Preachers like Apollo Quiboloy amuse me. They are among the few public speakers on earth who feel no shame about saying the most outrageous things before large crowds and in front of the cameras.
Worse, they seem to believe their own BS. And they are allowed to get away with it, not in the guise but under the protection of religion, a force on earth that can make even the most intelligent man say or do the stupidest, grossest, most inhumane thing, and then walk away guilt-free as if nothing happened.
By religion, I mean the system or set of beliefs, practices, and rituals engendered by faith on objects or the supernatural without any need for proof.
On one hand, a cult is a startup that is sometimes referred to as a new religious movement (NRM). A sect, on the other hand, is a sub-grouping; it branched out of a bigger and older religious group. In a way, it is also an NRM.
The two are looked down on as heretical by the bigger group but they also see the latter as somewhat misguided at the very least. All of them claim, though, to be the exclusive bearers of the truth, and woe unto those who disagree!
Over time, a cult or a sect could become bigger and more dominant.
Whether one calls the Quiboloy group a cult or a sect is a matter I will leave to the reader, but it is a religion by definition for all intents and purposes.
Religion, of course, has been a force for good throughout history. Many selfless and extraordinary acts of kindness and charity have been done as a result of faith. Yet the list of atrocities committed and being committed today in its name is also long and cannot be overlooked.
Generally, it takes religion for a man to even contemplate murdering a young child as a sacrificial offering. And for people to see the act, even if aborted, as a virtue and synonymous with holiness, you need religion.
How else can anyone justify the vileness of the act and the trauma inflicted on the poor child by a madman? If anything of that sort were to take place in our neighborhoods today, we’d call the police.
Neither is making the unwilling submit and do things that a streetwalker does behind closed doors a decent deed by any human. That is sexual abuse by definition – or if the victim is an innocent child, pedophilia. But it takes some form of runaway faith or misplaced religion to turn this debauchery into some form of holiness in the eyes of an ugly predator.
Aside from that, religious assertions, no matter how silly and unhistorical, are exempted from scrutiny.
All the unsoundness escapes even the prying eyes of the most serious of fact-checkers. It is as if the human mind has been wired or trained since childhood to probe anything it wishes except matters of religion. It’s taboo.
Take, for example, this thing about hearing things. I get suspicious whenever people – not just preachers – say supernatural beings talk to them.
It comes to me like they’re hearing voices, which is perturbing. Such claims are a cause for worry because, during normal days, that simply means it’s time for them to see a doctor or consult an expert for intervention.
That’s not normal.
If anyone comes to me and says voices are prodding him to do something, I’d get spooked like a kid watching for the first time Jack Nicholson looking out the frozen hotel window in Kubrick’s The Shining.
In the case of Quiboloy, he claims the God of Israel speaks audibly to his ears, not in Hebrew but – hold your breath! – in plain Cebuano.
He says he first heard this voice in the ‘70s while he was in Seoul. There, he claims, God spoke to him.
Quiboloy is certain that the voice belonged to a higher power who or which I deduce, based on his shaky story, missed out on the part about introductions. There was no proper identification, no business card, and no burning bush–- or burning weed, depending on how you see it. The preacher just thought or presumed – maybe felt – that it was the God the Father, the Almighty Creator, and that settled it.
We are made to imagine an invisible extraterrestrial intelligence cutting to the chase and telling him straight in South Korea, “Gamiton ta ka (I will use you)!”
Let me hazard a guess: the Cebuano-speaking entity also sounded pretty much like James Earl Jones, the legendary deep voice behind Darth Vader. The preacher would have dismissed it as a prank, most likely if it sounded like Michael Jackson.
Quiboloy also claims his mother heard a voice while giving birth to him in 1950. She was supposedly told, “That’s my son!” His presumption, of course, is that it belonged to the same invisible alien force that threw him a pick-up line in Seoul more than two decades later.
Was that in English? And how did he know this not-so-virgin birth story to be true when at that time, he was still this tiny, underdeveloped Homo sapien supposedly busy struggling to squeeze through and find its way out of a woman’s womb?
As for Quiboloy’s incredible first-hand accounts, they all paint his god as someone fond of one-liners, and who can’t carry a two-way conversation for at least 10 seconds.
This characterization is consistent with the early Hollywood depictions of the grandpa-looking man in the sky, sporting a white beard and wearing what looks like a white bathrobe.
But that is the image of Zeus, the ancient Greek god of thunder and lightning, the father, and king, and chairman of the board of the gods of Mount Olympus. (What we know now as mythology was serious religious stuff in ancient times. That was before monotheism became a dominant force in the world.)
Enter the ‘spirit’
Quiboloy is not the first to turn fiction into religion. History is replete with accounts of such people, and the list continues.
Years before Quiboloy started this single proprietorship called the “Kingdom” in Davao, a quack doctor on Dinagat Island in the Caraga region was already making claims about how voices supposedly trained him to interpret ancient mysteries.
