By REV. LUNA L. DINGAYAN
“The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask Pilate to set Barabbas free and have Jesus put to death.” — Matthew 27:20
GMA and Jesus Christ
The meeting of the Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives last November 25, which was meant to discuss the impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA), became a theological discussion, when the oldest member of the chamber, Pablo Garcia of Cebu, an avid supporter of GMA, started claiming that the President is like Jesus Christ our Lord.
Congressman Garcia passionately said in his speech, “More than 2,000 years ago, our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified because of an opinion survey. Pontius Pilate presented our Lord to the crowd and said, ‘Whom would you prefer, Barabbas or Christ to crucify? Our Lord Jesus Christ lost in the survey. Is that how we are going to judge our President because of an opinion survey?
Reacting to the speech afterwards, Former Speaker Jose de Venecia, a supporter of the impeachment complaint against the president filed by his own son, Joey de Venecia, said, “We should not take the name of our God, Jesus, lightly. We should not compare GMA to Jesus who is our Lord God. President Arroyo is not our Lord.”
Politicians becoming theologians
Here is a classic example of how politicians try to become theologians, in the same manner that theologians also try sometimes to become politicians. This would show to us that we cannot really divorce religion from politics. What is important, however, is what kind of politics or theology do we have. Is it a politics that exploits the people or a politics that serves the people? Is it a theology that justifies the status quo or a theology that transforms the status quo?
The problem with politicians trying to become theologians is the fact that they often distort Christian doctrine to suit their own political interests. What Congressman Garcia tried to do is to desperately justify the status quo by using a distorted view of the Christ. Jesus Christ our Lord was never crucified because of an opinion survey. He was crucified because he was a victim of injustice. He was a victim of a miscarriage of justice or a judicial killing. He was a victim of what Congressman Garcia has been precisely doing.
Perhaps, it would be good for us to go back to the historical Jesus and understand why he was crucified. According to the authorities, Jesus Christ our Lord allegedly claimed to be “the King of the Jews.” He was officially charged for the crime of rebellion (cf. Mt.27:37). It was punishable by death on the cross. This was the crime written above his head when he was crucified.
Jesus’ crucifixion was actually the consequence of the life he lived. If Jesus did not cure the sick, feed the hungry, set free the oppressed, forgive the sinners, denounce the hypocrites, call Herod a fox, cleanse the Temple of grafters and thieves and challenge the powers-that-be, perhaps he would not be considered a threat to the status quo and he would not be crucified at all. Perhaps, he would have died of old age or of natural death. But no, Jesus Christ our Lord gave his life in the service of the people (cf. Mk. 10:45). And for this reason, he was crucified by the powers-that-be.
And so, who is Jesus today? Definitely, it is not GMA. Rather, the crucified Jesus today is seen in the masses of people who are victims of the GMA administration: the victims of graft and corruption; the victims of judicial killings, extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances; the victims of all-out war and anti-terrorism policies. These are the crucified Jesus of today.
When Saul, who later on became Apostle Paul, was persecuting the Christians in the Early Church, he was struck blind on the Road to Damascus. Then, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” he asked. “I am Jesus, whom you persecute,” the voice said. Indeed, Jesus our Lord is seen the face of the persecuted.
If we would like to compare GMA to the time of Jesus, perhaps she would be like Pilate, Herod, and Annas and Caiaphas. Like Pilate, who released Barabbas, a convicted murder, instead of Jesus, an innocent man; GMA also released Teehankee, a convicted murderer; and Erap, a convicted plunderer, for political exigencies; and allow the innocent activists locked in jail.
Like Herod who tried to use everything including bribery and murder to ensure his hold on to power together with the members of his family; GMA is also using everything, including bribery, to ensure her hold on to power together with the members of her family even beyond 2010.
And like Annas and Caiaphas, who plotted behind the scenes against Jesus or anyone who tried to interfere in their business and corrupt practices in the Temple; GMA and her followers are also trying to silence those who are exposing graft and corruptions in the government, and kill any attempt to make her answer and give explanations about all these allegations.
It is not bad to use theology to address political issues. But theology should not be used to justify the status quo, but rather theology in order to be genuine must enlighten and transform the status quo. #