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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Religiosity As A Photo-Op

There should be a ban on taking pictures in religious places.

(Photo courtesy of

What conceivable purpose does it purport to exhibit other than the parading of how pious one supposedly is?

Lately, the "talk of the town" regarding boxing superstar and Philippine Congressman Manny Pacquiao is how he has become a "changed man": how he has incorporated Bible studies into his routine, how he has given up his gambling and womanizing ways, how he has more time to spend with his wife and kids.

I'm perfectly fine with him claiming to be "changed". I'm actually happy for his wife, who used to be interviewed all the time whenever there are rumors that Manny was seeing this starlet, or that woman. At least she doesn't have to field those kinds of questions, which are uneasy ones, to say the least. And the children get to see their father more - now who doesn't want to champion that?

And, as Manny is now benefitting from this right under a democracy, this should be made patently clear, anyone can change their religion. As a legislator who, in recent times, has been one of the Catholic Church's mouthpieces in Congress - especially where the RH Bill is concerned - he seems to be in a grey area these days: supposedly, this transformation is the result of his close association with either a born-again or Protestant pastor.

(For more information, please read:

Interestingly, the Catholic Church is claiming him as a "child" still: "Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez told reporters...that a Protestant pastor was guiding Pacquiao but that the pugilist has not changed religion."

One has to wonder why no religion would like to relinquish ties with Manny.

But I digress.

It really isn't my - or anyone else's - business what religion Manny chooses to affiliate himself with and believe in. That is one of the most potent signs of a democracy, the ability to choose one's religion without fear of being denied other rights, or suffering secular laws that favor one religion over another.

What I find disturbing - to the point of offensiveness - are the pictures of Manny, or anyone else, splashed across the front pages, barging in our purview, in an (unconscious or conscious) effort to communicate the supposed level of piety one is "into" right now.

In the picture above, you not only see him kneeling in prayer, you also find other politicians like former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza who just so happened to be right beside him doing the same thing.


It is taking all my powers to strain disbelief that this is exactly the kind of opportunism that politicians are known to salivate for, in the hopes of somehow currying favor with constituents and potential voters, and securing their tenure in public office.

Isn't faith supposed to be a matter of privacy? It would follow that since it is no one's business what anyone chooses as their religion, then the practice of your chosen faith should remain that way: private.

Yet, time and again, pictures of (especially) politicians (but also of people who live and breathe with any form of publicity, e.g. social climbers) fill up the front pages of our papers, participating in various religious rites and rituals, space that could have been utilized for more informative and worthwhile news reports, the kind that impacts our very lives, and not a bald faced attempt at lengthening some politician's career.

If I remember correctly, Jesus openly rebuked the Pharisees, who made it a point to show off their piety, and only for that very purpose: for show.

Something to think about, considering most of these people photographed claim to follow Jesus.

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