When Manny Pacquiao was asked in an interview about his take on same sex marriages, he likened people who engage in homosexual acts as “worse than animals.” I knew it. It’s bound to happen. It was like a ticking time bomb, and that bomb did explode when he opened his mouth on a very sensitive issue about same-sex marriage. And so the rest was history! He underestimated the power of social media. His image as a great sports icon is now tarnished. He will be forever remembered as just an uneducated boxer turned fundamentalist Christian, who wants to run for a slot in the Philippine Senate and then will legislate laws that will affect millions of Filipinos; and I will have none of that!
I used to think like Manny Pacquiao. I was also kind of homophobic. There is a reason behind this intolerant attitude towards people from LGBT, and in order to fully understand why Manny acted the way he did, one must understand what the bible teaches and why it is quite difficult for born-again believers to accept gay people. Back then I believed that the bible is the inerrant word of god and that all born-again believers are special and are heaven-bound. People who don’t belong to our church are sinners and are all going to hell. Here is a quote from scripture. 1 Corinthians 4:6-9 says: Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will not inherit the Kingdom of God. So there’s a long list of people that will not enter heaven. I was taught by my pastor that I must spread the gospel and convince people that they needed to be saved. That my life here on earth is just a phase, a test, a race, and that I must resiliently follow after Jesus’ commands as a token of my gratitude for the gift of salvation that I’ve already received on behalf of his death on the cross. Well, from a Bible believing Christians’ perspective, all ordinary folks are going to hell. Your good works don’t matter. If you’re not a born-again believer you’re going to hell. People who practice homosexuality are going to hell. Can you imagine the agony experienced by Christians who think that all their friends, siblings, parents, acquaintances, wife, husband, relatives are going to hell? There is this sense of urgency that one must convince people before it is too late for them. This is reality for people who take the bible seriously. For some people, the second coming of Jesus is imminent and they are willing to abandon everything — even their sanity — in order to preach this message to everybody. When people who think like Manny Pacquiao are led to believe that homosexuals are unrighteous sinners and are hell-bound by their pastors, the default response will be to not respect gays, and will never ever grant them the right to marry. For, again, their pastor will reason out that it is against god’s will, design, and purpose. It will be difficult to convince these people for their entire lives are based on what the bible and their pastor says and are not open to compromise.
Bottom line is that the motivation to act this way is based primarily on fear that one might end up in hell if one fails to follow the bible’s teachings. My journey towards liberation from this toxic idea was a long and difficult process. It’s a combination of experience, plus conversations with skeptics (whom I tried to persuade to believe the gospel), exposure to atheistic bloggers, books, and the innate instinct to seek the truth plus the Internet paved the way. By chance, I was fortunate enough to have been employed as a general transcriptionist for media, documentaries, etc in the past, which helped hone my research skills. I was exposed daily to different topics concerning life, science, history, philosophy, etc. This deepened my understanding about so many things, and led me to gradually question and change my beliefs. I discovered flaws in my reasoning. I thought, how about the Muslims, Buddhists, Hindu, Catholics, INC, and other Christian sects, since they’re not born-again and so they will all end up in hell? Most of these people are good people, I think it will be quite unfair that they’d be sent to hell. How can I be sure that my church is the true church of Jesus Christ when there are thousands of them? How about supernatural healings? How about some weird stuff being preached like demonic possession and deliverance? It turns out that doubting has opened my mind towards the possibility that I might be wrong in my understanding and it turns out that I was indeed wrong. It does not make sense at all.
I remember that it was in 2009 that I have finally come out to my family and friends that I am an atheist. They were all in a state of shock and still could not believe that I decided to leave my church. My mother most of all reacted disgustingly and even threatened to disinherit me. But I stood my ground. For if not, I will be forced to attend church every Sundays and I will have none of that (In the spirit of fellowship with my family, I still drive them to church every Sunday but I usually stay at the church’s parking lot waiting for them to come out).
Having been liberated from the burden of believing that toxic book, I was able to rid myself from all the hate and intolerance that I have put in my system. I find that it is now easier for me to side with people from the LGBT segment of society. I can now relate with their struggles given that I can now understand how hard it is to be treated like second class citizens based on ones’ sexual preference. I am quite happy and content that I claimed my mind back. I mean like before, my mind was being controlled by my pastor through threats by using fear and intimidation, and now I am so embarrassed to admit, that it took me 35 long years to realize that I was wrong in my understanding and was an idiot for falling for all that crap.
Overall, I must admit that not all people will ever get out from their toxic religions, and must insist that we who are enlightened should show them the way out. They need to speak with people who are honest enough to challenge their beliefs. I did encounter one skeptic who challenged me while I was trying to share him the gospel message. I think he was instrumental in leading me to deeper thinking and realization that I must open my mind to debate.
Someone should put some sense into Manny Pacquiao’s mind. A public apology is not enough. For him to really learn to empathize with LGBT folks, he must learn to distance himself from the teachings of the bible and understand that there are different ways to love. He should have learned this lesson by now. I just learned that Nike terminated their endorsement contract with him for his abhorrent views on same sex marriage. You cannot teach love and then deprive LGBT people of their right to have their marriage legalized because that does not make sense. I am guessing that MP thought that he can get away from making derogatory remarks because he is famous. And the outpouring of support for the LGBTs cause is proof enough that there’s hope. If there is one thing that can be gained from this Manny Pacquiao’s fiasco, I think that this has put the Philippines on the map in terms of highlighting the plight of LGBTs in our country.
Written by : Jerald D.Aquino, divorced, lives in Quezon City, but is from Nueva Vizcaya. His wife, and three children live in Alberta, Canada. He is HAPI.