the rest of the Christian world) led moral and ethical lives. Human beings can never do that, for “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). There is only one person who has done that – the Sinless Son of God, Jesus.
So, I am sorry to say I have to disagree with this great Hindu teacher of human ethics.

Are Our Churches as Inclusive as Jesus?

Featured Article: “How to be Inclusive Like Jesus”

For some, the gospel narrative means Jesus came to end exclusion and preach God’s inclusive kingdom. This was certainly part of his ministry and is arguably the most appealing aspect to our culture’s moral sensibilities. In Jesus, the outcasts of society have hope. Those long marginalized and kicked to the curb (figuratively and literally) can find him extending a hand, inviting them back into the community of the truly human as objects of dignity and divine affection.

Issues of inclusion and exclusion lie at the heart of our society’s most contested social issues. Whether it’s part of the dynamics underlying the racial tensions dividing our cities or our country’s heated discourse on sexuality, we need to deal with the realities of inclusion and exclusion. This is why I recently revisited Miroslav Volf’s Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Abingdon, 1996). It’s a fascinating theological account of forgiveness, truth, justice, and exclusion. Volf’s account has a particular poignancy as it’s set in the context of the exclusionary violence that destroyed his own home in the Balkans.

Nuancing Inclusion

I was immediately struck by Volf’s nuanced treatment of Jesus’s ministry of inclusion—or rather, ministry against exclusion. According to some accounts of Jesus’s ministry of radical inclusion, he offered his invitations to all without requirements or prohibitions, except for those sinning by exclusion. Exclusion is the aboriginal sin. The gracious kingdom of God, therefore, eliminates any construction of binaries. Following Jesus means rolling back boundaries, deconstructing categories, and flattening every moral and social hill in light of our inclusive God.

According to Volf, though, it’s not that simple. While it’s true some of Jesus’s work included transgressing “social boundaries that excluded the outcasts, demonstrating that these boundaries themselves were evil, sinful, and outside of God’s will” (72), Volf writes:

It would be a mistake . . . to conclude from Jesus’s compassion toward those who transgressed social boundaries that his mission was merely to demask the mechanisms that created “sinners” by falsely ascribing sinfulness to those who were considered socially unacceptable. He was no prophet of “inclusion” . . . for whom the chief virtue was acceptance and the cardinal vice intolerance. Instead, he was a bringer of “grace,” who not only scandalously included “anyone” in the fellowship of “open commensality,” but made the “intolerant” demand of repentance and the “condescending” offer of forgiveness (Mark 1:15; 2:15–17). The mission of Jesus consisted not simply of renaming the behavior that was falsely labeled “sinful” but also in remaking the people who have actually sinned and suffered distortion. The double strategy of renaming and remaking, rooted in the commitment to both the outcast and the sinner, to the victim and the perpetrator, is the proper background against which an adequate notion of sin as exclusion can emerge. (72–73)

Grasping this duality of renaming and remaking is vital if we’re going to follow Jesus well and think rightly about what being an inclusive church really means. So what does Volf say about these two components of Jesus’s ministry?


First, he tackles the issue of renaming. When Jesus declares all foods clean (Mark 7:14–23), or heals the bleeding woman (Mark 5:25–34), or teaches the inclusion of Gentiles into the kingdom, he ends boundaries that place people in categories of clean and unclean: “By the simple act of renaming, Jesus offset the stark binary logic that regulates so much of social life: society is divided into X (superior in-group) and non-X (inferior out-group)” (73). Jesus upsets a false system of exclusion—one that divided people he was equalizing and bringing into the mutual community of the clean.

Something’s missing from Volf’s analysis, though: the dual dimension in which Jesus’s work of renaming functions. His renaming often works at the simultaneous level of correction and covenantal dispensation. Jesus aimed some of his acts of renaming at correcting distortions within the rabbinic and pharisaic halakhah, which aggravated the exclusivism inherent in the ceremonial law of Torah. (This type of exclusivism inevitably continues to happen in almost every church situation.) But other acts of renaming declared clean what was ritually unclean under the old covenant. Previous distinctions (Jew and Greek, kosher, and so on) had served their purpose in pointing to Christ and were now over in the new covenant age. Jesus renames the distinctions as covenantally irrelevant (Acts 10:5).


