Today I would like to talk about events that are of great importance to a democratic society: elections.
Two elections have been scheduled for the year 2010. First, the national elections which were held on May 10th, and the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections today.
In a republic with a free society, elections are held in order for the citizenry to choose their leaders. Voting is both a right and a duty of every individual citizen. It is only during elections when everyone, regardless of socio-economic standing, religion, creed, gender, and ethnic origin are equalized. “One man (or woman), one vote”, so they say.
Now I would like to explore a rather controversial issue concerning elections in the Republic: religious bloc voting.
There are religious organizations that practice bloc voting. I would not mention the most prominent one, for it is common knowledge that it is the one being courted by most politicians, even though its members only comprise a tiny percentage of the population. Their unity is both admired and criticized by various segments of the society.
I have enlisted the help of a crack research team to find answers to questions surrounding the practice of religious bloc voting.
1. Why is it that even in elections, unity is enforced in the church?
This question can be answered by using verses from the Bible.
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,
“then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”
- Philippians 2:1-3 NIV
Members of the Church should thus be united in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is often said that the Church is the body of Christ, with the members as the many parts with different functions.
2. What does the word “vote” mean?
There is an oft-quoted dictionary definition of the word “vote”, which is used to justify the act of bloc voting.
vote – expression of judgment
- Webster’s New International Dictionary p. 2295
There is also a verse that features the word “judgment”:
“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
- 1 Corinthians 1:10 English Standard Version
Here are links to other definitions of the word “vote”:
Should I bet my jackboots and pigs?
3. Did the early Church practice bloc voting?
There was once an issue during the time of the early Christian Church where a debate about the uncircumcised Gentiles and their inclusion in the Church and the promise of salvation. (See Acts 15:1-19.) The leadership of the Church had to come up with a decision in order to avoid unnecessary divisions.
(Side Note: In Robert Greene’s The 33 Strategies of War, under the part of organizational (team) warfare, it is said that divided leadership is dangerous. Unity of command is a must if victory is to be achieved.)
4. Isn’t voting just a worldly matter?
“You know that in the future we will judge angels, so surely we can judge the ordinary things of this life.
“If you have ordinary cases that must be judged, are you going to appoint people as judges who mean nothing to the church?”
- 1 Corinthians 6:1-4 (New Century Version)
This has something to do with legal disputes, and little or nothing to do with voting.
5. Should church members obey the government authorities?
The members of the church are also part of the citizenry. Church leaders say that the flock must participate in the exercise of their right and duty to vote.
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority,
“or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.
“For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.”
- 1 Peter 2:13-15 NIV
In the case of our Republic (which does not have a king), we have the President and other authorities who execute the laws of the land.
Here’s another oft-quoted verse used in support of bloc-voting:
…Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
- Matthew 22:21 NIV
This has something to do with the payment of taxes, which is a duty of the citizen to the State (symbolized by Caesar). Since voting is also a duty to the State, the preachers also used this verse for their purposes.
When a member complies with the Church’s ruling, he/she fulfills both the duty to the State and the duty to God.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
- 1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus,
“so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- Romans 15:5-6 NIV
Therefore, to vote as a bloc would bring glory to the Lord God and to the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether or not the endorsed candidate wins the election, the flock would still uphold the unity.
6. Wouldn’t bloc voting curtail the church member’s freedom to choose?
Basically, a free individual can do whatever he/she wants. In a free society, every individual should have the freedom to choose his/her food, drink, jobs, and everything else. The choice of candidates is no exception.
Here is yet another oft-quoted verse to answer the question:
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
- John 8:36 NIV
The Son referred to in this verse is Jesus Christ. An obedient church member is the truly free individual.
6.1 But free from what?
“What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”
- Romans 6:21-22 NIV
6.2 So that means the church member can’t do what he/she desires?
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”
- Galatians 5:16-17 NIV
Yes. This could only mean that an individual cannot be free in worldly sense, but free in the spiritual sense. The poor soul is therefore compelled to subdue his/her free but “sinful” nature and comply with the church dogma.
7. Is there something in the law that is against this practice?
There is a section in the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines which enumerates the prohibited acts in elections.
Section 261. Prohibited Acts. – The following shall be guilty of an election offense:
(d) Coercion of subordinates. -
(1) Any public officer, or any officer of any public or private corporation or association, or any head, superior, or administrator of any religious organization, or any employer or land-owner who coerces or intimidates or compels, or in any manner influence, directly or indirectly, any of his subordinates or members or parishioners or employees or house helpers, tenants, overseers, farm helpers, tillers, or lease holders to aid, campaign or vote for or against any candidate or any aspirant for the nomination or selection of candidates.
(2) Any public officer or any officer of any commercial, industrial, agricultural, economic or social enterprise or public or private corporation or association, or any head, superior or administrator of any religious organization, or any employer or landowner who dismisses or threatens to dismiss, punishes or threatens to punish be reducing his salary, wage or compensation, or by demotion, transfer, suspension, separation, excommunication, ejectment, or causing him annoyance in the performance of his job or in his membership, any subordinate member or affiliate, parishioner, employee or house helper, tenant, overseer, farm helper, tiller, or lease holder, for disobeying or not complying with any of the acts ordered by the former to aid, campaign or vote for or against any candidate, or any aspirant for the nomination or selection of candidates.
Here you go, either this is crystal clear or as clear as mud. This would place the church member between observing the law and obeying the word of the Church. No matter what the Code says, obeying God’s (or the Church authorities’) Words has a higher priority over the laws of the land.
Those who practice bloc voting, though small in number relative to the national population, can still be a force to reckon with. Even in other controversial issues such as the RH Bill, the Church I am referring to in this letter is the David to the Roman Catholic Church’s (or CBCP’s) Goliath.
As private organizations, churches, especially religious corporations, have the right to influence their members. The Constitution recognizes the freedom of religion in this Republic. I just do not know of any religion which is free.
I am human, not sheep, and my birthright is freedom!