By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, where you were slaves. Worship no God but me.” — Exodus 20:2-3
Remembering Martial Law
On September 21, 1972, then Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos declared martial law in our country in the guise “to save the republic and reform society.” But, what happened in the more than a decade of Marcos Rule was the very opposite of what the regime had claimed to do and to be. Our country was plunged into the long dark nights of fascist rule, where crying and weeping of widows and orphans were heard all over the land amidst the sarcastic laughter and merriment of the powers-that-be feasting lavishly on the riches and beauty of our motherland.
Through people’s power, Pres. Marcos was not only kicked out of office but to the life beyond, yet the not-so-friendly ghost of martial law continues to haunt us to this very day. Presidential decrees and laws enacted under martial law are still intact and have become part of the laws of our land. But worst of all, those responsible for the martial law regime, instead of being punished for their crimes against the people, are even rewarded with lucrative government positions.
Some are saying that we have to forgive and forget and move on. But we know deep in our hearts that there can never be genuine forgiveness and reconciliation without contrition and absolution. Others have selective memories of the past; they only remember the good benefits of Martial Law for themselves, and forget the evils it spawned. Now, they are trying to revise history and make it appear that the Marcos Regime was the “golden era” of Philippine history.
A “creeping martial law”, a Marcosian martial law without Marcos, undeclared martial law, a militarized bureaucracy, a fascist regime pretending to be democratic, a “wolf in sheep clothing”: these are some descriptions of what happened since the Marcos Era. Rampant political killings, involuntary disappearances, and other human rights violations, which are distinctive marks of a fascist martial law regime, continue to show us their ugly heads, despite all the lofty claims to democracy. The brutal killings of protesting peasants and more than a hundred media people since the supposed lifting of martial law in our country are startling indicators of a people’s continuing struggle and yearning for genuine freedom and quest for truth.
The fact that people could assemble and organize for the redress of their grievances does not mean that genuine freedom is already present. It would only mean that in spite of state terrorism, people continue to assert their rights to be truly human.
Our struggle for genuine freedom and democracy as a people is a continuing struggle. A martial law regime or fascist government pretending to be democratic is not only a political issue; it is also first and foremost a theological issue, because it concerns the use or misuse of power which is God’s gift for us. In this particular historical context, the theological issue is not atheism or the lack of belief in God. Rather, the issue is idolatry or the belief in a false God. A fascist ruler could be very religious, yet serving a false God.
The character of the God we worship is reflected in our own character as worshippers. A true God is one who liberates the people. The Israelites worshipped a true God, because they struggled for freedom from slavery. God said to the Israelites through Moses, “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt, where you were slaves. Worship no other God but me” (Ex. 20:2-3). On the other hand, a false God is one who oppresses the people. The Egyptians worshipped a false God, because they treated the Israelites as slaves.
And so, the character of the worshippers would reflect the kind of God they worship. A fake leader worships a fake God; a genuine leader worships a true God. As Martin Luther onetime said, “Where your heart is, there your God is also.” Hence, those who worship a true God work for liberation or genuine change; while those who worship a false God prevent liberation or genuine change to happen.
Political idolatry happens when rulers or leaders lord it over the people; when they arrogate unto themselves the power that belongs only to God; when they have false claims for themselves and demand ultimate obedience and loyalty from the people. In short, political idolatry happens when rulers or leaders worship no other God, but themselves. It is in the context of repressive regimes that political idolatry usually becomes a reality.
The political killings in our country are expressions of political idolatry. Those responsible for these killings are playing gods as they claim the lives of innocent people in order to perpetuate themselves in power, as if they are the creators and owners of people’s lives. They are false gods, because they have false claims for themselves. Their power is more apparent than real.
God of Hope
Our hope, however, lies in the fact that God will “tolerate no rivals” (v.5) and cannot be mocked (cf. Gal. 6:7) Political idols throughout history have all met their own tragic ends. There would always come a time when God would unmask their pretensions and would deal with them accordingly.
As the Song of Mary says, “He (God) has brought down mighty kings from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away with empty hands” (Lk.1:52-53). It is, therefore, our fervent hope and prayer that in the fullness of time, God would indeed make His will come true in our midst according to His Word. # nordis.net