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Politics and corruption permeate every aspect of the average Filipino’s life.  If asked, none of us will say that corruption is a good thing.  If it happens to someone, they claim that corruption is the worst cancer to afflict our nation.  But if this same someone benefits from the corruption or they know someone who benefits, then it’s no longer corruption.  To them, it’s a matter of “just making a living”.  In the Philippines, we have corruption at all levels.  In many cases, Filipinos are not able to see the corruption taking hold of their lives.  A good example is a pastor I once knew.  He is the head of a local business that sells insurance.  The lifeblood of their business success is the fact that they use networking and pyramid schemes to sell their policies.  Most people in the West understand this as something like Amway.  Amway is here too, and I’ve had my share of “friends” who would try to recruit me in their pyramid.  When I politely declined, I was suddenly alienated.  That’s fine…with friends like that, who needs enemies?

This brings me back to the pastor.  As I said, his company sells insurance policies through networking, more specifically through contacts he made in the Church.  Furthermore, since he is a pastor, he has connections that allow him to hold his company seminars in the Church during non-service days.  If you were to witness one of these seminars like I have, you’d probably be disgusted if you knew what to look for.  During a typical seminar, there are literally thousands of people as well as VIP executives who come from local corporations to add “credibility” to the seminars.  If you look to your left and to your right, you see people waving banners and streamers in excitement.  The crowd is revved into a nearly religious frenzy about what they hear, and many of them get more excited than the times I see them at Church service.  But the smell in the air is not about faith in God but rather the stench of greed and corruption.  This pastor uses the Church to create an atmosphere of trust, in that if this seminar is held in a Church, it “therefore must have Gods blessing,” according to the average person.  The truth is that the building where they hold services is actually in a mall.  When it’s not holding Service, it’s technically not a Church anymore.  Ok, I get the legal point.  But the average person who actually believes that they can make P2 million per year selling insurance doesn’t see it that way.  As you know, most people who get sucked into this silliness not only don’t make any money, but often sacrifice their jobs and their friends in the meantime.

I confronted this pastor about these seminars and his business.  He defended himself by saying that this is normal in the Philippines.  My response, of course, that just because it’s accepted doesn’t make it right.  He knew that getting even more defensive would condemn his cause, so wisely he backed off.  Later I was attacked by a few of his supporters, telling me that it was none of my business.  Maybe so, but I have a responsibility to call a spade a spade.  Almost a year later, he still has his office in the same mall, downstairs from the Church.  I may not be Jesus, but at least I know when it’s time to kick the moneychangers out of the Temple…and coast to coast.  Pray for those not smart enough to pray for themselves.

April 23rd, 2005

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