His son and namesake, the late wife killer and ex-congressman Reuben Ecleo Jr. succeeded him after he died in 1987. Like his father, Reuben Jr. was revered as a Christ-like figure who required that his gullible followers addressed him as “Divine Master,” with the first letters of the two words capitalized.
Dinagat’s Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) had a copycat in the village of Jasaan town, Misamis Oriental, started by a defector, “Master” Tomas Eugenio Sr., who realized he could be the head instead of Ruben Sr.’s tail.
To his followers in the Philippine Benevolent Christian Missionaries (PBCM), the late Eugenio was the embodiment of the third person in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, entitled to donations and their other earthly possessions. (I sh*t you not – some people actually believed this stuff with all their hearts and minds!)
The master was said to maintain a pool of “spiritual wives” who were given instructions to leave their doors unlocked as the Holy Ghost might enter in the middle of the night. Such a practice, as we see now, is not original to the Davao cult or sect.
Eugenio died in September 2004. By December of that same year, people living near his palasyo in the village of San Antonio in Jasaan town complained of the stench from his unembalmed corpse. It turned out that his followers were waiting for him to resurrect. Nothing of that sort happened, of course.
5 years of bananas
Something in Quiboloy’s beginnings struck me. He started as a preacher of an ultra-conservative branch of Pentecostalism that rejects the widely accepted Trinity doctrine. He shares these roots with televangelist Wilde Almeda of the Jesus Miracle Crusade, the willing Abu Sayyaf hostage in 2000.
After Seoul, he founded his church and slowly morphed from “anointed” preacher to “The Appointed Son of God,” “The Third Adam,” “The Messiah to the Gentiles,” “The Fulfillment of the New Testament,” “The King of the New Creation and the Second Coming,” and “Owner of the Universe.”
The founding of the church was preceded by Quiboloy’s supposed close encounters of the third kind on Mount Kitbog in South Cotabato, where all his questions about the birds and the bees and what-have-you were answered.
After that, he claimed to have lived like a mountain man in Tamayong, Davao City, for a five-year “furnace of affliction” seminar and workshop facilitated by who-knows-what. He claims he went into exile there for half a decade, “eating nothing but bananas.”
Did it even occur to him what taking bananas for breakfast, lunch, and supper for five years straight would do to a man? That’s one hell of a potassium overload.
The exact point of his imaginary transformation into a demigod – much like the half god-half human Perseus – is unclear. But a former follower recounted that around 2000, she was told that a group of ministers under Quiboloy and members were shocked when he proclaimed himself “The Appointed Son of God.”
She said those around Quiboloy tried to prevent him from making such a claim, but there was no stopping the determined preacher from compelling his followers to address him as such – a title, which in his view, deserves first-letter capitalizations.
Several of them left.
Dreams and visions
Quiboloy seems to be living in a world where the lines between fantasy and reality are blurred. This is a man who appears to have an overactive imagination, and is living in a dream world.
Why else would he address the world and think anyone outside his little kingdom would take him seriously when he said that the Omicron variant was all about him and that there would be more – and much worse – unless US federal prosecutors stopped pursuing him?
Quiboloy’s claims are rubbish, but it looks like he doesn’t know that. He believes them, so it seems.
But so did The Reverend Jim Jones with his fantasy about his rise as the “Prophet-God” or the “Manifested Son of God.” Sounds very familiar.
Both preached eternal damnation for non-believers which, reading between the lines, is “spiritual blackmail.” Ah, rewards and punishment. That pretty much sums up everything about religion.
But what if Quiboloy is really what he claims to be?
Then we’re doomed together with nearly 7.9 billion people on this planet.
Except for a tiny fraction of that population, all would get roasted in some form of arson 24 hours a day ad infinitum just for making a wrong guess about which religion to pick.
Yet, by then, we can take comfort in the thought that once upon a time, we were reasonable and probing, and did not bow down to this petty, merciless, authoritarian, and morally inferior “owner of the universe.” Heaven with someone like that is hell.
Because he is fond of dreams and asserting these to be a reality, I guess I can also make a similar claim.
Last night, I had a dream; I had a vision. I was the wayward “Appointed Cousin.” On Judgment Day, as I stood before this so-called “Appointed Son” for sentencing, I managed to talk him into permitting me to ask this 12-word question: What was the erectile dysfunction medication in the California indictment papers for?
Based on the findings of US federal state prosecutors, he needed a pill first to get some of his supernatural powers to work in 2014. Whoa!
So, he can suspend natural laws and stop earthquakes, but just couldn’t resurrect the dead without popping a pill? Yeah, right. Pastilan. – Rappler.com
Herbie Gomez has been a journalist based in Cagayan de Oro for over 30 years. He now heads Rappler’s Mindanao bureau.