‘It was not a political rally’

Ferdinand Topacio
The Iglesia ni Cristo's voting as a bloc is doctrinal. We believe we are One Body with Christ as our Head, and that there should be no divisions in that body.

Ferdinand S. TopacioYes, we came in droves, starting from the wee hours, and eventually a crowd of easily a million – as a neutral media practitioner who attended had estimated – gathered at the Quirino Grandstand.

It was not a political rally, it was one of our “Grand Evangelical Missions” or GEMs. As far as we members are concerned, we were there because it is our obligation to help propagate what we believe to be the correct doctrines of faith as stated in the Bible (Matthew 28:19).

To that end, we invite as many persons as we can who do not yet share our faith. Thus the presence of public figures, whom we request to attend as we feel that their prestige and moral ascendancy over many people would cause many to convert, if we succeed in convincing them to enter the fold.
Some pundits and observers were unconvinced, however, including those who work in the Palace by the Pasig River.  

They view the gathering as a “show of support” for Chief Justice Renato Corona, who they suspect of having the support of the Church. Others see it as a subtle message to the present administration “not to mess with us,” citing the hasty discharge of National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) chief Magtanggol “Ka Tanggol” Gatdula, a known member of the Church, and pressure allegedly being brought to bear by Malacañang on another prominent member, former Supreme Court Justice Serafin “Ka Apin” Cuevas, to withdraw as lead defense lawyer for Corona.

It was neither, of course.

But if it were a “show of force” it was not a bad show at all.

Yesterday’s prayer meeting was a clear demonstration of the Church’s logistical capabilities: its ability to mobilize huge numbers of members from Metro Manila and the outlying provinces of Cavite, Batangas, Laguna and Bulacan at comparatively short notice;  provide them with efficient and modern private transport to and from the place of gathering; put in place a state-of-the art audio-visual system for the venue; distribute food and drinks to all who attended; provide medical support; and police its own ranks with its own troop of thousands of volunteer marshals (the SCAN).

All those while coordinating parallel gatherings in 18 other separate places all over the country and providing real-time media coverage through the Church’s two nationwide television networks and three radio stations.

Hidden meanings

Yet, we are supposed to “speak in riddles,” as a recent report from the Inquirer said, quoting an unnamed “Church insider.”

Thus, non-members who were watching the events unfold tried to find significance in everything that transpired, from the absence or presence of certain politicians and personalities, to the “meeting” at the Manila Hotel among Supreme Court Administrator Midas Marquez, and Gatdula; his lawyer Abraham Espejo, the dean of the Church-owned New Era University College of Law; former Justice Secretary Artemio Tuquero, now lawyering for former President Gloria Arroyo; and this writer, who represents her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo.

They even tried to find hidden meanings in the homily given by Church elders during the actual Pamamahayag. These dealt with how some people try to please God by treading what they think is the right path, but end up offending Him instead by persecuting others and refusing to forgive when they themselves are sinners, and that there is but one Supreme Leader who is Christ Himself.  

But in the final act, there was nothing in the latest GEM that was political. And so it has always been, and shall always be.

The Church has always adhered to a policy of non-interference with the political affairs of the country, in accordance with our doctrine that secular authorities are ordained by God (Romans 13:1).   

Those who scoff at this by saying that our voting as a bloc constitutes blatant politicking must understand that this principle is doctrinal as well. We believe that since we are One Body with Christ as our Head, there should be no divisions in that body (1 Corinthians 12:12-25).

In fact, by submitting to the Church administration’s authority to decide which candidates to support, coupled with the strict proscription against members running for any elective public office, we obviate the need for politicking in our ranks.

Last Tuesday’s GEM is but part of an overall effort to ratchet up conversions to the Church leading up to our Centenary on July 27, 2014, with the Church administration encouraging every member to produce at least one new member, thereby doubling its membership (John 15:8). 

It should not be interpreted in any other way.

Of course, if others perceive it differently, perhaps it could not be helped. Such may be the mystique of the Church that those outside it see it however they want to.

After all, as the Bible says: “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because they seeing see not; and hearing hear not, neither do they understand (Matthew 13:13, KJV).”  – Rappler.com