No way, many would reply to the title question. Any squeaky-clean nice guy wouldn’t last, let alone win, in the snake pit that is Philippine politics. So the Eight Beatitudes read at Masses on All Saints Day aren’t much use in the rough and tumble world of ruling the nation.
Or are they?
Well, let’s go over the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Are they of any use in governance?
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Before we assess if this Beatitude has any practical use in politics, we must understand it. Jesus isn’t preaching that destitution is good; indeed, it can be the result of injustice and misgovernance.
Rather, it is the poor’s sense of dependence on God that is central to holiness. The poor in spirit know that everything comes from heaven, Even if they have wealth, power, talent, connections and stature to get many things they need or want, they never forget that all bounties come from God, Whose will must govern their acquisition and use.
Leaders following the first Beatitude would take care not to abuse or misuse the power and resources at their command for private gain. Instead, as the Lord has mandated, what we control should be harnessed for the common good, especially the upliftment of the needy and the advancement of society.
In short, the first Beatitude advances the Constitution’s mandate that public office is a public trust. Indeed, Jesus’s first principle of blessedness makes positions of power and wealth a divine trust.
Furthermore, being poor in spirit is crucial in our time of mounting global concern over the environment. Wouldn’t nature gain if leaders and nations treated all creation as gifts from God to be husbanded with care and conserved for future generations?
Mourning, hungry and thirsty
“Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. … Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”
These two Beatitudes seem at odds with the whole idea of power. Those who mourn and thirst clearly don’t have the clout to get what they want. But the rich, the powerful, and the well-connected do. So what can the latter learn from the former?
It boils down to what one mourns, hungers and thirsts for. Even absolute monarchs and billionaires would cry if what they seek is far beyond even what their power and purse can provide. Things like a world, a nation, or even a city with no poverty, war, crime, injustice, disease, calamity, and other agonies and enormities of our human existence.
At the same time, those whose care nil for anybody or anything outside their own skin, even if they are poor, would not shed a tear walking through the death and devastation of Supertyphoon Yolanda, as long they are hale, hearty and happy.
The nation does not want leaders unable to care or cry for the suffering millions around them. We need leaders who mourn, hunger and thirst with those who suffer deprivation, injustice, violence, and other pains; and who can mobilize society to address its ills.
Meek, merciful and peaceful
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. … Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. … Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Now, this batch of Beatitudes is perhaps the most unlikely for politicians, who are anything but meek, merciful, and peacemaking. Rather, they talk and act tough, and punish those who cross them.
And while they may forge truces and alliances even with adversaries, politicians advance their careers mainly by winning battles, not avoiding them. So what will their kind do with admonitions about gentleness, forgiveness, and conciliation? Well, for starters, the Philippines can certainly use leaders who can defuse much of the discord wrenching not just the political arena, but the social fabric as well. And the first step to ending conflict is desisting from violence. In a word: meekness.
Furthermore, peace efforts move only by concession and conciliation, not a uncompromising hard line. Plus the willingness to forgive wounds, forgo vengeance, and forge unity with former enemies.
The same can be said about politics: many victorious election campaigns and ruling coalitions bring together once-seemingly implacable rivals.
To be sure, many political collaborations thrive on fleeting convenience more then lasting conciliation. Still, the capacity to find common ground with opponents and accommodate differences help make politics not just productive, but also unifying.
And at the core of that unity building is meekness: the willingness to set aside selfish interests and pride and march together toward share goals for the nation.
Clean, suffering hearts
“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. … Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.”
These Beatitudes are perhaps the hardest part of holiness — and politics too. Being pure of heart means total dedication and commitment to one’s ideal, religious or political, setting aside ulterior motives. And sacrificing all for that ideal is the defining trait of both great saints and great patriots.
That the Philippines needs clean-hearted leaders is hard to dispute, and the ultimate sacrifices of Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Antonio Luna, Benigno Aquino Jr., and the Fallen 44 commandos attest to our need for selfless patriotism.
Poor in spirit, mourning and thirsting for others, building harmony and unity, and offering all for the country — such tenets in our leaders would bring immense good to the nation.
Now, if today’s aspiring leaders feel the Beatitudes are beyond what the Philippines can ask of them, and self-serving, backbiting money politics is the only way to rule, then we cannot be surprised about the kind of governance we keep getting.