The ongoing controversy regarding certain Philippine Science High School scholars has hit social media, and our society in general, like a shower of hale on an extremely hot, dry day. Surprisingly entertaining, at first glance, but it can be hurtful and even dangerous. And like kids, many are having a field day gathering a harvest of cold, hard opinions with which to bash school officials, the alleged young “criminals” and each other. A few, like me, have to walk gingerly amidst gender-sensitive individuals and groups who have taken the cudgels for the “victimized innocent” girls.
Yes, the issue has polarized officials, friends and family members to a point where the news networks have caught on and school officials have warned media people to “respect the privacy” of the students. Ironic, since the case came about because of the violation of the privacy of some individuals. If only the involved personalities had “respected” or “valued” their own privacy (read “private parts”) or those of others, we would not have had this scandal.
Seemingly jumping the gun like most people, Veep Leni Robredo has pronounced that “abuse of women in any form is unacceptable”. Abuse is unacceptable, period. And it is true, whether we are talking about a dog, a child, a man, a woman or the environment. But to beg the question: The act of displaying one’s own or someone else’s nude body (malice is of no import) is, by all measures, abuse of God’s gift to us and others. Why? Because the root of all human problems came from our abuse or misuse of our innate gifts. The human body is the most awesomely wonderful work of art of all – a masterpiece of divine creation. Adam and Eve must have taken mental selfies of one another without guilt and shame. Oh, how many would love to do that on Facebook today! And some actually do.
However, people easily forget they live outside of Eden. Or that their first parents actually lived there. Hence, the moral chaos. Posing nude or acting out love nude onscreen or live has become an acceptable art form. Anyone can now defend herself or himself by claiming artistic freedom of expression to do whatever one wants with one’s body. What people fail to realize is that all these so-called rights or freedoms have only been claimed back by humans after God had taken them away in the beginning from Adam and Eve. To explain: Put yourself in the skin and soles of Adam or Eve, naked and barefoot, that is. What happened when they ate of the Forbidden Fruit? They lost their innocence. They felt shame and guilt in their skin and where they stood – the Holy Garden of God.
The reason many of us do not appreciate Adam and Eve’s inglorious fall from life, beauty and innocence is because we have become so detached from the real essence and significance of the narrative. Eden has become myth; and so have sin and guilt, for the most part. As such, we do not even recognize we had such things as “first parents” — and sin, guilt and the promise of salvation. We have totally rejected the notion that the things they experienced in the body and the spirit are exactly what we experience in our own body and spirit. The same lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and pride of life. Our own humanity ties us intimately with them and with one another.
Do you feel our first parents’ and other people’s shame and guilt as well? No?! Then you do not know the meaning and importance of sin – your own sin. You could be an artist who can shut out these emotions at will in order to claim back the innocence of Adam and Eve by your own terms. Not by God’s terms. For His way back to Eden is a long, narrow way that will require us to put on a new body, a new mind and a new spirit. Such “new wineskins” for “new wine” may take time to procure for some; for some, it may be quite easy. It all depends on how much innocence you have lost. Not that a small sin is any less grievous than a big sin; all sins lead to death.
Imagine Eve eating a fruit and dying! Or can you imagine yourself posting a picture of yourself eating a peanut-butter-and-strawberry-jam sandwich and being charged of diabetes-suicide or culinary malpractice? Your own innocence can be reason for others to make you feel shame and guilt. This has what social media has come to be. Evil people can cause the most innocent person alive to become the vilest person alive, given the opportunity. Once you lose your innocence – worse, if you feel guilty even if you should not be – all manners of offenses become simple fare for you from that point on.
This scandal involving my dear Alma Mater is nothing but a case of loss of innocence. Innocence, in its most primordial form, is the ultimate victim. Life has reached a point where a simple photo of one’s breakfast or one’s cute dog or a lovely sunset can convey the childlike innocence most people have, as we can now all claim that liberating power to be seen or heard by the world, if not by someone special halfway across the world. In that regard, posting one’s or someone else’s nude picture smacks not only of one’s loss of innocence (alright, “guilt” is the synonym of “loss of innocence”) but a blatant affront to our first parents and a clear abuse of our God-given gifts and privileges. If a person, young or old, crosses that line and still feels justified or less guilty than others who have equally lost or given up their innocence, then they contribute in distorting the very foundation of God’s mercy and justice. We then make our own rules or laws. Or, worse, we avail of the laws of society to bring others, less or equally guilty as us, to such “justice” while we go scot-free, presumably even from the higher justice of God.
Ironically, God’s justice, in the new dispensation of the Holy Spirit, has nothing to do with sin, guilt and punishment (Perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment [punishment]. I John 4:18) Yet, these things (sin, guilt and punishment) we have re-enshrined into our so-called “rule of law” in order to shepherd the population. But God’s justice is equally tempered with His mercy. His forgiveness can be a cover for great sin – consider the adulteress and the thief on the cross. His mercy can be the same as justice (or justification) – consider Paul, the persecutor and murder-accomplice. Paul’s vision of Christ led to his conversion from an enemy of God to a humbled servant of God. God could have imposed a death penalty on Paul for persecuting believers. Instead, He called him to be His messenger of His Truth. If you cannot see how His mercy equates to justice, you still do not deserve to benefit from either.
