In my study and observation of my Filipino wife’s culture I cannot help but also touch on this topic of religion and spirituality which I think is a very important metric to understand why a certain culture behaves the way it does.
The Culture Shock Philippines book by Alfredo and Grace Roces says on page 208 that “Lenten rites have also been adopted in non-Christian folk rituals, borrowing the exotic features of the elaborate Spanish Catholic ceremonies to perpetuate occult beliefs”.
On page 209 it adds: “as Lenten rites demonstrate, folk Catholicism among Filipinos….reveals….a deep persistence of pre-Christian values and the ability to selectively borrow outward motifs of Christian beliefs for their own sets of beliefs and values”.
My question is: can Christian values be selectively borrowed?
Well, Filipinos who live in my country usually work as domestic helpers for some rich employer, and, as far as I know, they don’t “selectively cherry pick” the orders of their employers. Because they serve their masters they do what their master tells them to do without being “selective” about it.
Most Filipinos claim that they serve God but they don’t seem to apply the same criterion that they use for their human employers, instead of they being to ones to adjust to the “Master” they expect the “Master” to adjust to their culture.
For example it says somewhere in the Bible that “man will leave mother and father and stick to his wife and they will become one flesh”. Yet, most Filipinos don’t like this idea, even if it comes from the God that they believe in, and prefer to continue to be stuck to their father, mother, ate, kuya, pinsan etc. while, at the same time, trying to stick to their wife.
This is the easy approach to religion, a religion that doesn’t require any effort because most Filipinos only borrow the parts that don’t contradict their culture.
In his book “The Power of Myth”, the American mythologist Joseph Campbell had this to say (as part of his conversation with Mr. Moyers):
“MOYERS: In this culture of easy religion,
cheaply achieved, it seems to me we’ve forgotten that
all three of the great religions teach that the trials of the
hero journey are a significant part of life, that there’s no reward without renunciation, without paying the price.
The Koran says, “Do you think that you shall enter the
Garden of Bliss without such trials as came to those
who passed before you? “And Jesus said in the gospel
of Matthew, “Great is the gate and narrow is the way
which leadeth to life, and few there be who find it.”
And the heroes of the Jewish tradition undergo great tests
before they arrive at their redemption.
CAMPBELL: If you realize what the real
problem is — losing yourself, giving yourself to some
higher end, or to another — you realize that this itself is
the ultimate trial. When we quit thinking primarily about
ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a
truly heroic transformation of consciousness.
And what all the myths have to deal with is
transformations of consciousness of one kind or
another. You have been thinking one way, you now
have to think a different way”.
Easy religion cheaply achieved amounts to going through the large gate, not the narrow one that Jesus mentioned. It requires no effort and, therefore, as Campbell points out, it brings about no transformation of consciousness. The “hero” that Campbell talks about is one who escapes the gravitational pull of group-thinking and conformity, not one who is part of the masses and does what everyone else is doing.
Most religious Filipinos just conform, this is why in the Philippines, despite the huge amount of churches and fiestas, most people remain stuck in low-quality consciousness and things like violence, corruption, easy entertainment, gossip, wanton consumption, clannish love, the ako muna attitude and many other hallmark characteristics of a low-quality consciousness are so widespread.
Religion in the Philippines amounts, for the most part, to nothing more than rituals and traditions that have no power to bring about a shift in consciousness.
The same thing also applies to any other country but my blog is about the Philippines.
My idea is that if one believes in God it does not make much sense to try to adjust him to one’s personal preferences or to his own culture. I think that, because life is way too short, our precious time cannot be wasted practicing a religion that doesn’t have any positive impact in our lives.
Either you practice it seriously or you just stay away from it. This is my idea at least.