Villar, Politics, & the Church

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in welcoming the President of the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines, Senator Manny Villar.” It was strange to hear those words coming out of my mouth. In fact the whole situation was a little bit of a surprise for me. As the producer for this year’s Baptist Conference of the Philippines Biennial Assembly, it was my job to ensure the program ran smoothly. I spent the time running back and forth making sure everything was working well. The first night, as expected, we had a few program changes, due in part to the anticipated late arrival of the keynote speaker, the aforementioned Senator Villar. Rev. Gary Harrison, VP of BGC-US, another of our speakers, graciously agreed to preach his message early, just to accommodate the Senator’s busy schedule. Of course, as the producer, the big question for me was, “When the Senator arrives, do we get him to wait or do somehow signal the other speaker to wrap things up so that the Senator could have his shot?”

A variety of discussions ensued with a variety of participant’s. In the back of my mind I was thinking that we shouldn’t be to eager to stop the preacher just for a politician to take his place. Others shared the same viewpoint and so the Senator waited for about 15 minutes. Of course, as my colleague Rene pointed out, “Politicians never show disappointment in public.”

So it was up to me. I should point out that my role at the Assembly did not include any public role. In fact, I was just wearing jeans and a t-shirt when the message came to introduce the Senator!

I must admit I was impressed with the Senator’s speech (although for the life of me I couldn’t get the image of him dressed in his leather suit, singing, “Manny Villar para sa Senador” to the tune of an old Tom Jones song, out of my head.). Either he or his speechwriter understood the issues of Transformation enough so that he said all the right things in the right order. Perhaps much more boldly than I might but then that is not a bad thing.

Afterward it was very interesting. As he was leaving he began (as politicians do) to shake hands with the assembled host. I have in my mind this image of pastors scrambling down to the aisle just so they could shake his hand.

Having said all of that, this phenomena brings several questions and or observations to my mind:

Firstly, it seems to me that in situations like this, the question running through everyone’s mind is, “How can he help us.” There is, as Rene once again pointed out, a certain star quality to having a famous politician grace our circles, even circles as politically neutral as a church gathering (said with my tongue firmly in my cheek!) We all want to meet the famous person and more importantly perhaps have them join our church. But to what end?

The second thing it makes me ask is, “Why isn’t it the same way with the political world?” Why are our leaders not as rabidly excited when we are given the opportunity to speak in the public arena? Why are they not beating down our doors looking for our support so that they can craft their programs accordingly?

Could it be that we have become so rabidly anti-political in our churches, scared to say even the slightest world in support of one candidate or another? Could it be that when issues come up, we as a church have either ignored it or over-spiritualised it so that our answers become meaningless? Case in point, a local Baptist minister in Canada saying, when asked about a horrible child-abuse ring that had just been uncovered in his town, “I think they are demon possessed!” How is that answer relevent to the issue facing that town – namely that of pain, betrayal, distrust, anger, cries for justice?

The church needs to get its voice back! We need to speak out on the issues that are shaping our societies. We need to bring not only the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ into the world, but also the message of the truth of who God is and how he wants us to act.

Mike Fast welcomes feedback on any of the articles he writes. Please leave your comments below.


The other day I was watching one of my favourite TV shows: Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. In Episode 34 he was working for the day in a candy store somewhere in small-town USA. One of the jobs he had to do was create dog-poop candy. No, the ingredients did not include actual dog poop. Rather, they used chocolate and some well-placed peanuts to create the impression that one was in fact eating dog poop.

As you get to be my age [not that old but old enough to be thinking about these things] you start to think about legacy. What is the purpose of my life? What will I leave behind when I die? Will I do enough so that my kids will have a better life that I had?

I thought about that as I read the story of Ahab in the Bible. He was the King of Israel many years ago. God had wanted him to be faithful to his plan for his country but he decided to go his own way. He married the neighbouring king’s daughter, Jezebel who promptly proceeded to kill all the prophets of God. In the end they both died dishonourable deaths, condemned by their actions against God.

