Iglesia Ni Cristo

[New School] Confessions: Why I left the Iglesia Ni Cristo

Phillippe Angelo Hiñosa

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[New School] Confessions: Why I left the Iglesia Ni Cristo
'I will not allow the authority, the rich and the powerful who lead comfortable lives, to decide for my future again'

Silence greeted the air after the choir belted out the last note. At last, the worship service had ended. It was time to go home. I straightened my back, scoured the chamber, then waited for the minister’s final remarks.

He took out a piece of paper. Glanced at the crowd. Then announced one evictee after the other. My body tensed. Evictee. What sacred rule could they have disobeyed? Evictee. What dogma were they caught desecrating? Evictee. My senses heightened as beads of sweat cascaded down my forehead. Evictee. The lights burned bright. Evictee. The fans droned louder. Evictee. The walls caved in.

I wanted him to say my name, like a death wish, but he didn’t.

Tatay would have banished me, and when I was 15, I did not want this to happen. I was not capable of defying his will. I trembled every time I disobeyed him. I spent a great deal of my childhood following orders. Disobedience meant beating.

I had no choice but to embrace a religion I did not love, lest I suffer the penalty of the stick. I was, at the end of the day, just a seed, or a binhi, as they called it, a baptized member of the church at or below the age of 17. I kept my opinions to myself. Listening to tatay’s moral lectures in private was enough. A public execution at church in the form of cold stares? That would have been too much. So I stayed quiet for years. Until one day, the seed, where all my frustrations had been incubated, cracked the ground open.

I mustered the courage to criticize what my tatay did not want to contradict — blind obedience. At home, in church, or even across society, blind obedience has roots. One is blind because of the material realities affecting their life. Poverty. Landlessness. Unemployment. Violence. You can also owe your lack of sight (and foresight) to your privilege, which allows you to unsee things in society.

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Yet both kinds of people bestow infinite power to a so-called authority. This authority is ascribed with meta-human qualities that set him apart from the rest of us. Who he is — an intercessor or a savior — depends on how he can exploit the needs of his followers. When his followers are in despair, he mimics light. When they feel lost, he shows the path. When they are weary, he offers shelter. For this reason, defiance seems impossible.

To tatay, Bongbong Marcos was a boon. Bongbong, now vying to be the president of our republic, is a paragon of authority that emanates blind obedience. A fragment of the population glorifies him because they were made to believe that the Marcoses were royalty, and Bongbong, a prince. They trust him to run a nation simply because he is a Marcos.

Our church endorsed him openly. And, they say, whoever treads against this tramples over God, too. The ones who did go against the endorsement were corrected, bedeviled. For the church, it is the verdict of the holy, the “sacred discernment” of human intercessors, that steers the fate of the herd.

Tatay wanted me to vote for Bongbong. The reason? The church declared so! Whatever the church says, he echoes, I must obey.

But the authority manipulates lies to imitate truth. The lie that Bongbong graduated from Oxford University was distorted to appear true. The lie that he had paid all dues being exacted from him was made to appear true. And even truer than true was the lie that, during Martial Law, his family had not committed a single crime against the Filipino people.

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I’d become skeptical of bloc voting since I first cast my vote in 2019. While I find nothing wrong with collective action, as I know it brings about greater impact, it must be done through consultative and consensual methods. No elite sub-group should monopolize decision-making, or guilt anyone who expresses valid contradictions.

Our right to suffrage, lest anyone forgets, does not function to validate and manifest the choice of the authority. It is a reflection of our principles and privileges. It is a deliberate reaction to the social conditions prevailing today.

I will not, therefore, allow the authority, the rich and the powerful who lead comfortable lives, to decide for my future again. Never.

During the last elections, “never” was my mantra. Never to let tatay dictate my life choices. Never to obey the church if it comes at the expense of my values. Never to support another Marcos, or participate in their return to power. And, above all, never to remain idle in the unfolding of our history. Now, at 22, “never” is my battlecry.

Just days before the 2019 elections, I left our church for good.

I learned that unity driven by blind obedience is like a flock on the edge of a cliff. The sheep are at risk, but not the shepherd.

Evicting myself from the church is one act of defiance I will forever remember. And to have done it alongside folks who championed reason over religion, at a time when democracy was in peril, was a show of unity, and one that history will be indebted to.

In the days to come, a century of blindness is about to be revoked. This is where the worship service ends. – Rappler.com

Phillippe Angelo Hiñosa is a Sociology student at the University of the Philippines Visayas. He writes about family, education, politics, and society based on his personal life. You can reach him at pahinosa@gmail.com.

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