Our brand of Christianity was provided by Imperial Spain. While I do not take credit from dedicated and zealous missionaries who were sincerely intent to spread the Gospel that Jesus Christ gave the world, I have to be faithful to the historical truth that Christianity was also utilized to colonize and subjugate the Filipinos.
Thus, many aspects of the true Jesus Christ were suppressed by Catholic Church Friars who supported the colonial objectives of Spain and assisted in keeping the natives from getting restless. In fact, a Catholic priest was instrumental in exposing the Katipunan of Andres Bonifacio. Foremost of this suppression was that dimension of Jesus Christ as the world’s greatest revolutionary.
To set aside and replace an existing order, the way that Jesus Christ set aside the Old Testament, is nothing short of revolution. From the Old Testament’s an eye for an eye, Christ fostered the loving of enemies. The only difference between Christ’s revolution from those of the rest of history’s revolutionaries is that His revolution was one of love – that all may be one – while those we are familiar with in history were revolutions that were borne out of oppression, suppression, dissent, conflict and animosity.
While the goals and means of the others may be different, Christ was no less a revolutionary than Rizal, Bonifacio, Marx, Lenin, Mao and the other earth shakers of history. All of them wanted to liberate and establish a new order. Had Christ simply been a preacher of love, He would have posed no threat to the Pharisees, the puppet king and the Imperial Governor of His time who were responsible for His death.
Preaching love would have been received quite well by the status quo – especially the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate. To Pilate’s interests, love would mean less inclination to revolt against the imperial rulers he represented in the region. To the puppet king Herod, love would mean forbearance for his servitude to Rome. To the Pharisees, love would mean tolerance towards their corrupt and hypocritical ways. To all of them, that aspect of love to turn the other cheek would translate to look the other way while we exploit you.
But a major part of Christ’s mission was to be witness to the truth. The salvation of mankind involved enlightenment. Truth and enlightenment were always disliked by fake religious leaders, royal puppets and imperial governors. The truth about their subjugation and exploitation incites a conquered people, rendering them more inclined to revolt. Truth exposes the putrid reality of the inequities and corruption in society. Truth drives men to noble deeds and instills nationalism. Truth upsets the status quo.
Christ never instigated any call to arms. But the truth that He espoused proved to be a greater and more serious threat to the status quo. As proved by history, the truth that Christ preached moved men and nations, destroyed undeserving orders and founded better ones and started a new age of enlightenment unparalleled in impact and duration in history. The Roman Empire, Pharisees and puppet kings had good reason to fear Christ and His truth.
Truth smashes the myths and lies that imperial rulers often use to justify their policy of subjugation. The myth of Pax Romana was the order of the day for the Roman Empire. Today we have the Pax Americana. Pax means peace and Pax Romana and Pax Americana were party to some of the bloodiest episodes of history. Near the end of the 19th century, we were robbed of our hard-earned independence by a United States that justified the spread of its imperial wings in the Pacific through “Manifest Destiny.” Today, Manifest Destiny is being recycled in the war waged against Iraq and whoever else is next on the American war pipeline.
The puppet kings of Israel during Christ’s time – Herod and Herod Antipas – are not without their counterparts in our own contemporary history. Almost all our presidents came into power with US support and manipulation, some more supported and manipulated than others. And none could be more servile to them than the present one who was ever so willing to commit Philippine participation in the Iraq War without considering what such an engagement would pose to the safety of Filipino Overseas Workers in the Middle East in the event of Arab retaliation.
Preaching a new religion was never a major concern of Imperial Rome and doing so was not regarded a crime. Rome ruled over a diverse empire and what their subjects worshipped were of the least concern to the Romans for so long as their imperial interests were not threatened. In fact, this aspect of Roman religious tolerance was very evident in the fact that the Roman worship of Jupiter was never actively exported to their imperial domains and forced upon Roman subjects. The Romans wanted taxes not prayers from their subjects.
From biblical accounts, it was clear that Imperial Governor Pontius Pilate saw no crime in what Christ was charged with. Initially, he also did not see any threat to Roman order and interests in the reported activities of Christ. Pilate was compelled to grant the death penalty of crucifixion when the Pharisees made Christ a peace and order issue that thus affected Roman interest and Pilate’s standing with Rome. The Pharisees’ veiled threat to Pilate that a freed Christ will create mega ripples and unrest made the imperial governor cave in to their demands even if the reasons for these demands were over and above his own conclusions.
Like Christ, Filipino Juan de la Cruz is a victim of politics. But unlike Christ whose crucifixion was one-time – Juan de la Cruz has been undergoing crucifixion for centuries under colonial rulers and decades under the ruling elite of the country.
Like Christ, Juan de la Cruz is being crucified because of the insatiable greed and machinations of his exploiters and despite the good intentions of some of our present day rulers who may wish Juan well but – like Pontius Pilate – cannot see themselves opposing the wrong being done because of personal and political interests. These “good and decent men” stood by and said nothing while the Marcos regime pillaged the country. After the restoration of democracy and when it was no longer as risky to speak out, how many of these people from the “buen familias” kept mum when plunder was being committed or when democracy was being raped?
Like Christ, Juan de la Cruz is suffering from predations by neo-Pharisees who use religion – in the name of Christ at that – to milk Juan and exploit his Christian faith. Some of them dress like carnival barkers, bounce up and down the stage shouting “Haymen, haymen!” and inject strange practices into Christianity that in the days of the Inquisition would have been condemned as heresy and penalized with burning at the stake. They made a commercial product of the Christ and their fabulous mansions speak volumes of the returns of the “marketing of Christ.”
To heighten the crass and scandalous religious malpractice, they find patronage from some princes of the Catholic Church who seem to relish the contributions that they get from funds that were never accounted for. Tasked to protect Christ’s flock, these princes of the Church look the other way while these neo-Pharisees assume their priestly functions for a fat profit.
The political lesson of The Passion of Christ is that when gold and scepter are at risk, expect the holiest of men to be declared a criminal and unjustly executed by the most rotten politicians and Pharisees just to protect the status quo.
You may email William M. Esposo at: firstname.lastname@example.org