Colonialism and Consumerism

Fred Laceda

The lectionary text for this Sunday has an interesting reception in Christian history. We know of Matthew 28:16–20 as the missionary text par excellence. This association with missions was a late development, however. Modern missions – or the sending of Christian missionaries in foreign lands – is a product of the Reformation period. It was also at this time that Western powers began their colonial adventurism. Hence colonialism and Christian mission gestated from the same imperialistic womb. It is in this entanglement that we should situate the Western missionary enterprise. And the “Great Commission” text stands as its greatest theological legitimation.

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Imitating Violence

Nestor Ravilas

He was sprawling in the burning pavement. His company surrounded him, holding the huge wooden cross to prevent it from falling to him. Another man is on the end of a rope tied the other end to his waist. Pulling it slightly to intimate it is time to get up and move on. He tried many times but failed. He was so exhausted. Some of his friends are now trying to help him on his feet to complete the task. As we moved along the highway of Dinalupihan, Bataan, we have ran over on more cross-carrying lads. Some are trudging hard their way up to their destination, some have their bodies contorted by heavy cross, some, like the one I described first, slumped in the pavement almost at the brink of giving up.

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Reviving the Faith: Religious Symbols and Pope Francis

10537800_10152525753111143_8873113901187808554_nby: Nestor Ravilas
Religion is all about symbols. It is the modest attempt to bridge the colossal gap that separates the heaven from the earth; making gods immanent and thus reduced them as our own, walking among us. As in theoretical knowledge, artistic representations of the divine in the same manner are also contextual. Their emergence belongs too to particular occasions that inspired their creation to facilitate this contact between the divine and the profane. It is about meaning; what the symbol diffuses so as to goad its believers to keep the struggle alive, whatever it might be. The symbol or a memorial however is a fixation of the occasion, fossilizing the event into particular epoch in the past, making it as property of history. Meaning however is always alive and fresh within the memory of those who went through the event, and it is always belong to the present. Memorials turn to become public properties, but the memories die with its owner, so as their meaning. What we have in the end were symbols deprived of their significance.

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Our Family Christmas Traditions and Values: an Ethnography

By Kale Luaton


Preparation and repacking the relief goods for the people of Ando, Borongan, Eastern Samar

The vivid image of devastated landscape in Eastern Samar and Leyte keeps on haunting my memory after my last visit to help my relatives and fellow ‘Waraynon’ for an immediate relief. It is the reason why I could not even imagine how to celebrate the longest celebration of the year particularly if the appearance of distress is still confronting me face to face. For once I confronted the celebrant, “Give me enough reason to be merry. Why should I be happy for your birthday?” To my disappointment I closed my eyes and stood in silence as if I was waiting for a response. Then I heard a tiny voice said, “Tay, in na or kain na” (Let us eat). Yesnile, my son held my hand and pulled me near the dining table asking us to eat. A thought suddenly popped in, “Perhaps the answer to my question is nowhere else to be found except here in front of our dining table with my family.” While the feeling of desolation and misery continuously wounds my heart towards my townsmen in Eastern Samar, I think that some family traditions and values contribute a tremendous factor to be a resilient and strong-spirited Filipino individual in the midst and even in the aftermath of catastrophic events such as natural disasters.

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“You shall have no other gods before me”: On Idolatry and Religious Mediation

by Nestor Ravilas

Social history proves that religious differences are crucial factors in obstructing humanity’s journey towards peace and cooperation.  One simple infringement of one’s revered beliefs could provoke a vicious war.  A supposed picture of Jesus for one dangling on display in a wall of a house inhabited with people from various religious persuasions might bring discomfort to those who professed Evangelical faith in which its immediate obliteration has to be carried out to redress them of such religious torment.  I was probably referring to myself when, out of discomfort, I stashed away my mother’s image of the Madonna and her Child and odiously placed it as cover to our clogged and reeking toilet bowl.  What transpired next was indeed a violent war; in which I endured much of the blows.