Which brings us back to the issue of “poop.” Do you know what legacy Jezebel left behind? Poop. Yes, poop. The story in 2 Kings 9:36-37 says: ‘Dogs will eat Jezebel’s body inside the walls of Jezreel. Jezebel’s corpse will be like manure [poop] on the ground in the fields surrounding Jezreel so that no one will be able to say that this is Jezebel.’”

What kind of legacy are you leaving behind?

I hope mine isn’t poop.

Postmodernism, Premodernism, Cross-cultural-ism, & Denominationalism

I came to a realisation the other day – I am post-modern. I know that may come as a shock to some of you (particularly if you are over 46, a pastor, or former classmate). You see, for the past how many years I have been hearing about how Postmodernism is bad. It will be the end of the church, the end of evangelism, the end of those who love the truth because (it is said) postmodernism is anti-truth/is a choose-your-own-truth system/is fuzzy in the truth area. Of course it’s not true. Postmodernists value truth just as much as the next guy – its getting to the truth that is a different process. Moderns say, “Tell me that something is the truth and I will believe it” while Postmoderns say, “Show me that something is true and I will believe it.” Not really much difference when you get right down to it. In terms of testimonies, Moderns spend more time telling what Scripture showed them about themselves, while Postmoderns spend more time telling how the truths of Scripture were proven in their experience.

Fine, so now I have fessed up to being postmodern. I have another problem. I don’t live in the culture within which I was born. To help you understand, imagine being a person whose facial expression show anger more frequently than joy living in a place where a look on your face can destroy a friendship (or at least make things difficult for a while). Or perhaps a person whose voice is not always calm and from time to time (or is it all the time?) gets louder and more forceful in his vocal expression, living in a place where a raised voice can also destroy a friendship.

So now I am a constantly-angry guy with fuzzy-truth issues. Wait, it gets better!

I live in a world that in it’s religious thought is pre-modern but its popular thought is post-modern. Did you notice that the word Modern didn’t appear anywhere in that list? Yes, it truly does seem that while I grew up in that bastion of modernity (see my comments on being post-modern above), I now live in a place that is missing that whole school of thought and jumping ahead to something better and brighter. So much for my life and all my training and etc. etc. etc. …

So what ties it all together? How can I survive this hodge-podge life that I have been given? How can I effectively minister in this world? It all comes down to a simple message that people across all of these cultural, intellectual, and social strata share; namely that of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

In perhaps one of the greatest misunderstandings of the modern Christian age, denominationalism has been seen as one of the greatest dividing forces in the church. There is a tremendous perception of a lack of Christian unity because of the abundance of Christian denominations. While there may be some truth to that (some churches split over the dumbest reasons) in fact quite the opposite is true. When you look at the vast array of denominations that are available to the average consumer, you will notice that each group represents a certain specific school of thought. Each group is also absolutely dedicated to the Jesus Christ to whom the Good News refers. In fact, denominations could be described as a creative way of contextualising God’s message for the whole world. Or perhaps this both-and approach to denominationalism is just my postmoderism expressing itself.

Mike Fast welcomes feedback on any of the articles he writes. Please leave your comments below.

what is the truth?

What is the truth? In the Jim Carrey movie, Liar Liar, a lying attorney is faced with the issue of having to tell the truth all the time. Of course, in typical Jim-Carrey fashion, the story is a little outrageous, but it does raise an interesting question in each of our minds: Am I a truth-teller or just another liar?

Of course, I feel this in the greatest way with my kids. How many times have I promised, “I’ll play with you when I’m done” but then started something new? Or set a standard for their behaviour that I then went on to ignore in my own life.

When I was a child our family had a rule: No TV shows about murder for the kids. One night I realised that my parents were watching a show that featured a murder. The next morning I said that it seemed unfair for us to not be able to watch but ok for them. Do you know what they did? They agreed and subjected themselves to their own rule. As I type I am asking myself if I would do the same thing in my own family? (Do I have to answer that?)

