Resurrection and Revival

Earworms:
-Warriors by Freedom Call
-Stained Glass Masquerade by Casting Crowns
Playing:
-Neverwinter Nights 2 (4th Time). Anthy Maymallow, Strongheart Halfling Rogue 3/Wizard 1
-Super Robot Taisen Alpha 3 (2nd Time) Touma Kanou, pilot of Raiou and Dairaiou. Stage 10/60.

My friend and co-teacher Martin Perez has written another excellent article[link] on the role of religion and atheism in the Philippines. He says that traditional Filipino religion has made people rather complacent about the state of their life, and they refuse to do anything and just leave it all to God, and that perhaps we might reach a point where the basis of our nation is question and we can truly move forward.

I have to say that he drives a point home, though I do not agree with it entirely.

My faith is not a conventional one, and I will always, always make a distinction between “religion” and “faith.” I prefer to avoid using the term “religion” whenever I refer to what I practice. I just feel that the term “religion,” while meaning a practice of devoting oneself to a deity or philosophy, connotes a mere outward practice, or even an on-paper representation of a statistic. I truly hope that no one sees this as a bashing post—I will make it clear that this is only an observation and an attempt to understand what I observe, as well as a sharing of my own faith experience.

Let me tell you a story, if you care to listen.

I come from a religious family background. Grandma would always tell us to pray the rosary, and I learned pretty quickly how to do so. My alma mater is a well-known exclusive boys’ school, and this contributed even more to my background. I practiced it not out of understanding—I was just told to do it.

My family life was good, for a while. My parents had their differences, and although they would separate for a few weeks, they would come back together again after that. I remember thanking God for bringing them back together. Their relationship was still a bit rocky, but things would settle down for a while—until my mother was severely injured in a car accident when I was in second grade.

My mother had two hemorrhages in her brain, and the surgeons said that even if she survived the operation, she would be a human vegetable for the rest of her life. It was a painful experience to see my mother—who had always been a sharp and intelligent woman— lying in bed, unconscious for hours on end, barely recognizing her own children. After a month and a half, the doctors realized they were wrong. Mom recovered fully, and soon regained her memory. However, she was very helpless for a long time and could not read, walk, or write. She had to go through the humiliating ordeal of having to learn how to read and write again—even having to relearn how to use a calculator as she went back to her work as a buyer of merchandise in a popular mall chain. (This was her line of work for ten years, before and after this she was an English teacher and now works in our church as the Children’s Ministry coordinator)

Mom recovered completely—in fact, she eventually stopped taking the anti-seizure medication which her neurosurgeon had prescribed her to take for the rest of her life. Her recovery was so complete that the surgeon said that her case would be used for study later on.

It was not long after that when Dad decided to have their marriage annulled. I was in 4th grade then, and my grades took a hit because of my depression. I did not truly understand why I felt bad then, although I really could not bring myself to hate my dad at all. I had loved him for too long to suddenly hate him. I became fearful of him, though—he seemed farther off and more angry; less understanding, less loving. I later learned that this was not true. Much, much later.

It was around this time that my mother began to attend our current church, and there was a gradual change in her. She remained to be very intelligent, perceptive and insightful, but she also became more loving, more caring that she used to be. Although I was still living with my dad then (From 4th grade to 1st year high school, I went through a period of going back and forth between my mom and dad), I noticed there were changes in her. I learned that she had met God in a personal way, and that He was changing her. She used to have religion, then she received her faith.

I went through my own struggles with hate. I was always the outcast in school, always the ostracized one. There were others more persecuted than me, but I had to put up an aura of intellectual badassness that made people at least respect me some of the time. I was not the best performer in class, but I could answer whatever they asked me. That was good enough for me.

Or not. I hated them. I hated everyone, especially those who made fun of me. Despite all their shallow and superficial friendship, I felt truly empty. I was the kid who never had parents to attend PTCs. I was the kid whose parents never showed up during class parties. I was the kid who had to take a tricycle instead of being picked up by my parents, the kid who rode a tricycle to a husk of a house with nothing that made it a home. I craved love and tried to seek it despite failing.

I began to listen to rock music with the intention of rebelling (I still listen to rock and metal, but that’s something else.). I would leave the radio on when I slept at night, and on one occasion I even remember waking up in the middle of the night, hearing demonic voices coming out of the radio. (It was probably just the song that was playing, but it still freaked me out.)

I had no one to love, nothing to stand for, nothing to live for.

And I was only eleven years old at that time.

