Political Theology

Manila Bulletin, November 11, 2001 | Go to article overview

Political Theology


(Excerpts from extemporaneous speech delivered by Dr. MIRIAM DEFENSOR SANTIAGO at the launch of her latest book, Christianity Versus Corruption, Political Theology for the Third World, held on 29 October 2001.)

POLITICAL theology Theology is the study of God - the attributes of God, and God's relations to the universe. In defining theology, I have studiously avoided using the male pronoun "he," because God is neither male nor female, for God is not a person. The term "political theology" refers to the application of religious truths and values to the world of politics, not as it ought to be, but as it actually is.

Political theology begins with the concept of God. Under the Rules of Court, I cannot prove to you that God exists. But at the same time, neither can you prove to me that God does not exist. This dilemma dictates that we should choose the easier option, which also happens to be the more logical option. We have to believe that there is a God.

The reality of God

There seem to be many people in our country who, despite loquacious lip service, labor under the ultimate belief that there is no God. The actuations of these closet non-believers, particularly the corrupt politicians and the hypocritical businessmen, seem to follow the logic of the Junkyard. This atheistic logic is illustrated by the story that once upon a time, there was a junkyard filled with all manner and species of junk. Centuries pass, and by the sheer operation of time, in a completely random process, the various items of junk accidentally gather together, and eventually produce a fully running motor vehicle. This is the metaphor for people who think that there is no God, despite the existence and the never-ending beauty of God's creation.

The mystery of God's presence is illustrated by the story of the Garden. Once upon a time, there were two close friends who lived on an estate marked by a famous garden. They decide to leave for a trip abroad for one year. Therefore, they take care to lock up the estate with the latest in high-technology security equipment, particularly burglar alarms. After the one-year period, they return and find that all the security equipment are in place, and working properly. No one could have accessed the estate. They discover that the garden has naturally been overgrown with weeds. But to their great surprise, there is an area in the garden that is well-tended, and presents them with a profusion of blooming roses.

Accordingly, the first friend is drawn to the conclusion that someone has broken into the garden, and tended the rose bushes. But the second friend insists that no one could have gained entry, because of the high-tech barriers, and so he concludes that the existence of the rose garden is simply a random phenomenon. The opposing views of the two friends reflect their individual perceptions of reality. For many of us, like the first friend, God is a reality that cannot be proved by the testimony of the human senses, but is proved on a daily basis by the sum of human existence.

We have now taken the first step toward political theology, by pointing out that there is a God. The next step is to define God. God as divinity is logically outside the province of the human mind to capture. This is why for a long time, our religious language was confused. At first, people said that God was "up there." Then, realizing the inherent limitations of geography, people said that God was "out there." Eventually, this led to the present proposition that God is immanent - God is "in here." You are host to an indwelling God. Do not look elsewhere; look within yourself, for God is the ground of your being. Where there is love and justice, there God is.

"Social location" and moral truth

Now that we have taken the two steps of accepting God's existence, and God's presence in the individual soul, we finally come to the substance of political theology. …

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