The Triumph of Bad Religion

by Nestor Ravilas

“Metho Andres, the police chaplain at Station 6 who prayed with the officers, told Reuters that the Bible justified the killing. Quoting Romans 13, he said Duterte was a God-appointed “agent of wrath” whom police should obey without question. He blamed drug users for their own deaths. “That’s a consequence of them disobeying,” said the pastor. “There is wrath coming for those who don’t obey.”[1]

When a religiously intoxicated person barges into a wake and claimed that he was personally commissioned by God to raise the cadaver back into life, you will immediately grab popcorn yourself and see next the bursting comedy show coming. It was really funny. And none would bar religion for providing us such entertaining show. When a pastor, like Metho Andres, barges into a room, blows the horn for war preparation, consecrates the high-power guns, and assures the police that they have God behind them in all the carnage they are about to perform, the show stops being funny. You immediately wish religion should have taken Ulrich Beck’s advice to let go of politics and science, and focus instead in the cloister of their individual spirituality, in the place where people are safe from the harm religions inflict.
Jurgen Habermas was just trying to be prudent when he barred religion from public sphere because, as he said, of its irrationality. What the problem really is when this irrationality is being used as pretext for one’s savagery and brutality. When a police officer refuses to wear himself with body camera on the guise that God would take that role,[2] you know why Habermas insists for religions to shape up first. We will forever thankful for that surveillance camera fortuitously located in the right place, enough to capture glimpse of Kian delos Santos’ last moment in the hands of his killers, otherwise we have no witness to tell what really transpired in that fatal night. Unless what the police officer meant is to literally drag God in the court of law to give us the exact details or footage of what happened in those bloody police operations. Absurd it might appear, but just the same, many religious people praised the police officer for such display of faith, rejecting technology and protruding God instead as their witness, or should I rather say, God as their witness-camera in all their anti-drugs operations.
I laughed at Ulrich Beck’s overt concern over the seeming return of religions. For him modernity is failing and religions are returning to the scene, although he is not happy about this. With the latest political disasters occurring worldwide with religions actively participating or responsible to them, I immediately concede that the joke is actually on me. And with the collapse of “imagine communities” being supplanted with globalized village, the prospect of return of religious problems such us atrocities and wars is entirely beyond the power of nation-state to contain. If that happens, if bad religions continue to hold sway, only a global force as perceived by Zygmunt Bauman is our last hope to reverse this.
In the local scene, bad religion is obviously winning the fight. The state itself, which is supposedly secularized, is using religious language to support most of its brutal policies. Most of known religious leaders are either silent or overtly offering legitimation to these inhumane and brutal programs using the Bible, in almost the same manner Pastor Metho Andres is doing it.
It seems that Christianity is forever damned in this tragedy of irony. It has been championing the fight of toppling walls that separated people from each other in the past like the fight of white Christian abolitionists in tandem with the running slaves to abolish slavery in the United States in 19th century. Despite of this and many other noble accomplishments, Christianity is known at the same time of building new walls that divide and pit people against each other. The point is that Christianity has its good side, and it was demonstrated in many instances throughout history. Unfortunately, this was marred by the much weightier bad expressions, like the one gulping us now. Here again is a kind of bad religion that is slowly gnawing us all.

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