This affection of the Catholics for aesthetic representation of the divine is what keeps them forever suspects to Evangelicals.  Attempts for ecumenical dialog bungled and collapsed whenever the talk drifts to those images.    Having felt offended by this affront, Catholics in turn protect their “divine representations” against the iconoclasts by keeping the Evangelicals at certain distance. Regretably, my mother crossed that distance.  The rift therefore stays and has not promised adjudication in spite of many attempts to bridge the tension between the two of most overt groups of Jesus’ worshipers.

In retrospect, the Evangelical’s disgust seemingly valid since the Bible is littered with divine condemnation against idol worship.  With these “authoritative” pieces of evidence, it seems that the preponderance of obstacle is insurmountable that nothing could reconcile the two houses, let alone uniting them into one body of Christ.  Enfeebling the situation might be, it does not however stop me from dreaming; imagining myself overcoming the divide together with a number of other dreamers.  For I found the power of imagination powerful than any fixed boundaries that separate and divide us.  Against this particular fixation, against this theological certitude, allow me to take my stride out of this socio-religious orderthat has been regarded as designed and willed by the divine herself.

It tickles me always to ponder whether the divine could ever be an object of thinking, of comprehension.  The enlightenment thinkers first registered the doubt if humans could really encounter directly the divine apart from any form of mediation.  As delineated more by post-structuralists, they ask if we could solve the appearance-reality distinction by penetrating the appearance and touch reality as it is.  Could the transcendental God be a victim too of transcendental reduction?  If so,nothing then stands beyond time, beyond history and beyond space?  Even the divine has no help to escape the power of human grasp.  The comprehending mind could bring the divine into light; and make the divine known by representing and describing her.  Humans then in this case are the ultimate beings, for none could escape their knowing activity and their capability to reduce God into human categories.

Against this assumption we insist that God actually escapes our knowledge and our propensity for naming.  The divine stands beyond the horizon of human faculties, of human discourse and categories. We attempted in different occasions to describe our experience with the divine, but none among these descriptions could make God their property or to represent God on her totality.  God remains outside of those naming, of those descriptions, of those representations.   Nonetheless, God has to be part of human activities, of human categories, of human consciousness as she willingly enmeshed herself in the created world. The need then to represent the divine is necessary to mediate this relationship between the finite and the inconceivable infinite.  What come therefore between us and God are forms of mediation in human categories in order not to predict and control divine activity, but primarily see the divine’s shadow in relation to her entire creation.

All forms of mediation therefore are metaphorical in their true sense since none of them is fully identical with the divine.  Created with natural wits and skills, humans perceived their world in different ways and communicate this perceptions indifferent manners.  Some see language as best way of mediation for the purpose of clarity and efficiency of communication.  Language on the other hand tends to reduce the infinity of things they tried to represent in small chunks of vocabularies as Emmanuel Levinas inveighed this in his writings saying, “Language is taking us away from things it describes rather than bringing us closer to them”.  Poets and artists then are much disposed for an artistic mediation which is more flexible, loose, and free that provides more space for the incessant eruption of meaning of things, events, and symbols that would continually intimate themselves to one’s vast imagination.  What is more efficient therefore between the two methods of mediation depends much on one’s natural inclination, whether one is a philosopher or an artist.  Whatever people might find congenial to their interaction or relation with the divine, whether in “words” or in “images,“they must put in their mind that the divine remains outside of these categories and they who are facing nothing than mere mediation are actually engaged in some sort of forgivable idolatry.

To think of the mediation, however, as identical to the thing it tries to represent is to engage in egregious form of idolatry.  When the divine was reduced to those “idols” and the worshiper sees no distinction between the image and the divine then we have a serious problem of idolatry.  The poets and artists, however, are not the only people susceptible to this error. Linguistic descriptions too could easily be mistaken as the reality themselves than mere descriptions.  The Western tradition of logocentrism was charged of the error of transcendental reduction that it reduced everything and anything in concepts and ideas.  When language, words, and vocabularies and any linguistic symbols for that matter stand identical with the divine and the worshiper could not see any longer distinction between these linguistic descriptions and the divine, these descriptions supposedly describing, then we have here another serious case of idolatry.  The idea is simple: the divine escapes all forms of representation whether in arts or in words and she stands beyond and above them. To take any of them as identical with the divine or regard it as the divine herself is engaging in disgusting idolatry.