Emotions are really terrible things to live with. I find that especially true since I was brought up in a church environment that places such a high premium on the awareness of my personal guilt as a sign of my human depravity that stands against the will of a holy God. That’s why there is always that lingering feeling of guilt on my part whenever I would say that I am a Christian. This statement is quite interesting and at the same time hypocritical as far as I feel, ultimately because for the past couple of years I’ve found myself detached to whatever semblance my Evangelical Christian heritage has prescribed as becoming of a follower of Christ.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not a wilful thing on my part that I distanced myself and chose the path of becoming a ‘backslider’. Far from it, in fact the distance was not something that I alone was guilty of imposing it was a series of consecutive events that started when the foundationalist tendency of my local church’s theology tried to explain away the misery and problems that I am forced to face daily in my life as an activist.
Sometimes I think that maybe I am just trying this rhetoric to shield myself from that implication of guilt for my personal tastes that doesn’t sit perfectly with the piety required of a Christian with a good standing at church. After all: I have since I’ve always had this intimate connection with this fast, rebellious and deliberately offensive music called punk rock; I find nothing wrong with breaking the law if democratic space for protest has been exhausted; I drink alcohol with friends as an act of solidarity with their joy, pain or sorrow; I swear whenever I mean it (which means also that I do it often); and I often feel lost and helpless amidst the complexity of life as it unfolds around me.
I do not claim to know the answers although I know this: I have stopped going to church because what is being said there amidst the bullet points of their PowerPoint presentations and motivational speeches are no longer different from the cheap talk and ‘how-to-‘vocabulary of the corporate-consumer world that I left after realizing that working should be a vocation not just a means to make ends meet. I left because I am afraid that I might end up in Heaven without my closest friends who have very good reasons not to ‘accept’ Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior because they feel that the ‘good news’ of our Gospel may actually be an escapist attempt of legitimizing injustice. I left because I find myself uncomfortable with the fact that my Roman Catholic parents may actually be not counted as among those who have been ‘elected in Christ’. I left because there always seems to be that attitude of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ in church. And lastly I left because those who claim to have figured it out in church (with their mastery of sound doctrine) have wonderfully crafted their answers to whatever questions about that contradiction between what we hope for and the suffering that we see now are part of this harmonious vision of a bright future for supposed proof-text champions and defenders of a faith that seems to have forgotten that God has chosen the lowly, the poor, the outcasts, the sick, the dying and those who have no one to cry out to in agony but God alone.
Again I say that I am far from figuring out things for myself, in fact I am afraid that I might never actually come to that point in this short span of my life. But I cannot comfortably say that I am a part of an exclusive community of saints that can live with themselves and their understanding of a God who would chose the few of them while the rest of the suffering world would go to hell. I want to keep myself hopeful because at the moment that I hope I am always confronted with an immediate, negative contrast to what I am hoping for. That is, as soon as I hope, I become aware of the many things that prevent that hope from being realized.
That perhaps explains why I am studying theology. Because I cannot let go of my belief in God and my hope in Him that He would make things right, like Anselm, “I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand,” thus I live in this aching tension between the now and the not yet.
2012 started as a year of permanent endings for me as it was ushered in by news of a number of friends passing away, among them is the one very first punk’s that I’ve met during my teenage field trips to Cartimar, Recto. This news somehow raised an overwhelming consciousness of my own mortality and the ever-present temporality of life and the values that we attached to the people and things that we interact with.
This made me realize that we should not see death as haunting; terrifying perhaps. Rather it is more properly authenticizing because it compels me to focus on realizable possibilities because being confronted with one’s end does not allow to live frivolously.
Living in this tension consequently makes me reside with the awareness that time comes when death has to be embraced like a friend, and as I wait for that embrace I persevere in struggle towards finding that community which shares and welcomes this nagging tension to hope and struggle for a future when God will indeed wipe away our tears and there will be no more tears, nor sorrow, nor pain and death for these things have passed and God is finally all in all.