I read a few decades ago a book by Rey IIeto entitled Pasyon at Rebolusyon. It makes good reading for all Filipinos, but maybe a must for all public officials and employees. For that matter, even the hierarchy of the Catholic Church may be wisely guided by the insights of the author. Ileto gave a context of a Filipino angst which may have morphed over the last century but, in essence, may still holds true.
The author linked religiosity and political life, religiosity and the Catholic religion, religiosity and revolution. It is to his credit that his wonderful perspective appears to become more accurate with time instead of being watered down by it. Ileto saw the intimacy of faith and governance. I think that Ileto believed it was more than intimate. He sounded so much like describing the two faces of one coin.
The separation of Church and State has many valid reasons. It, however, does not make separation a fact, only an intent. The developed countries of the world have had apparent success is keeping the two at arm’s length. Because of that, they would like to claim that their seeming success is proof that, indeed, Church and State are separate.
I, too, agree that religion as an institution may be better at an arm’s length from government. It does not mean that there is no intimacy between them, especially if we go deeper to religiosity beyond institutionalized religion and political dynamics beyond government. It is not so much that temporal and divine principles clash but the egos of leaders of the temporal and leaders of the spiritual often do. Like most animals, most human beings cannot transcend territorial concerns, not even for the common good.
The Holy Week, and especially Good Friday, is a good time to reflect on life in general and Jesus Christ in particular. And I would like to do so, and invite you with me, by remembering how the life and death of a special person so absolutely attributed with divinity was so fused with politics and governance. It was not made easier by the actuation of the hierarchy of the Church to which Jesus belonged, the hierarchy so threatened by Him, the same hierarchy which played footsies with political enemies to eliminate Him.
For the life of me, I never could swallow the simplistic way which is used to justify the separation of Church and State, primarily the statement that Jesus gave about “rendering to Cesar’s what is Cesar’s and to God what is God’s.” I do not believe that there is a comprehensive explanation by the Church, and corresponding comprehensive understanding of the faithful, about the implication of that fated statement. After all, that statement more than 2,000 years ago did not stop the intimacy and fusion of Church and State for centuries, not even with the presence of the greatest and wisest saints.
Was it conviction of the true separation of Church and State, or was it forced by the circumstances of power and control? Did the leaders of the Church ever believe in the separation, or were they just forced to accept it when a more powerful government insisted on being independent, even superior? It was not just Jesus Christ whom the Church had asked the government to execute, it was also a Jose Rizal.
The controversial RH Bill is an issue which brings to glaring light that religion and politics are not separate. EDSA People Power, too, with the participation of Jaime Cardina Sin, was one such issue that accentuated the intimacy, or more, of Church and State. Even In the United States of America, it is abortion and the banning of religious affairs, especially prayer, that Republicans and Democrats intensely disagree about.
What if Church and State were never meant to be separate? What if there is need for distinction but not separation? What if we approached the relationship of Church and State like a sacred marriage where husband and wife had distinct roles, responsibilities and accountabilities but the unity of marriage primordial?
Perhaps, if we do not look at the separation as the necessity but instead the unity, then society can continue ask public officials to be morally and ethically upright just as priests and bishops are expected to be of the same character. The law requires that moral and ethical standard, but the separation of Church and State makes the same people following government and religion expect different standards.
I believe that it is the unnecessary emphasis on separation that makes us create ways to separate beyond what is beneficial. I believe, too, that if the emphasis was the sanctity of unity between Church and State, then our creativity may deliver a synchronicity beyond imagination.
It is hard to imagine that harmony can be found in a relationship between Church and State that is truly harmonious. For too long, we had led ourselves to assuming that the principle of separation meant not having to do with one another instead of being necessary to make co-existence beneficial to both. If faith and governance are both crucial of Philippine society, then great care must be taken to keep both in a perfect fit as much as possible. Any discordant note must immediately be attended to as its rippling effect disturbs societal life no end.
And for those who regard themselves as atheists, then following the values of the State which are harmonious with the value of the Church should pose no problem. After all, respect is fundamental in religiosity as it is in mundane humanity. It has not been the difference in belief systems that has caused much grief and destruction in human history, it has always been bigotry and fundamentalism – and delusional egos who roll these out.
Thoughts to ponder on this Holy Week, and today, Good Friday.
“There is always a philosophy for lack of courage.” — Albert Camus