Saturday, April 24, 2010

Why I Choose Bro. Eddie Villanueva to Be Our Next President

Superman was once a boy, too. He grew up eventually and dealt with all kinds of grown-up evil in this world. Running for president is similar to that. It is playing the big-time hero in a big-boys’ game. The rules change from simple to complex, from fair to crooked and from child-like to devious. Well, that sounds almost like high-school capers or college frat-life.

Who said the world has truly grown up? Politics, in general, can be as dirty as a baby’s diaper in the morning. But it can also be as clean as, well, the heart of, ah…, Clark Kent? I’ve been a fan of Superman since childhood. But, we have to deal with the coming elections as mature people, no matter how unheroic and, well, childish sometimes our candidates may seem. For even kids need to be serious for once in their short lifetime. How then do we separate the grain from the chaff, the substance from the media hoopla in this election campaign? How do we help the still undecided millions to choose the best “bet” for their future?

I made quite a long and winded pitch in four previous articles entitled “The Heart and the Spirit of a Nation”, hoping to provide voters with a deeper view of our national ills and the appropriate prescription for them. Yet, it seems the ordinary voter only wishes to see the shallow waters or even the debris or scum floating on the water surface and making do with removing only that part of the pollution that is visible. For them, the only – and simplistic -- answer to such a perceived problem is a public servant who carries a net that will scoop up all that dirt. But what about the dregs underneath, the black soot and the blood-stains that make the waters murky and stinky? Is there a human force strong enough to reverse the trend to our own social, political and spiritual decay? None. As in Noah’s days, only God can save us from ourselves. The lesson remains true today.

Given the problem and the required solution, who should we choose to be president? Is it Noynoy? Or Villar? Gibo? Or someone else?

Obama based his candidacy on the idea of change. Correction! Everyone uses the word as the magic spell to charm votes out of people. Change is a good thing. We all need change for a change. Just how we should attain it is the big question.

At the very least, we must make the initial step of producing change by following the steps of those who have, by their committed lives, pursued change and now show us the way to a greater and unified change for all. Such kind of leadership is the only one we need and must trust and follow for our own good. Christ led the way to such leadership – for He is the Way -- and there is no other. He is the real and mature hero-leader we need – not Superman or any Super-politician. What we direly need is someone who can inspire us all to follow the Way and His ways to bring about genuine change in our nation.

Who then among our candidates is worthy of the title: Genuine-Change Agent? One who – like every worthy Christian -- has gone through a personal transformation and triumphed in life’s essential battles: search for self-identity, accepting one’s destiny and achieving one’s eternal purpose. Anything less than these make us mere humans and not children of the Divine Nature.

From being an atheist to a believer, from an ideologist to a preacher of God’s righteousness and from an evangelist to a crusader for good governance, Bro. Eddie Villanueva, fits the bill for the president WE ALL need. No, make that: for the president that God wants us to have. Now, that may be too presumptuous – reading God’s mind for 94 million Filipinos.

Well, if Apostle Paul could claim that he and the early Christians “had the mind of Christ”, how hard is it for modern Christians to achieve the same thing? “All authority” had been to Christ by the Father in Heaven. To have the mind of Christ, therefore, means to be channels of Christ’s authority here on Earth. How Christians live is the picture of Divine Power – through the indwelling Holy Spirit – moving and giving them the ability to live pure and righteous lives. God’s kingdom must live in the hearts of humans before it can eventually transform human governments and societies.

No one else among the candidates has that clear vision in his heart and spirit that Bro. Eddie bears. We may not perceive him to be the image of the dashing and suave Clark Kent we dream to have as our hero in the Palace, but he has the willingness to provide us the unifying goal that we must achieve as a nation of God. The opportunity given to our nation to attain God’s plan is clearly shown in this one man’s desire to bridge the gap between political and spiritual administration. If we, because of our myopic or biased minds, fail to appreciate this divine plan, then we miss our chance to save as many people as possible from further suffering and even destruction in the gathering storms ahead.

