Growing up in a born-again Christian family, we were encouraged to dream big. We were told growing up that we were “destined for greatness” because of our relationship with God. Verses like Jeremiah 29:11 or Philippians 4:13 were like mantras we’ve kept close especially when we were stuck in sticky situations to remind us that God is on our side. As a matter of fact, I pray to God in every exam and tell Him: “God, you said in James 1:5: ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, He should ask God who gives abundantly without finding fault.’ So Lord, give me the wisdom to ace the exam.”
If ever the results were unfavorable, it’s alright because we are the protagonists of the story written and directed by the Almighty God. Our setbacks are just “Cardo Dalisay” moments wherein we’ll bounce back no matter what. Even though the reason may be my lack of effort to study in advance, or perhaps the instructor included questions not covered by the syllabus or required reading materials. Above all else, God is in control of the results.
Needless to say, my view of the universe is as simplistic as it gets—light versus darkness. Just devote your life to God, and your path is set for life. Everything happens for a purpose because God is in control. Except if you’re not a Christian, then good luck. God won’t favor you the way he favors those who accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and savior.
That way of thinking gave me an unearned sense of confidence in traversing through life. I felt a tad wiser than everyone else who isn’t Christian. Why? Because I felt like I knew this great life hack. And they were deceived by the devil himself.
However, upon learning more about social sciences and philosophy, I realized how flawed my thinking was.
I discovered logical fallacies, as well as my failure to take into account matters that affect our lives such as imperialism, social inequality, capitalism, and other social constructs.
Even if I prayed 10 times a day, I will continue to suffer from power outages on a regular basis because I live in Palawan, compared to an atheist living in a progressive country like Finland. Even if I were a lawyer engaging in private practice in Puerto Princesa City, a minimum wage earner in Seattle will most likely earn more than I do because the Philippine peso is economically weaker than the US dollar. A kid born and raised in the slums has to hustle their way out of the pits of poverty, while the child of an affluent person can freely embrace mediocrity without starvation looming over their doorsteps.
We can run down several examples all day long, but the bottom line is, life is complicated and full of intricacies. We must learn to take a step back, and look at the nuances of every situation before drawing conclusions, especially on things that we deem as important. Only then can we get closer to the truth.
In retrospect, the apostles who devoted their lives in service to God lived austerely. Not to mention suffered mockery, imprisonment, or even execution just so a couple of millennia later we can go to church without being stoned to death. The opposite of what my evangelical church frequently preaches of—the concept of “rumaragasang pagpapala” or a strong current of blessings. Follow God, blessing will come flooding in.
As I started to view the world in different shades, hues, and colors rather than black and white, or light vs. darkness, the less I was drawn to populist leaders with drastic solutions. That was not the case for the God-fearing people I admired and grew up with. They were drawn by messianic narratives and prophecies that were masterfully crafted by advertising and marketing agencies.
As the saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” They may want what is pure, just, and kind for everybody but the machinations of the propaganda machine hijacked the purity of their simplistic view of reality. Not only would it cause harm to them, but also to the people they love dearly.
Religion provides a great roadmap for treating others, leading a purposeful life, and dealing with setbacks and sorrows. However, we must acknowledge the role of societal structures in shaping our choices, preferences, and material conditions. From there, we can be less harsh toward our own fallibility and of others. By demystifying our fate and of others, we can also start demanding accountability from society to change the man-made constructs that we conform to.
Even without the same amount of faith-based confidence mustered through years of indoctrination, a similar, if not better, kind of self-efficacy can be obtained. That is knowing that God gave us more autonomy in this world than we could ever ask for. It is frightening as it is exciting, it is empowering as it is cumbersome. One day at a time, maybe we can do better.