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Separating religion from saecular world


By Pet Melliza/ The Beekeeper
Life, as existentialist thinker Jean Paul Sartre points out, is absurd. We are what we are not and we are not what we are.
That’s no play of words. If you’re 20 years old today, your are not actually 20 years old as finitude closes in on you every second, and even before you could finish reading this sentence you get older by a few minutes and your life and age continues to advance.
You will be more than what your are today (or less) until the final chapter of your life ends. You’re a “Dasein” or a being “thrown-into-the-world” without your consent, and at the same time, a “being-unto-death,” as another existentialist, Heidegger, puts it.
What you are today is not you tomorrow. Child today, adult tomorrow. There is no still, motionless moment in our existence as we continue to change to become what we not now. Dogmas cannot even withstand the absurdity of being questioned.
This may sound an absurd meandering but can’t help but think that way as a strange tradition at the Iloilo Provincial Capitol keeps on nagging and asking me to stand up to publicly question or challenge it.
That strange tradition is the pietism espoused by some souls in holding a novena mass every Wednesday and another mass every first Friday of the month.
There is nothing wrong with that actually. There is nothing wrong publicly expressing one’s religious belief.
There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just absurd converting a public, saecular property into venue of religious celebration, to be more specific, as exclusive venue for a particular brand of religion to the exclusion of others.
What if believers of other religions insist on equal opportunity to carve out a nook at the Capitol building to hold their own weekly worship?
There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just absurd that convenors of that tradition don’t brook second thought compelling different departments or offices to sponsor a mass, which means, shelling out cash to buy flowers and compensate the priest celebrant with a stipend.
There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just absurd that the religious event is an all-stars cast some of them yours truly personally know to be deserving of the deepest slot in hell, if hell might have indeed existed.
One balding executive even has the nerve to sit on the front row as proudly as he does in showing off his mistress around inside the public building. Or treating his office as venue for their illicit tryst.
I don’t intend to blaspheme the religion of the convenors of the worship. I am like them, too. I belong to the same religion for which I had spent eight years of my tender life in the seminary to enrich my insight on the faith which as a matter of standpoint, is not something to show around like a mistress of the balding executive.
The Good News is not a thing to be venerated or food to be chewed but a faith to be lived; not just words for recitation exercises but a life to be practiced.
The Capitol is the government center for all Ilonggos regardless of faith or gender. Sheer number of believers does not make it the enclave of the majority religion.
What Ilonggo taxpayers need is good and responsive governance, and efficient delivery of basic services.
They are not asking for prayers. They want better roads, bridges, medical services, education, and the like.
They expect of their public servants to, as the words suggests, work as real public servants – honest, responsive, diligent and concerned of the public weal.
Seeing their public officials collectively squandering official time in solemn piety, is that wrong?
No, it’s not wrong. It’s even commendable to have public officials who do pray. But that’s not a qualification in public service and Ilonggo taxpayers have very little need of pious leaders.
Just recall how President Praying Mantis ardently prayed and the perfidies she wrought to this blighted land by starting the frenzy in 1991 of privatizing prime public properties for a song to favored businesses.
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