What about the issue of remaking? “In addition to removing the label ‘unclean’ placed on the things that were clean,” Volf observes, “Jesus made clean things out of truly unclean things” (73). Jesus casted out unclean, sinful, tormenting spirits that held people captive and caused behaviors that excluded them from community (Mark 5:1–20). But he also dealt with “people caught in the snares of wrongdoing”:

People who, like tax-collectors, harm others in order to benefit themselves; people who, like prostitutes, debase themselves in order to prosper or just survive; people who, like most of us, are bend on losing their own souls in order to gain a bit of the world—such people were forgiven and transformed. (73)

In other words, Jesus ended their exclusion with a grace that acknowledged a self-excluding condition, habit, disposition, or behavior that needed regeneration and forgiveness. Indeed, forgiveness is an including act that inherently contains an act of condemnation. But Jesus doesn’t just simply rename evil as good or indifferent—he tackles it head-on by destroying its roots in the human heart.

This is the more fundamental dimension of Jesus’s ministry of inclusion. Many suffer from regimes of unjust exclusion on the basis of gender, socio-economics, race, or stigma attached to a mental disorder. Therefore, we should praise God that Jesus offers hope and commands us to proclaim that social divisions are obliterated in Christ (Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor. 11). But not everyone was—or is now—in a situation needing to be renamed. That said, we all fall short of the glory of God and exclude ourselves from communion with God (Rom. 3:23; 6:23), and so we all need Jesus to remake—reconcile—us through the power of his blood. Everyone—rich and poor, black and white, male and female, Jew and Gentile—needs Christ’s ministry of remaking in their lives. Indeed, one of the main ways Jesus and the apostles undermined systems of exclusion built on false social categorizations was through a shared new name that signaled a shared new heart. Christians move from being together “in Adam” together to being together “in Christ.”

Two Kinds of Inclusion

I fear a failure to appreciate or apply the distinction between renaming and remaking in the church’s call to practice inclusion lies at the heart of so many of our hottest disputes. The dispute on human sexuality is burning particularly hot right now.

Progressives too often paint it as a debate between those who truly understand Jesus’s radical message of inclusion and those want to hold onto the old, exclusionary binaries of the Pharisees and Judaizers. We get to pick between being those who want to exclude and those who want to include—and how fun is it to play Jesus versus the Pharisees, right? Volf’s categories, however, show a more appropriate question: what is the method of inclusion that applies in this situation? While progressives see a situation of renaming akin to the Gentiles, the church has traditionally seen a situation of remaking (which, connected to sexuality, needs careful parsing—don’t read certain psychological programs into my use of the term). Still, according to the historic position, renaming would mean calling evil good.

This is where the irony enters. Traditionalists are often accused of being gatekeepers trying to keep people out of God’s kingdom. But if they are right—if treating sexual behavior like one of those outmoded sinful categories is a mistake—then ultimately the danger is that people won’t be called to repent from the kinds of behaviors that Christ and his apostles say lead to self-exclusion from the kingdom of God. It’s precisely the traditionalists’ desire to include people in the kingdom that drives their opposition to the wrong sort of inclusion. It’s precisely because they hate the idea of seeing anyone excluded from the kingdom of God that they insist we not offer inclusion on false premises.

One Way

In the end, it’s like two locals telling a visitor how to get into a building. One tells the visitor he must go through the main gate, while the other says to go through an easier side door. The latter fears the main gate is too far away and too hard to enter. Initially, this local appears to make it easier for the visitor to get in, while the other seems to impose a harsher standard—until you find out there’s no side door.

While the easier instruction is well intended, it’s sadly just another way of keeping the visitor out.


By Derek Rishmawy. Derek  is the director of college and young adult ministries at Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Orange County, California, where he wrangles college kids for the gospel. He got his BA in philosophy at the University of California, Irvine, and his MA in theological studies at Azusa Pacific University.