To be sure, it will not be the president alone who will do all the work of changing our society. He will only fail just as Moses failed because of the unbelief of the Israelites. But like Joshua, Bro. Eddie can be our leader to lead us to our own Promised Land if we, by faith, uphold his leadership on our individual shoulders. The leader who leads with righteousness cannot bear the gargantuan weight of national government if the people will not bear their own share of the load through living righteous lives themselves.

Corruption in government can stop – and it will – if we vow to allow God to work in our lives even now, before we go to the polls to cast our vote. Today, let as choose to let God guide our steps to His life-giving and glorious presence. For no unclean soul can appear before the great God of Heaven. As a nation, we cannot hope to cleanse the evil in our land if we do not begin the necessary step given to us by God Himself toward healing our land.

Do we wait then to vote before God begins to heal our land? Or do we ask for His healing now before we make the decision to submit to His way of healing our nation? The answer is simple: Embrace change now! Voting will not solve our problems. The presidential elections will not solve our problems. God holds all the answers to our problems. Choosing the right leader – or, more precisely, choosing God’s righteous leader for our country – is the best step we can take to begin the renewal of our nation.

Bro. Eddie Villanueva is our God-given opportunity for a renewed and greater Philippines of the future. That is why I choose him to be our next president.

(Painting above: "Christ Healing the Blind Man" by Spanish painter El Greco.)
(Drawing above: Superman using x-ray vision.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Heart and the Spirit of a Nation (Part 4)

We should now inspect the palpable, gaping holes in the fabric of our society that weaken it. Often, we easily attribute this condition to the political mismanagement of our country. Wrong! As we have been saying, the problem is much deeper and goes right into the core of our hearts and of our spirits.

The root of our present multifarious problems goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when Satan led our first parents to follow his ways through subtle and devious ways. Much of what we see then in government, politics, religion, business and media are shot full of holes -- holes of empty lies. That is another way of saying this world is controlled by the forces of darkness led by the “Father of All Lies”. For the best and most effective tool used to keep and control unwary people under one’s power is that age-old trick called LIES or FALSEHOOD.

Who among the present candidates tell the truth? Who speak blatant lies and half-truths? Who took bribes and deny it? Who used their positions to favour their family’s businesses? Who served as public servants and were not true to their vow to serve the masses? Who makes promises now with the silent intention to break them or go beyond their lawful duties?

If we could only answer these correctly, we would all be voting for the most truthful or genuinely servant-hearted of all candidates, if there is one. But precisely, the reason we are all in a big mess is because we cannot differentiate between lies and truth and even lie to ourselves and to others very often. Election campaign period, no doubt, is that time when lies flood our lives with the vengeance of ten Ondoy floods.

Lies come from our evil minds. Traditional politics is basically that which utilizes deception of the masses as the main tool for acquiring power. Hitler was a master of this technique. It makes it difficult then for majority of people to make an objective decision when lies and accusations of lying are thrown around during election campaign periods. We end up choosing whom we perceive to be the least evil or the least liar among the possible choices.

But is it the case in the present electoral contest? Are we up against a gallery of evil-minded manipulators who hold no punches in trying to put down their opponents through dirty tactics? We obviously see this happening as we come close to Election Day and will probably see more dirt flying. Is this the only way we can conduct a campaign or is there something we, individually and as a nation, can do to address the real issues at hand?

I submit that our country – like any sick person -- is basically ill as it has not achieved its full potential and status as a free nation. By what particular standards do I say that this is a fact? By social, economic, political and moral standards which would take so much space to discuss. Even if we assumed we were completely healthy in the first two (although in reality, we are socially and economically challenged), we would still be only half healthy when we take into account the political and moral malaise that besets our nation.

