Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has issued another stern criticism of the Roman Catholic Church in The Philippines – one that was highly allegorical in respect of contemporary political trends in the country. During his speech, Duterte criticised Catholic doctrine in the following way:
“You’re already praying at one God, then you’re going to pray at these cursed saints. There’s only one God. There’s only one God, period. You cannot divide God into 3, that’s silly”.
Turning then to the Biblical recounting of Crucifixion, Duterte said:
“Your God was nailed on the cross. Fuck, how unimpressive. I’m God and you will crucify me? Mother fucker. I’d tell them, ‘Lightning, finish all of them. Burn all the non-believers…
…Look, those documents were written – if at all – 3,000 years ago. Why would they care about our lives now? Who wrote about them? Who’s Saint Thomas? We don’t know who they are. That might even be a name for a cow or camel then”.
While Duterte’s statements have intentionally caused shock, this is in keeping with his self described method of ‘shaking the tree‘ in order to awaken in people, a new socio-political mentality that breaks from the complacency of the past. In Duterte’s recent remarks, he used religious allegory and criticism of Catholic doctrine in order to convey several important messages to his people.
President Duterte has long made it clear that he does not seek to proselytise anyone towards his specific view of religion which as he has stated many times, accepts the principle of a rational and dignified supreme being but one that is different from the dogmatic belief system of any organised religion. However, in severely criticising a Catholic Church that for centuries in The Philippines was beyond social reproach, Duterte has helped to make it safe for people to criticise all manner of things that they were previously bullied into not criticising.
In other words, by opening the floodgates to harsh criticism of a religious institution, Duterte is creating a safe space in which his countrymen and women can freely criticise corrupt priests, their treatment at the hands of corrupt civil officials, poor politicians and of course also express their criticisms of the deeply flawed 1987 Constitution of the country – a man made (aka oligarch made) document that for many years was treated as something of a national Bible in spite of its multiple shortcomings.
In a country whose people risk becoming overly complacent over multiple matters related to general social and economic progress, Duterte’s harsh rebukes of Catholicism and Church teachings is a signpost that free speech is something that one can lose unless it is used.
A warning to those metaphorically crucifying Duterte
The Philippines is unique as a nation as some of its citizens literally crucify themselves during Easter in order to attempt to relive the pain of their Lord. While authorities officially discourage the practice, this hasn’t stopped mainstream media and the Yellow opposition from metaphorically crucifying Duterte at every opportunity.
But unlike Jesus who turned the other cheek and forgave his earthly killers, Duterte has made it clear that in all circumstances he will fight back whether against Yellow untruth and innuendo, NPA threats or fake news defamation.
Give one’s opponents enough rope
As sure as many of Duterte’s opponents (a minority in the nation, but a vocal one nevertheless), seek to metaphorically crucify the popular people-centred leader, Duterte is more than happy to invite these increasingly hysterical opponents to metaphorically hang themselves on the rope that Duterte constantly gives them. In order words, by speaking in allegedly “outrageous” ways about spiritual shibboleths, Duterte tempts his opponents to react in a threatening, hysterical, irrational and even intellectually violent ways.
While Duterte often lambastes ideas he believes are foolish, he never threatens any individual unless such an individual is a criminal (a terrorist, narco or someone who threatened the President himself). And yet many of Duterte’s opponents who claim to be “Christians” or “liberals” react to his criticism of ideas and of criminality by calling for violence against Duterte – two things that one would have thought were both un-Christian and illiberal by definition.
In this sense, Duterte’s opponents are only as bad as they allow themselves to be and by drawing them out of their proverbial caves, Duterte has helped to at long last expose the rot that lies in many of their minds.
The Philippines is a nation that requires much less public complacency, more critical thinking, less hero worship and more reality checks in order to reform its political system and modernise its economy. While Duterte spends most of his daytime hours working on policies to accomplish these goals, his lengthy evening speeches provide a necessary wake-up call for the nation at large to develop a new mentality that is compatible with understanding the necessity of these reforms while carrying them forward for years to come.