sunday, distortion and exclusivity

i remembered the fleeting chill of trance that climbs my spine each time i find myself amidst the pool of people who claimed to be jesus freaks. with eyes closed and arms raised in the air, they chant their prayers and sing their hymns to god as if they were in ecstasy.

the dim lights, the live band, and the speeches of tongues all enveloped me with the defamiliarized feeling of weirdness as i faced the huge j-e-s-u-s letters posted near the platform area in front.

every week, for almost a year, the jesus freaks would welcome me with their template of embracing arms and flashy smiles. belongingness was their initial concern to the new members of their crowd. hospitality is an unwritten sop (standard operating procedure) to every member, so getting along with them was never a problem.

christian, was such an overused word by the crowd. almost everyone claimed to be one. i, for instance, thought that i am a christian (since i am a believer of christ) not until my cell leaders in the christian group told me that i have to be baptized to be a full-fledged one, else, i will never be saved. crap. that was it. i’m done with them.

i was a college freshman then when i first realized the presence of exclusive christianity. how foolish of me to think loosely of the term christian as a general notion for all christ believers in the world. how can i be so naïve with the born again christians and the other christian sectarian groups when as far as my memory could remember, i had encountered most of them doing house and community visits?

aside from their very political nature, i had nothing hostile against the born again christians. in fact, their ability to get their audience involved in their mystical and spiritual acts was far more superior to the roman catholic church. their pastors’ homily and preaching mostly touches everyday experiences where the audience can easily relate.

earlier, i’ve attended the easter sunday mass on our parish chapel, together with my mother and my sister. nothing much has changed since my last visit a year ago, except that the air was well conditioned. most children still run and scream along the aisles, most of the youth still do chat with their friends either virtually or personally, most husbands and housewives would still snatch occasional naps while the ceremony advances. the homily of the priest delved deeper on the biblical and historical aspects of the gospel. three fourths of his homily was spent preaching about the pharisees, the scribes and the sadducees. come on, the people did not come to mass to receive bible lessons. instead of sharing the implications and the lessons of the gospel that can be useful to the spiritual and material lives of the people, most roman catholic priests would preach the gospel as if in verbatim with the biblical texts.

i can’t help but compare the difference between the organizational set-up of the born again christians (bac) from the roman catholics (rc). first, pastor priests of bac groups would focus their homilies on tangible examples related and close to the experiences of their crowd. in that way, they could effectively get their audience involved, therefore having the higher tendency of retention and action. most rc priests are still very orthodox in their nature of preaching. the first few minutes of the homily were usually spent reviewing biblical passages related to the gospel, then the priest will proceed to the do’s and don’ts of every christian.

focus and order during the holy mass was another aspect overlooked by the rc church. the bac prevented distractions from the noises of screaming children in tantrums, from the running toddlers and from the crying babies, by providing a separate sunday service schedule for children. the bac have categorized their prayer and preaching activities specialized for the children, the youth, and the adults. by doing so, the preaching of the pastor could easily adapt to the audience, unlike in the rc mass where priests have to address their homily to the general audience.

the separation of the audience in the bac provides the sect to freely exercise their creativity in their teaching and prayer sessions. the bac would usually have live bands, talent shows and guest celebrities in their sessions to attract more audience. the rc, on the other hand, can also have live bands during mass, but i doubt the elders of the church would allow that to happen.

both religions have christ as their focal point. they only differ in their approach and mode of presentation of the religion.

you have to be baptized to be saved, that’s the belief of the bac group that gave me the awkward feeling of exclusivity. aside from hearing “we must conquer the muslims” from one of their prayer meetings, the fact that the politics in their nature have appeared more evident to my perception made me skeptic about them.

i am a rc by birth. i am baptized under the rc church and have learned some of the rc’s teachings and history. what makes rc unique from other religion is its lenience to its members regarding their non compliance to its laws. the most obvious punishment is perhaps the abstract punishment of hell, which, nowadays have less effect on most rc members.

one of the reasons i saw why rc is still the religion who holds the most number of followers in the world was its seemingly free religion front. it appears as if everybody can be a catholic. many people were catholic by birth, and therefore called themselves rc christians only by name, not by practice.

over the years, the deterioration of the rc church’s credibility increased the rate of bac converts. the bac’s ability to get their members involved in their teachings and preaching, made them an emergent religion that could offer order from a distorted view of christianity.

this was the aftermath of my disappointment from the mass i attended. maybe i just missed the feeling of trance and ecstasy that elates spirituality that transcends beyond the layers of my spine. my soul is hungry for that experience that makes me feel the presence of an abstract spiritual being.


Jhed said...

Naka-attend na rin ako ng BAC gatherings and talagang madaling maka-relate sa kanilang mga shine-share. Napak-lively lagi ng kanilang gatherings na talagang ibang-iba sa RC gatherings.

