By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” — Act 1:8
PROTESTANT POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT IN PHILIPPINE SOCIETY
Radicalization of Protestant Witness
The radicalization of Protestant witness in Philippine society developed almost simultaneously with the advent of the new nationalist and democratic movement marked by the founding of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) in 1964, and was forced to go underground when Martial Law was declared in 1972.
The nationalist and democratic movement represented by KM and similar organizations made its most significant contribution to political life by coming out with a comprehensive, scientific, and structural critique of Philippine society, posing the history of exploitation and oppression of the people throughout the Spanish and American colonial periods, analyzing the fundamental contradictions of contemporary Philippine society, and laying out the basis for unity among various classes and sectors of Philippine society and their methods of struggle towards national liberation.
Christian radicalism, by way of definition, refers to a Christian social orientation that deals with the roots (radix) of social problems. The first widespread Christian radical organization in the Philippines was the Student Christian Movement (SCM). The SCM was organized in Baguio in 1960 as a movement affiliated with the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) and the NCCP, representing youth issues and concerns.
SCM carried the general indictment of society that had been made popular by youth organizations, like the KM, but it concentrated on directing the churches towards a self-examination, first of all, of its role in the colonization process, and secondly, of what radicals perceived as the church’s irrelevant Christianity, a Christianity that is preoccupied with church politics, bureaucratic matters, and church scandals, while the country is suffering in agony (Breakthrough, Aug. 1970).
What the Christian radicals were asking was a total break away from the neo-colonial church, such as what Fr. Gregorio Aglipay of the Katipunan had attempted to do more than half a century before, but different in the sense that the Christian radicals thought that structures of church authority were irrelevant to true Christianity. To them, what was important was that Christians should realize that Jesus Christ could not possibly be concerned with the souls of people without being equally concerned with the mutilation and desecration of human bodies by oppressive and exploitative structures of society.
Moreover, to the Christian radicals the distinction church leaders made between Protestants and Roman Catholics were immaterial. For each had a clear basis for understanding Christ’s relevance to contemporary society. To the Christian radicals, meaningful Christianity must be able to address itself to the social problems in ways that strike at the roots of the problem. And no better way to make Christianity relevant than to make Christ speak his message of salvation to the sacadas, who are deprived of land and their just share of their labor; to the sick, who have been so because of the high cost of hospitalization and medicine; to the poor laborers, who earn less than what they need to keep body and soul together; to the victims of military violence; to those unjustly accused; to the ignorant, who have been mis-educated; to the tribal Filipinos, whose ancestral lands were given to mining companies and dam projects; and to a culturally lost people, whose heritage has been forgotten.
The radicalization of Christian witness in Philippine society was indeed significant because it was not a development coming out of mere impulse. But rather, it was rooted on a theological and Biblical study. Moreover, its new theology had been enriched and enlivened by the participation of those coming from both Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, adding to the wealth of theory and experience.
The unheard unity achieved by Protestant and Roman Catholic radicals may serve as a promise that the sectarian strife that had characterized Christianity through the years may now come to an end. Hopefully, in the emergence of a historical Christ, a Christ on the side of the poor and oppressed, Christianity may finally be united as Christ himself had agonizingly prayed for.
Conclusion next week: Re-examination of Theology