Actually if truth be told, we did face this in our family just the other day. In our family, we have decided that it is improper to use the s-word (not that s-word! This one has 6 letters and refers to a person’s intellectual capacity or lack thereof). My assumption was that it was the kids who couldn’t use it but I – being the father – could use whatever word I want. Of course, they called me on it. So now I have agreed that the rule applies to me also.

As a church leader I find it difficult to know how much of a truth-teller I should be. It may sound strange, but it’s true. There are so many factors to take into account: What is my relationship to the person I need to confront with the truth? Am I the best person to do the confronting or is there someone else? If I confront someone with the truth today, will our relationship ever be the same again? Is it really all that bad, whatever it is they are doing? Going beyond the basic relationships I may have from day-to-day, how about those things that I see in our society that are wrong? How do I confront them? Do I really have a say in the corruption of our nation? Do I really have a say in how various government agencies operate? Can I really do anything about a system that pervades every family home? How effective is my truthfulness when I drive? Isn’t it bad to impose my own cultural values on someone else?

I guess it comes down to how much I believe the truth. Have I been truly convinced of the need to extend my personal views of truth into the marketplace?

Mike Fast welcomes feedback on any of the articles he writes. Please leave your comments below.

Speed Racer & The Messiah

Enjoyed a great movie the other day – Speed Racer. (Beware: Spoilers follow. If you haven’t seen the show, go now and watch it before reading the rest of this blog :-). I am not sure what it is but it really appealed to me. I found myself of the verge of tears at times. At others I cheered. Still others saw me reflecting on my own life and limitations. A great movie! Of course the story was not a-typical. A small-town, family-owned racing business tries to compete in the world of corporate racing – together with its inherent corruption and manipulation.

What really clicked with me however was the whole messianic nature of the struggle. In a world oppressed by the aforementioned corporate bigshots that allow no one but themselves to succeed, people are looking for a saviour – someone who can destroy the structural evil of society and bring freedom and peace to the world.

Of course you know how the end goes. The underdog wins; the corporate criminals are jailed; and the world is a better place. The Messiah has come through (again) and done his saving thing. Or has he?

I struggled with identfying the Messianic figure in the show as I compared him to the real Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The obvious choice for Messiah is Speed. He is definitely the underdog. He is a man who lives by a strict moral code. He is passionate about his role in the world. He is even a really nice guy. In the end Speed wins the big race (surprise surprise) and thus brings salvation to the world. A happy ending. Or is it?

A less obvious choice for Messiah in the show is Speed’s brother, Rex. Rex has all the makings of a champion racer. He is fast. He is one with his car. He sets all kinds of records. He also has all the makings of a social advocate. Righting wrongs. Seeking justice. Striving for freedom in the world. Until it all comes apart. He is disgraced. He is ridiculed. His name is dragged through the mud until he dies in a firey crash on a lonely stretch of road in China. We later find out that in fact he has given up his life as a champion racer; his relationship with his family; really his whole life – all for the purpose of saving the world from the evils of corporate racing.

So how does all of this relate to the Messiah? Jesus left his position in heaven as basically the ruler of the whole universe (all Lapsarian, space-time continuum issues, and discussions of how past, present, and future tenses relate to God left behind for the moment) and became one of his own created beings. He lived a life of poverty and hardship on Earth. Spent his time fighting against injustice, structural evil, and abuse. Developed relationships with the world’s rejects and troublemakers and then was crucified on a cross and died.

At the end of “Speed Racer” we are left with a question in our minds. While rejoicing with Speed and his family (and the world) over his victory, we are reminded of the sacrifice that Rex continues to make in order for the world to be a better place. He remains incognito to them knowing that perhaps his job is not done. Perhaps evil will arise again (quite possibly from within his own family) and he will need to be there to stop it.

It’s all about sacrifice. Jesus sacrificed himself so that in the end evil would be defeated. Rex sacrificed himself so that in the end evil would be defeated. Perhaps we need to find out ways to be more sacrificial – to lose – in our lives rather than looking for victory.