This pervading illness is a result of the basic immoral or evil administration of our nation by people under the control of dark spiritual forces. Psychologist M. Scott Peck defines “evil” as “the exercise of political power – that is, the imposition of one’s will upon others by overt or covert coercion – in order to avoid...spiritual growth.”* Politics then can be seen as a mere extension of the cosmic battle waged by evil forces against God’s sovereignty in order to subvert His will on Earth. That is, people – by their prideful use of their free will – commit acts that violate the laws of God and of society. Nowhere is this more true than in governance. In the face of such a chaotic reality, choosing a worthy leader would help jumpstart our journey to genuine recovery.

In the previous articles, we emphasized the idea that our country has a higher spiritual role to play than what most of our candidates would want us to be aware of. True, our many domestic problems demand immediate attention – health, education, infrastructure, transparency, corruption, etc. What we might be missing in our desire to solve these real problems is the question of why we must attain national development at all. Why deal with these problems in order to attain social, political and economic stability at all? Is it simply so we can say we are a bona fide member of the elite club of progressive nations? That we have what it takes to be at par with the community of world-class states?

It seems to be a given desire among many of us that in choosing a leader, we want one who will uplift us from our economic troubles and to represent us effectively in the global community. But is our country a mere part of Asia or of Asia-Pacific? Are we but a nation among hundreds which make up this Earth? Or do we have a greater role to play in the continuing historic and cosmic plan made by our Creator from the beginning?

But are giving too much importance to this plain and simple electoral exercise? Do we really care who will win as long as we have a government that will continue to allow us to live and work in peace and quiet? Are we then satisfied to live the way we have for the past decade or so? No, the essential question is: Will we allow our conscience to bequeath to our children a nation that has remained unproductive and undisciplined and just leave it up to them to unravel the whole mess for themselves?

If politicians, in general, cannot be honest with us, we must, at least, be honest with ourselves. We have a chance to begin rebuilding our nation and our lives. The heart and the spirit of the people of this nation desire a better government established according to God’s plan and run by people who submit to His laws.

We cannot possibly go through all the things that God requires from a “poor and mismanaged” country like ours. Common sense simply tells us that we remain bound by the chains of darkness, ignorance and corruption, no matter how much progress or development we might have attained so far. In the end, moral or spiritual health determines the real condition of an individual or of a nation.

What is happening in Thailand, for instance, speaks volumes of the real condition of the heart and spirit of that nation. Civil strife and violence that arise from a divided nation tell us that evil reigns in the hearts of many of its citizens and manifests itself as hatred, criminality, greed, murder and rage. An election conducted under a military junta (reminiscent of our pre-EDSA snap election under Marcos’ regime), tends to encourage people to commit evil or immoral deeds in the name of nationalism, self-preservation, military discipline and even political righteousness. We thank God that in 1986, all those things found a way to be resolved peacefully. But what if they arise again and come to a fiery clash this time? Would that be the time we realize that God has departed from us and will finally forsake us to do our worst?

God forbid!

As it is, we – a nation of faithful believers, albeit so religiously and politically divided -- have been given the road map through the “valley of death”. God speaks to us more clearly now through those who declare His eternal plan. King David trusted in his Shepherd’s mighty staff to drive away the many enemies that surrounded him. The mighty hand of God stretches toward us now, waiting for us to willingly reach out so He can lift us up from the swirling currents that seek to drown us into oblivion. We can be as direct, plain and obvious as we want to be in declaring God’s plan for our nation today. But our hearts and our spirits – humbled before the Spirit of God -- can discern clearly what He wants us to do for ourselves, for our families and for our nation.

In May, vote for God’s rule of righteousness.

* M. Scott Peck, People of the Lie (Simon and Shuster, NY, 1983).

(Photo above: Sculpture in Baguio City depicts an Ibaloi traditional dance which for thousands of years expressed our joy in the bounties of Nature up in the Cordillera mountains. Today, however, many of our youth wiggle to the tune and rhythm of decadent and immoral songs in many villages.)

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Heart and the Spirit of a Nation (Part 3)

Can we separate the heart from the spirit and expect a human to live at all? Can we separate faith from politics and expect a nation to live a healthy existence?