But, BACs tend to over react on certain things. Like, you have to be baptized by them to be saved. Our God is not a choosing god. Hindi ibig sabihin na kapag binaptize ka ng BACs and automatically saved ka na.

abet said...

hello uli...bulitas, just like you i was born and raised and educated as RC ...pero i agree with jhed parang yung mga BAC e over reacting (most of the time) para tuloy plastic na ang dating .

Anonymous said...

hey bulitas,
una... mula sa history, ang pinagmulan BAC ay isang group ng RC na nauurat na dahil napaka methodic at ritualistic ng RC (my own words). Napag-aralan ko yan sa theology.
pangalawa... not because a lot of people you know are born catholics, yung ibang catholics ay born catholics din. May mga missions din actually ang catholic churches sa non-christian countries kung saan nakaka"recruit" sila ng mga bagong katoliko. May lola akong madre I should know.
pangatlo... may mga roman catholics na "gumagaya" sa yapak ng BAC, sila ang mga charismatics.
pangapat... sa ibang bansa may "community" na ring matatawag sa RC. actually sa ibang community din sa pilipinas kasi nagiging close and pari sa parishioners therefore nakikiayon sa mga experience ng parishioners ang mga sermon ng pari.

having faith is a spiritual thing. Sabi nga ni James, you must have the will to believe.


Anonymous said...

ito ung pinagkkwentuhan natin nung isang araw di ba?
marxist ako, hence magka-clash talaga kami ng mga lordy-lordy kuno---taena, banggaan na naman pagbalik ko sa elbi.

gimickero said...

really? I haven't attended to a BAC gatherings. I'm a born RC. Hmmm... Sabi nila Muslims na daw pinakamarami e... Di na daw tayo. And Christianity does not center itself in Europe anymore. Kasi people there have been living peacefully, no problems. So, they don't seek guidance and God's help anymore daw. Wala na nga daw nagsisimba dun e sabi ng friend na pari ng dad ko na dun naka-assign. Mga Filipinos nalang daw.

Tama si Anonymous. Yung recruit thing... Yung teacher ko sabi nya, may friend sya na napatay nung nagpunta sa Muslim country dahil dun. And YFC, CFC and other organizations try to be suited to the needs of different Christians. like YFC for the Youths. :)

Ocnarf said...

That "we must conquer the Muslims" thing is just... scary.

Anonymous said...

salvation through baptism is not a belief common to all BAC.. usually sa mga conservative baptist yun.

yung full-gospel na BAC sees baptism only as a profession of the saving faith in Jesus' sacrifice on the cross..

react lang ako sa sinabi ni anonymous na:

"mula sa history, ang pinagmulan BAC ay isang group ng RC na nauurat na dahil napaka methodic at ritualistic ng RC"

as far as i can remember in history, BACs were already in existence and persecuted way before the institution of the RC.

i am an RC by birth but a BAC by choice.

bulitas said...

@ jhed: subjective pa din naman sa faith mo yung salvation mo. yun yung napulot ko sa mga spiritual sessions ko kung saan-saan. =)

@ basey: ewan. dko namn sila ma-judge. cguro sa perspective natin o.a. cla. pero malay mo, feeling nila normal lang yun.

@ jas: believing and nolt just think. faith and action. whew. amen.

@ kel: maghunusdili ka!

@ gimickero: do try to attend in one of the bac gatherings. it's cool, actually. you just have to have a strong anchor to your faith and belief para d ka agad ma-sway ng anumang mga bagong ii-introduce sa'yo.

@ franco: really scary.

@ ymir: thanks for enlightening things up.

yung pagkakasabi at dating kasi sakin ng baptism e yun ang prerequisite para makapasok ka sa kaharian ng diyos.

mabuhay ka!

leia said...

It doesn't say sa Bible you have to be baptized to be saved. It just says believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

Pero really, I'm a Christian, pero scary yung mga iba who claim to be one. May napanood ako sa Tyra show, isang babae - she went as far as to say na everyone who died sa 9/11 deserved to die because they were all perverts. Scary diba? I mean is that love? Nakakatakot, no wonder a lot of people are repelled by Christianity kung ganun ang nakikita nila.

I remember napag-usapan natin to sa library one time, nakatambay lang tayo. About your freshman experience sa isang Christian group. Wala lang, nostalgia. mwah!

Just want to say na just don't judge Christians by what you've seen and heard dun sa napuntahan mo. Hindi lahat ganun.

bulitas said...

@ ilia: i know. some people could be overgeneralizing and discriminating at times. don't you worry. i do not absolutely judge something as bad because of a few experiences with them. anyways, congrats! happy grad!

lateralus said...

I just threw up in my mouth. As I said before, faith can really retard people into obscuring and trivializing what their god wants.

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