We fail in ‘code’
Most belief systems have three components: creed, cult, code—what to believe, how to worship, how to live. We’re swimming in creed, we’re drowning in cult, we’re roaming the desert in code.
Our dogmatism on creed is legend. Withering are the countless “thou shalt, thou shalt not” from a dress code to eternal destiny. Withering, too, is the inflexible and superior attitude of those “absolutely certain.” I have said my piece on dogmatism in “The same yesterday, today and forever” (Opinion, 1/24/12).
As for cult I have also done so in “We are cultic up to Santa” (Opinion, 11/20/11). Far from being a lean religion, ours is lush with a kaleidoscopic folk religiosity beguiling us without end. There is no denying, however, that cult can be the cradle of Faith that cannot be explained. But cult has also been the fuel of fanaticism that can be explained.
That said, what did Jesus really set out to do—to “found” a Church marked by a fixed array of rules and teachings, or to spread a new way of living: just, honest, simple, kind, peaceful? We continue to preach the creed in earnest; we continue to succeed stunningly on cult, which is used, fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it), as the main drawing power of the Church.
Sadly, we fail in code. Why is there such a contrast between the fervor with which we believe and worship on one hand, and how poorly we behave on the other?
Have you heard “the dog story”? It goes like this: “He visits the doctor … if any medical needs arise. For this he pays nothing …. He lives in a nice neighborhood in a house much larger than he needs …. If he makes a mess, someone else cleans up …. He is living like a king and has absolutely no expenses …. All of his costs are picked up by others who earn a living …. Suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks: ‘My dog is a CONGRESSMAN!’”
Apart from shining exceptions, politicians as a whole are the most greedy, dishonest, fork-tongued, indecently powerful people. It’s among them that plunderers can be instantly absolved, all set for amazing comebacks in Congress or some other post. It’s among them where vehement protestations (read: lies) of innocence practically translate to “I’m not corrupt, I’m Catholic, for Christ’s sake!” It’s in this Catholic country without divorce, the one and only along with the Vatican, that has presidential womanizers and a Speaker openly bragging, “Aren’t we all?” It’s this country that makes it to the honor roll of the “most corrupt president” or “the most corrupt country.” Close to another “most” is the fan-club applause for a vulgar, bragging presidential tongue.
Failures in conduct cross economic classes from A to E. A lady back from a saint’s canonization ignores paying damage on a rented apartment. Another lady rejects our order of photos-on-plates with the Guilin mountains as background because they didn’t come out nice. Thankfully, the tour group overrules her. Poor tourist guide is stuck with “plates” nobody else would be interested in. Back home the lady is an organizer of a prayer chain of 2,000 Hail Mary’s. Some maids go to Baclaran, drivers carry the Nazarene, yet they go AWOL, debts forgotten and jewels stolen. Some employers “give to the Church” but hold, or delay, the salary of house help. If for such behavior, poverty is the excuse of D and E, what is the excuse of A and B?
What happened to the catechism in our heads since Grade One, to the commandments that we memorized? Where is the upright life that was to flow from all that believing and all that praying? And what happened to the moral theology of nuns and priests who, I’m told, are pro-Duterte and therefore OK with EJK, too?
“What kind of Christianity are we living?” Fr. Ruben Tanseco, SJ, once asked. “Split-level Christianity” is what the late Fr. Jaime Bulatao, SJ, called it: one level for beliefs and thought, the other for action and behavior. Like the Scribes and Pharisees, “they preach but they do not practice” (Matt 23:3). What’s worse is zero guilt or just a tinge that accompanies split-leveling. Was it SOP for the two “professional pietists” and for the day workers and their employers?
Pope Francis has a harsher label for this: “the double life.”
Asuncion David Maramba is a retired professor, book editor, and occasional journalist.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.