Can we mix faith and politics then? Is there a realistic basis for the so-called separation of religion and government? If politics, ideally, is the pursuit of justice and emancipation of people from poverty, corruption and exploitation, then what is there left for religion to accomplish? If religion indeed concerns itself only with the ultimate destiny of humans in eternal terms and not the present issues of physical existence, then it is religion or faith that has missed its primary mission to serve as the channel for God’s love and grace.

That you may have life and have it more abundantly” does not only refer to a future spiritual reality but a direct reference to the bounties of Paradise that once existed on this Earth and which we can have partial access to in the present. No, Christ did not come to re-establish Paradise on Earth but in the hearts of humans. For if people realize now that such a wonderful place does exist, then the burdens of this present corrupted world would seem like a passing inconvenience and they would have assurance of eternal redemption far beyond the pleasures of Eden.

Why did the early Christians sing and rejoice in the face of sure death amongst the lions in Rome? Why do they still carry that hope through the many heartbreaking struggles they go through in life in small and great ways in various cultural environments today? Whether we talk of believers in Costa Rica, South Africa, China, El Salvador or the Philippines, we refer to that common seed of spirituality that sprouted from the work that the Lord Jesus began through the Apostles and continues to bear fruit today in the lives of millions of believers.

What the so-called Christian Right in the US refer to as “confronting the culture” is nothing more than living one’s faith within the context of one’s unique social, cultural and political environment. A Chinese Christian must face the same temptations of the flesh as a Serbian believer or a Maori disciple. Issues of pride, greed, hatred, envy, lust and indifference beset both believer and non-believer anywhere in this world. The same motives that lead a president to receive big bribes work upon a lowly clerk who is offered a much smaller bribe. There is no political and religious delineation in giving in to one’s weaknesses. A sin has no political or religious color; it is all black to God. Failure to obey the Constitution is no different from failure to follow the accepted rules of society. The punishments may differ in degree and impact, but the root source and ultimate result remain the same: the passions of the human heart and spirit, that is, and how they affect our eternal condition before the God in Heaven.

If we surrender any government’s responsibility of being ultimately answerable to God, then it would be easy to put up walls of separation between it and God’s requirements in spiritual matters. Many, in fact, have used the doctrine of separation of church and state as an excuse for abusing political power. Furthermore, such a perceived separation has, in fact, resulted in establishing artificial legal constraints or social taboos against those who call themselves pastors or priests from going into politics. No, in reality, it is those pompous titles that some of God’s followers have unwisely chosen to embrace that have prevented them from entering freely into the arena where they may uphold the rights of the people. Isn’t the kingdom of God nothing but the rule or the governance of God over those who choose to trust in Him? His kingdom applies to living souls, in the body or outside of it.

Well, some may ask: Didn’t the Lord Jesus say that His kingdom is not of this world? Of course, that is because He ruled over angels as well but chose not to call them to save Himself from the cross. But did He not give the Apostles power to overcome evil spirits as well as to judge believers in the physical realm? Wasn’t that in itself ruling over the lives of believers as God’s ministers? Did not and does not Christian discipleship prepare believers to become diligent and law-abiding citizens of this world? A believer then who serves as a president or a mayor for God is no more special or different from one who serves as a waiter or a doctor for God. A person then, whether he works as a teacher of the Gospel full-time or one-day-in-a-week, has all the right and the freedom to desire a position in the political administration of a nation.

Was David a righteous person first before he became king of Israel or did he become a king whose righteousness blossomed because his position required it more of him as a leader of a nation? Or, perhaps, his being king was immaterial in relation to his being a “man after God’s own heart”? He was, in truth, a great sinner like most of us. And that is the big reason that not many look at him as a saint or a holy and faithful preacher of God’s righteousness. But show me a person who has written as many songs of poignant and deeply sincere praise and intercession to God and I will show you a person who is a better teacher and servant of God than David. Here was a man who knew God as much as he knew himself and other humans as if he had taken all the basic courses in Anthropology, Psychology, Musicology, Poetry, Military Science and Human Relations that all modern colleges could offer. (But some might argue that David had rebellious children. So does God!)

