A couple of headlines caught my eye as I was scanning the news page. One was about Danding Cojuangco’s statement saying, “God made it happen,” referring to De La Salle University’s recent victory in the UAAP championship. The other was about the death toll of the recent Visayas earthquake at 107, with close to 300 injured and missing (as of this writing).
Cojuangco’s statement appears quite ludicrous especially when juxtaposed with the tragedy of the earthquake — as if God were somehow sitting at courtside at the Mall of Asia Arena, enjoying the game, and with a wave of his hand, made the game-clinching shot of Almond Vosotros miraculously go in the basket. In the meantime, he was conspicuously absent for the patients trapped in the partially-collapsed Congressman Castillo Memorial Hospital in the Loon municipality. Nor was he in two stampedes that occurred in Toledo City and Pinamungajan Town which killed several people including a four-year old girl. He could not even prevent bridges and his own churches from collapsing.
But even without the earthquake, crediting God for the basketball win is a huge slap in the face for the players who endured endless hours of drills and practices to hone their skills. It is an insult to the coaching staff who spent countless hours planning, strategizing and playmaking. It even speaks against Cojuangco himself who financially and emotionally invested himself in the team by providing them with good lodging as well as dieticians, nutritionists and conditioning experts.
Even if God were actually in the arena, it would be the height of unsportsmanlike conduct for him to favor one team over the other and give it that miraculous edge– as both worked equally hard to win and deserved to fight it out in a fair match.
In this country, there is this obsession to credit God over every little good thing. A patient comes out of a successful surgery and people immediately thank God for “guiding the surgeon’s hand” — never mind that the surgeon had to spend sleepless nights in training and practice to acquire that laser-like precision. A man and a woman go on a romantic dinner and thank God for the sumptuous meal. Do they stop by the kitchen to thank the chef who prepared the meal, or the waiters for serving them, or the farmers for the raw products? Probably not.
I understand though why most people are quick to thank God, especially in public. When people heap praise on us, we deflect it towards God either because we do not want to seem too proud of ourselves, or because we want other people to think we are humble and pious. In other words, it is still a matter of pride and looking good. Now, this may not be true of everyone, but for most people, I would think so, even if we do not yet realize it ourselves because the practice has been so ingrained in our culture that we do it almost subconsciously.
My point here is not so much to remove God from the picture but to remind everyone that WE are very much in it. This is not so much a statement either for or against the existence of God but a statement for OUR existence. We matter. Whether or not God is there, we are responsible for our thoughts and actions, and these carry real rewards or consequences down the line and through the years.
Some politicians and unscrupulous businessmen chose to steal from our coffers, thus depriving our country of stronger and better infrastructure, sufficient emergency equipment, or better training and funding for rescue teams. We chose to ignore a warning as far back as 15 years ago in 1998 when Dean Jes Tirol of the University of Bohol Engineering Department delivered a paper in the Asia-Pacific Workshop in Taipei, Taiwan specifically citing the structural dangers of these ancient buildings found in 30 of 47 towns in the island province.
Just as I do not give credit to God for a basketball win, nor will I encourage people to blame him for the aftermath of a calamity. People should start recognizing that even if God were there watching us, he pretty much lets anything happen to us, regardless of what you pray or ask for. It has been that way for thousands of years, and will probably be that way for a long time still. If you choose not to believe anymore, fine. If you still choose to believe, then that belief must go deeper and more profound than the simplistic picture of a God who rewards good and punishes evil, who gives you happy meals and parking spaces while ignoring thousands dying each day of hunger, or disease, or rape, or murder.
In the midst of all these, recognize that there are always opportunists selling coincidences as miracles — like those touting the unblemished statues of the Virgin Mary amidst the church ruins as a “miracle.” Now some 600 devotees have gathered at this site, teary-eyed at this apparent “marvel.”
For me, the real miracle will occur when these devotees start asking themselves, “Why would God save these two statues and completely ignore the lives of the 107 who have already died and the many others who are still suffering?”
That is probably wishful thinking, and has as much a chance of happening as a half-court shot. But one can dream. Half-court shots DO happen, and people DO transition from superstition to reason.