Last weekend, a missionary couple left the Philippines for good. After more than 27 years of faithful service, they went home to the US. Their lives and ministry have touched hundreds of Filipinos. They adapted well to our culture and had been quick to apologize for any cultural misstep. Over the years, the wife had conducted cultural orientation sessions for new foreign missionaries. She always pointed out the fact that Filipinos are a gentle, respectful and polite people.
Sadly, we can no longer make that generalization when describing Filipinos. Yes, a large majority of the population remains respectful. We continue to use terms of respect when talking with others, especially with our elders: “po,” “opo,” “sir,” “ma’am,” “kuya” and “ate.” However, a dark side of the Filipino culture surfaced during the recently-concluded election campaign period.
Using all forms of social media, netizens engaged in vicious name-calling, cursing, insults and threats against supporters of opposing candidates; sometimes against the candidates themselves. Expletives have been freely hurled. Some shamelessly express their hope that this or that person would be raped, or killed or suffer some violent attack. The teenage daughter of a winning mayoralty candidate took to Twitter to vilify a candidate she didn’t like. All in the name of free speech? That’s scary…and cruel.
This is not a simple “diarrhea of the mouth” that we can easily dismiss. These elections did not simply unmask some uncouth Filipinos. Our words reveal the condition of our hearts. Jesus Christ said:
It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart… For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness (Mark 7:15,21-22).
A heart check-up for everyone, myself included, is in order.
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