It took me two years before I met the Lord during a trip to the US. An uncle who had been a drug addict shared his own life story. Things did not change so quickly, but they began to change. Eventually, before my second year of high school, I decided to stay with my mom (and it has been that way since then). She began to bring me to church more often, and I met many friends and grew to understand that it was all about Jesus dying for our sins, rising from the dead and giving us a new hope and reason to live. I still struggled with many things in my life—perhaps even more than when I had not known Him—but I had someone to live for now.

My life is far from perfect, but I’ve been learning recently that things really all fall into place when He’s in the center.

So what on earth does this story have to do with Martin’s article?

I have to say that many people in this country are only nominally Christian. It’s only a habit to them, a tradition that probably meant something in the distant past, but has waned in relevance as time passed. It does not truly affect their lives; it merely takes up their time. This is “religion.”

I would like to say that my own experience—and that of my mother, my brother, grandmother, and many of my friends—is one of faith. It’s a learning process, a journey, a growth process—many things. Above all, it is a relationship with the God who I do not know completely apart from His own revelation, the God who I know to be.

I often find myself doubting how He works, and although I question Him and His methods, learned more and more to question myself instead: my motives, my methods, my goals. I do ask for deliverance from problems, He gives guidance as to what I can do. Problems do not become my own burdens, neither do I throw them off my shoulders completely. He instead comes alongside and carries it with me, and I find that this experience of dependence on Him is totally enriching. It is a faith that gives both hope and the drive to persevere in work at the same time. The faith is not in an unliving statue, neither is it in an impersonal and obscure concept—it is faith in a living God who works on this plane of existence, who once died for man’s sins, rose again, and continues to work in our lives in ways we cannot even imagine.

I understand how atheists feel, especially when many times the religious authorities themselves are responsible for the dying of their faith. I understand how they question beliefs that are taught but not lived out. Their questions are not answered but condemned. I understand how they question the belief of those who allow themselves to be trampled to death in a crowd while venerating a statue. I understand because I feel the exact same way–only that the answer I found was different. I would like to ask them to keep their minds open and to look for true faith instead of being disillusioned by hypocrisy. (This is a universal phenomenon—there are hypocritical Roman Catholics, hypocritical Evangelicals, hypocritical Muslims, I daresay even hypocritical atheists. Can’t really escape from them.) Even I struggle with my own hypocrisy from time to time, but God is gracious. He pulls me out of the muck and mire of my own selfish pride.

Filipinos are inherently religious. Imagine what would happen if everyone truly believed and had faith. My point here is not a matter of changing religion. The bottom line is that Filipinos had better practice the faith that their religion claims to profess.

I’d like to close with this quote from Casting Crowns’s Stained Glass Masquerade.

Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation’s open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

As Jesus rose from the dead, may we rise with Him. As Jesus rose from the dead, may our hearts be renewed and our faith be made flesh, talking in our words and walking in our footsteps. May our hands heal as His heal, our arms embrace as His embrace, our hearts love as His loves.

He is risen indeed!

Your Black Lion

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~ by J. R. R. Flores on April 8, 2007.

3 Responses to “Resurrection and Revival”

  1. Great post! I haven’t been able to explore the distinction between religion and faith as much, but you do a great job here. I’ve come to the insight that in answering the question of whether God exists (the fundamental concern of atheists), those who find the answer find “religion” (and this could also be science, reason or atheism). And those who live out the question in their lives — such as you — find faith.

  2. See, this is why despite all the urgings to convince you to go back to the Catholic Church, I let you be. In other times, I even defended your beliefs against others who considered your faith inferior to that of the general Filipino populace.

    True, there are a lot of hypocritical Christians, Catholics, most of them, sadly…

    Yet here you are, taking initiative to nurture your faith when others would make do with what they’ve grown up with (“being forced to go to Mass every Sunday, say grace before eating and attending services for religious holidays”). That’s when you know there’s something wrong. When you already feel that you’re being forced. But it does not necessarily mean that one needs to change religion. Rather, perhaps one needs to understand more why these things are there. These things, practices, rituals, everything, are there to help us enrich our relationship with God and it’s up to us whether we’re going to fully utilize them in order for us to come closer to him or let it all go to waste and keep walking forward with empty lives. You have done quite well for yourself. I was one of those who witnessed that change since I’ve known you for quite some time and personally, I’ve always admired how you’ve grown in your faith which also pushed me to do a searching of my own. I found Opus Dei and there, I learned more about the doctrine and the faith I’ve been taking for granted all this time.

    Cheers, bro~!

  3. I suggest reading up on the 60′s counterculture movement, particularly the motives driving that movement and America’s domestic and foreign policies at the time. It’s not just the Vietnam War, mind you.

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