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Home Opinion Op-Ed Columns Red-tagging of religious institutions seems misplaced

Red-tagging of religious institutions seems misplaced

AL S. VITANGCOL 3RD

LET me emphasize for clarity that I am not a communist, I am not a supporter of communists and I am not left-leaning. However, I respect their cause and their right to express their advocacy. But why am I writing about Red-tagging now?

I happened to have met by chance retired justice Raoul Victorino, the current dean of the College of Law of the Philippine Christian University, and also the president of the Unida Ecumenical Church and the corporate secretary of the Philippine Bible Society. He is also the chairman of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) — which was allegedly recently Red-tagged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.


In an interview last week with a major broadcasting network, Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict said the NCCP was, in fact, in their list of communist front organizations, but not the entirety of the NCCP. Parlade said there were some subversive groups and left-leaning members who have infiltrated the NCCP.

NCCP is the largest organization of non-Catholic Christian churches in the Philippines, which includes Baptists, Evangelicals, Lutherans, Methodists and Pentecostals, among others.

What is Red-tagging?
Red-tagging, also known as Red-baiting, is “the act of labeling, branding, naming and accusing individuals and/or organizations of being left-leaning, subversives, communists or terrorists [used as] a strategy… by State agents, particularly law enforcement agencies and the military, against those perceived to be ‘threats’ or ‘enemies of the State.’” This definition comes from the dissenting opinion of Supreme Court Associate Justice Mario Victor Leonen in the 2015 case of Zarate et. al. vs Aquino 3rd (GR 220028), stating that it is the Philippines’ version of McCarthyism, basing it on a published article of a Dr. Nymia P. Simbulan.

Holger Stoltenberg Lerche, Magister in political science, public law and social anthropology at Georg-August University of Göttingen, Germany, describes Red-tagging as “the practice of state actors to publicly and detractively classify government-critical individuals and organizations as state enemies, communist terrorists or members of communist front organizations with the purpose of overthrowing the democratically legitimized state authority.” It is a strategy by state authorities to classify political activists and civil society organizations as communist.

Can the religious be communists?
The next nagging question is, can the religious be communists? Well, I don’t think so. For one, communists do not believe in God. The religious do.

Christians and Catholics alike rely on Psalm 86:10: “For You are great and do wondrous deeds; You alone are God.” And in Deuteronomy 32:39: “See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can deliver from My hand.”

In a sermon delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church more than 50 years ago, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. insisted that that “no Christian can be a communist” and calls on his congregation to consider communism “a necessary corrective for a Christianity that has been all too passive and a democracy that has been all too inert.”

These were King’s exact words:
“Now, there are at least three reasons why I feel obligated as a Christian minister to talk to you about communism. The first reason grows out of the fact that communism is having widespread influence in the contemporary world…

“A second reason that I feel compelled to talk about communism this morning is that it is the only serious rival of Christianity. The other historic and great religions of the world such as Judaism, Mohammedanism, Buddhism and Hinduism may stand as alternatives to Christianity. But for the most formidable competitor that Christianity faces in the world today, we must look to communism. No one conversant with the hard facts of modern life can deny the truth that communism is Christianity’s most serious rival.

“The third reason that I feel compelled to talk about communism this morning is that it is unfair and certainly unscientific to condemn a system of thought without knowing what that system of thought says and without knowing why it is wrong and why it is evil. So, for these reasons, I choose to talk about this troubling issue.

“Now, let us begin by answering the question which our sermon topic raises: Can a Christian be a communist? I answer that question with an emphatic ‘no.’ These two philosophies are diametrically opposed. The basic philosophy of Christianity is unalterably opposed to the basic philosophy of communism, and all of the dialectics of the logician cannot make them lie down together. They are contrary philosophies.

“How, then, is communism irreconcilable with Christianity? In the first place, it leaves out God and Jesus Christ. Communism is avowedly secularistic and materialist. The great philosopher of communism, Karl Marx, based his total philosophy on what he called dialectical materialism.”

Definitely, Christianity had been all too passive and democracy had been all too inert.

Christians can understand communism and love communists as they love themselves (Mark 12:31), but they can never be communists.

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