So, how did David do it? By the Spirit of God.

Under David’s rule, there was no separation of faith and governance. Of “church” and of “state”. There is one God and there is only one kingdom worth living in and working for. The Son of David came to establish that kingdom in the hearts of people by offering the Spirit of God as a gift to those who follow Him. David, as king, had the Spirit of God. Every believer may also receive the same gift of the indwelling Spirit.

Today, Christ desires that we all come under His authority for He has been given all authority on Earth and in Heaven. Politics, at best, is a very poor imitation of the spiritual and legal administration established by Moses over the Israelite nation which reached its military and political glory during the reign of David, bloody though it was. (Solomon’s reign was a peaceful hiatus which showcased the ceremonial or symbolic aspect of Judaism through the building of the temple; but David’s rule was the climax, Solomon’s the slow downfall into idolatry that would result in the nation’s division.) The only viable pattern that could usher in a return to moral, legal, political, social and spiritual rebirth of our country is one that follows the Israelites’ experience as God’s chosen people.

Today, Christians are a chosen nation and royal priesthood of God administering His spiritual laws, not just as they are applied in the family or the smallest village that exists, but also in the largest and most complex nation-states that rule today. The reason nations rattle the weapons of war or ravage other nations through war is because humans, like David perhaps, want to defend their beliefs or their way of life. The difficult task of uniting people and allowing them to live in peace, however, belongs to God alone. If He allows nations to go to war, it is because He wants to show us how much we must all work together -- under His power, not ours -- in order to attain what He desires for us. He cannot give us something we ourselves do not want so badly. He could not give Noah a new and cleansed world without destroying everything that stood in the way to that objective. If it takes wars to cleanse the world of so much hatred and so much cruelty, God must be willing to do it if we are as equally hard-hearted as the people of Noah’s time. War or civil war is the worst consequence in our failure to follow God’s leading through a peaceful spiritual revolution.

But we are dealing with something less traumatic: the coming presidential elections (although in the Philippines that may not necessarily be the case). Every big political event in our country is a big deal. As big as the next fiesta or social extravaganza the cities or the media can concoct. In many cases, we cannot separate elections, fiestas and extravaganzas from one another. They are all one and the same.

We all feel the need to have fun even in the serious task of governing a nation. A song or a dance is a necessary part of our rituals in nation-building. But then, we easily get caught in petty “cultural wars” that distract us from the greater tasks ahead. (Like getting constantly hyped over how the National Anthem is sung during Pacquiao’s bouts.) And yet, for many, this coming electoral exercise is a more complex one as it magnifies the religious conflicts among us which we have brought along into the political arena. As if politics were not confusing enough.

It is then in the light of clarifying the air that I have come out with this series of articles. The main objective is to allow every voter or even non-voter to get to know himself or herself, her country’s history and how we may compare to those countries which had similar struggles. We will always be a unique country with unique challenges; but, in the end, as humans we have a common calling and destiny with all other nations under God’s rule. To truly understand what we are and where we are, we can only see our lot through the perspective that God allows us to see through His written word, the Bible. After all, this holy book contains the history and the great lessons that many strong and stable nations applied to reach progress and stability. To miss that point and opportunity is to be blind to the teachings of our own National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, who used the Bible as the prime source for his noble writings. Hence, in his final novel, we see spiritual regeneration as his prescribed ultimate solution to our nation’s diverse political ills. Faith and governance brilliantly reconciled!

Who is equal to the task of applying such a vision in real terms today?

In concluding this series in the next part, we will expound upon how we can attain the objectives of God for our nation in more practical and specific terms through an active participation in the political contest in May.

(Photo above: A child is not afraid to swim in the dark so long as it can feel the presence of its father looking over it. Why then are so many of us so afraid of the gathering darkness over our country?)