After the Holy Week, what?

PAMALANDONG is the Ilonggo word that describes the “proper Christian decorum” during the observance of the Holy Week. At a loss for its English equivalent, I may only say it’s the season to stay away from bad manners and to observe church-directed customs and traditions. Psst, say no cuss, curse nobody and make no noise until Easter Sunday.

It’s like saying there is no more need for “good manners and right conduct” henceforth.

But why be religious when religiosity expires in only one week?

Whether Catholic, Aglipayan, Protestant or whatever, we belong to a religious group by either circumstance of birth or peer pressure. The Jews, the Buddhists, the Muslims and the Hindus are as sure as Christians of their “true faith.”

There was a time in the 1980s, for example, when I asked a visiting American Jew why he was asking us Christians to convert to Judaism.

His blunt answer: “Why?  It’s to follow Jesus Christ, who was a Jew!”

At that time, I had already “mellowed” after a youthful decade of searching for “true religion.” Born to an Aglipayan mother and a Seventh-Day Adventist father, I had repeatedly allowed myself to be “towed” to various sanctums of worship, only to shake my head.

There was a time when three nubile ladies asked me to attend their church service. How could a gentleman say no?

Alas, however, the moment we entered their church, two pastors were quarrelling over who would preach the sermon. Cooler heads had to intervene to convince the “outgoing pastor” to give way to the incoming one.

I have entered so many Christian churches that I am convinced I cannot be fully convinced. The Latin saying, “Vox populi, vox Dei” could not be right. It was the “majority” who shouted “Crucify him” while Jesus Christ was being presented to Pilate.

Most Filipinos are Roman Catholics as a gradual offshoot of Ferdinand Magellan’s “discovery” of the Philippines on March 16, 1521. Otherwise, our people could have gone predominantly Muslims like Indonesians and Malaysians.

No religion could survive outside of government tolerance, as in Saudi Arabia which regards Christianity as “evil”.

Here in the Philippines, we don’t even have to move out of Christianity to discover how convoluted religion could be. A pastor calls himself “appointed son of God”.  With tithe money pouring in from convinced followers who would like to go to heaven, the pastor has built for himself a “paradise” in Davao. The unconvinced, of course, think of his organization as just another cult.

There are non-priest Catholics who tag themselves “servant-leaders” and establish so-called “fellowship” organizations. Naturally, they draw gullible Catholics to their prayer rallies and collect from them sacks of “love offerings.”

The religious followers do not always realize that while they aim to gain eternal life, their “shepherds” consequently gain material wealth.

There’s a popular joke on the three lords who make fast and tax-free money: the drug lord, the gambling lord and the “praise the lord.”

You must have read that by the time the Korean founder of the Unification Church (since 1954), Reverend Sun Myung Moon, died in September 2012, he had amassed billions of US dollars from five million adherents worldwide.

In our country right now, certain religious organizations make money from politicians who generously “donate” in exchange for their blocked votes.

If truth be told, the Bible does not echo the popular notion that the spirit of the dead meets Saint Peter up above clouds for a key to any of three destinations: heaven, purgatory or hell. ([email protected]/PN)


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