The Power of a Purpose

“The Power of a Purpose”
Text: “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:34, NLT
A story is told about two women of the same age both with a serious identical sickness who were admitted to a hospital at the same time. The first woman complained a lot about her maladies and stayed hospitalized for a year. The other woman, on the other hand, stayed optimistic on her recovery so that in 10 day she was discharged and was able to take care of her two pre-school children once again. The difference between the long recovery of the first and the quick recovery of the other was explained by the fact that the first woman – though married – had no children; while the second woman –a young mother – had a definite sense of commitment: to take care of her young children as soon as she recovered. She realized that she had a PURPOSE to get well: so that she could go back to her children as soon as possible, because she was needed by them. The other woman, with no children to take care of, lacked this sense of urgency. She lacked a purpose.

Purpose.Urgency. Commitment. Leads to Power.

When one has a sense of purpose like the young mother in our example above, we often feel a sense of urgency – to do something; to embark on a mission; to commit to a goal. And for a Christian, committing oneself to a goal could mean seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness (Matt. 6:34). This would be his or her prime purpose in life. Perhaps, however, only a few Christians realize that there is POWER in having this sense of purpose. In fact, four(4) types of powers are embedded here. They are:

1. A sense of purpose gives us the POWER TO SEE PROBLEMS AS OPPORTUNITIES.

2. A sense of purpose allows us the POWER TO RISE ABOVE THE FEAR OF CRITICISM.

3. A sense of purpose grants us the POWER to see the ordinary, common, mundane things as SACRED; and, finally

4. A sense of purpose lets us have the POWER to live life MEANINGFULLY.

The Power to See Problems as Opportunities.

The prophet Nehemiah occupied a position that would now be known as a Royal Confidant and close-in security (CIS) to Artaxerxes, king of Persia and Babylon. At the time when the favorite method of assassinating kings was food poisoning, Nehemiah took the job of royal cup-bearer – with all its attendant risks and privileges. Hearing that the walls and gates of Jerusalem – the city of his ancestors – had been destroyed and that it was defenseless against attacks, he was so distressed he prayed for 4 months for a miracle to happen. By then, the king noticed his sad demeanour, and it terrified him because people in court are not supposed to appear unhappy in the presence of the king –otherwise, they will be put to death! But God was with him in his prayers, and after carefully explaining everything, the king granted him permission to go to Jerusalem on a special royal assignment: rebuild Jerusalem’s walls- exactly what he was praying for!

Nehemiah had a deep sense of purpose even while on exile in a foreign land: to begin the reconstruction of Jerusalem, the city of God. He saw the problem as an opportunity, and took advantage of it when the time came. We Christians can do the same with our everyday problems: exploit and turn them into opportunities.

The Power to Rise Above Criticism.

Nehemiah’s task was no walk in the park, despite being employed in the royal household. After 140 yrs. when the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar first plundered Jerusalem and exiled its inhabitants in 587 BC, the city had become a wasteland and the cut stones of its walls cannibalized by surrounding pagan tribes. The few remaining Jews living inside had reasons to be fearful they would be attacked anytime. This surviving Jewish remnant was in real danger of being wiped out.
However, Nehemiah had that deep sense purpose: rebuild Jerusalem at any cost and save the Jews. Despite the threats of violence from the Horites, Amorites and Arabs (descendants of Isaac from his son, Ismael ), Nehemiah boldly rallied the remaining Jews there to rebuild the protecting walls 24 hours a day, seven days a week without letup – not even for a change of clothing! The danger of hostile attack was so great that he had the resident-laborers armed with swords and spears while they worked: holding their weapons in one hand while working w/ the other hand. His enemies also threatened to report him to the king 1,400 kms. away, for rebellion, but Nehemiah chose to rise above this fear. “The God of heaven will help us succeed. We, his servants, will start rebuilding this walls.” (Neh. 2:19,20). In the end, Nehemiah and the Jews completed the rebuilding of the walls in the RECORD TIME OF 52 DAYS!
The feared attack from his enemies never came; instead they were filled with fear and humiliation: God had defeated them!

Nehemiah’s deep sense of Godly purpose enabled him to overcome any and all obstacles – even threats of violence and death. Can Christians today still have the same resolve as Nehemiah’s?

Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States and Great Emancipator, was severely criticized for his actions in going to war against fellow-Americans on the divisive issue of slavery. He once said: “I do what is right. But even if I do what I think is right, and it is wrong, NOT EVEN TEN ANGELS SWEARING FOR ME WILL MAKE IT RIGHT!”

(to be continued, Part II)