And so, human laws, contrary to the teachings of Christ and the apostles, reinstated the law of death: For every offense or violation an equal sanction or punishment. Do not do this – you pay for doing so. Do this – you also pay for not doing so. So much so that every step of the way we violate a rule or law and we constantly reduce the balance of innocence in our lives until we owe the government, the church or some individual so much guilt-debt beyond our hope for relief. And when such a paradigm is applied in religion – and that is where it is most effective and profitable – we end up paying our debts to God on an hourly, daily, weekly or yearly penance for our sins and guilt. We will never be totally free from guilt and from punishment. Hence, people will always be beholden to the “purveyors of God’s grace and favor”. Is this still not obvious to you? Enough! Be free in Christ!
Societies saw how effectively ancient religions manipulated humans through the use of this sin-guilt v.v. punishment-pardon mechanism that governments basically imitated or revived the same tactics to make people toe the line. Businesses also follow suit and apply the same tricks: making you feel guilty for using another brand of soap or toothpaste, making you feel like an uncaring parent for not buying your children expensive shoes or making you lose your self-esteem because you cannot afford to buy the latest cellphone. And so, you pardon yourself from the guilt of each of these “offenses” by buying into those businesses and so many others. The loss of innocence spirals infinitely while we pretend to be alright with God, with ourselves and with others.
In the end, we subscribe to the values of others in terms of how we should behave and what we should do with our lives. And all that in order to assuage the guilt that has been poured upon us by the same people who make money from our “loss of innocence”. It becomes a vicious cycle which we never learn to outgrow or recognize for what it really is.
In the face of such a massive attack on our families, we find it not surprising that many of our youth end up becoming victims of their own “loss of innocence”. And since our society is built on laws that seek to find guilt and impose punishment, they, and we all, grow up to be the same kind of victims the Jews became under the Law of Moses. As the Jews sought to justify themselves using their laws (including many they invented, as we also do now), we now seek to justify ourselves by running to our own laws for justification.
But without the rule of law, there will be no order, some will say. This is the recognized linchpin of modern civilization. Bad news is, Israel had the thousand-year national experiment and Christ called it a failure and established a much better deal. Unfortunately, that deal is violated by many today as readily as the early Jews did. Today, we have Christ plus the religious laws or rules, not Christ and being “free indeed” or “totally free”. Today, faith still has to be measured by one or more appurtenant human rules and requirements because apparently the Gospel alone is not enough to discipline and save people. We have to organize and set up programs to take care of the many needs of believers. Organize, we have. Now, we have laws and order; not necessarily law and order and not enough innocence. As the old hit song by Guess Who protests: “Too many churches but not enough truth; too many people but not enough eyes to see . . . .” (See YouTube video above)
In my own desire to understand the essential concept of law, I enrolled at the UP College of Law in 1986. After one semester, I quit. I realized that human laws merely revived the paradigm of Moses Law – the “Old and Dying Way” – where behavior or favor before God and humans was measured by the “letter of the law”. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Law, as a life measure, was by far too obsolete and legalistic in the face of what Christ promised and established: the “New and Living Way”. The regulations and requirements of the Law (any law for that matter) had to be replaced by the indwelling Holy Spirit Who revealed the Truth and empowered the individual to achieve the goal of the Law which is Love. To love God and to love others is the fulfillment of the law. This is the Law of Life and Liberty in the Spirit which many cannot seem to understand or see through the sticky web of laws, regulations and burdens which religion and society impose upon them.
The PSHS Scandal is far from over, many say. Definitely, if the parties involved and those who involve themselves look for ways to root out the cause(s) of the event and to ascertain such things never happen again – that is, by enforcing the laws so that the guilty will fear or reform and others will do so likewise. Again, we all depend on the written law to do that for us. See how many love to cite laws, codes and provisions? But such stipulations never see into the hearts, minds and spirits of the people involved. The reason the law is harsh (dura lex, sed lex) is because we assume the law is supreme and that justice closes its eyes before the suffering offender. But in God’s eyes, the law does not exist. The law kills! He or she who lives by the law shall die by the law. Even Duralex, sadly, can break! Meaning, the law is inherently faulty because God said so and, therefore, replaced it. Yet, he or she who lives by the Spirit of Truth and Liberty will gain freedom and eternal life – here and now.
Human laws are incompatible with God’s ways: Agreed. And so, we continue to live without our innocence. We continue to harbor guilt and shame for ourselves or for others. We continue to desire harm or death for others because the law demands it. Yes, some deserve the death penalty or punishment, as God sees fit to empower any ruler. We do not wish to do away with the government or our laws and courts; for certain extreme cases require extreme measures, thanks to God for that. But God has shown a better way which leads to life for all: the victim and the offender. He has shown the way to life, forgiveness and harmony. Why should we desire to live in chaos and division even in a simple case of loss of youthful innocence? Nothing is new; not even our passionate desire for justice. But God’s mercy is fresh every morning.
Christ showed His great love and compassion for the young and innocent when He said in Matthew 18:6: “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Yes, the loss of innocence is a grievous thing, especially if we are the cause. But remember, loss of innocence can be self-inflicted.
God’s justice will prevail in the end. So will His mercy. The best we can do for now on behalf of our many morally-battered youth is to lay off creating, citing or enforcing the laws to crucify them. Drop the stone. Let them know there is a New and Living Way.