When Church and State Play God

JUNE 30TH 2011

Not just an intriguing headline, When Church and State Play God is the title of the latest book published by the Communication Foundation for Asia. Subtitled “Politics, Discipleship and the Kingdom of God,” the book is written by Bob Bonifacio, SThL, SSL. Bonifacio, who used to be the head of CFA Publications in the mid-1970s, is now an adjunct faculty member of the Philosophy Department at the University of Guam.

The cover of the book "When Church and State Play God" by Bob Bonifacio.

The author contends that the Philippines is “a poor christian country both in the literal and spiritual sense.” Given the dehumanizing conditions in which many Filipinos find themselves, the constituted leadership must seriously lay the groundwork for the doctrine of the preferential option for the poor to be actualized. “Poverty is the ugly child of injustice. If God is favoring any group at all, it is those who are deprived of their basic rights to live a dignified human existence in this world; it is those who are robbed of the opportunity to avail of the earth’s resources which are systematically plundered by a few. They have Jesus’ words: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.’ Lk 6,20” (26)

Attempts at reforming the political system and reorganizing government are all legitimate and need to be done, but we normally do not put the cart before the horse. Reform of systems and structures must be preceded by and rooted on a radical change of heart, a metanoia. Short of this, reform will be evicting one devil from the house but enticing seven others to move in. “Jesus was not a political analyst nor an analyst of political systems, but he knew better than to give politics an importance it does not deserve. For governing with justice is not the fruit of a political system, however theoretically sound it may appear. It is the fruit of a fundamental attitude – an attitude of mutual respect and service.” (preface, ii)

The author points out that in the Philippines, political leadership must make the people feel the presence of a just and compassionate God in its deeds which give meaning to its words. “The presence of God in this world, in the person of the son of man (Jesus), is not the awesome presence of a powerful king whom everyone must serve, but the humble presence of a servant who serves and, in doing so, is made to suffer even to the point of dying.” (39)

“Defining the role of the disciples in the Kingdom of God, Jesus used the image of a child who is characteristically of no political significance in society. In the Kingdom of God, political positions, power, influence, wealth do not figure. In the Kingdom of God, it is those who are nobody in society who will be given the position of leadership to direct the people to God.” (16)

Mr. Bob Bonifacio is also the author of Manubu and Ganu, previously published by CFA, and The Woman of Genesis, published by Claretian Publications. He obtained his licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Gregorian University and his licentiate in Sacred Scriptures from the Pontifical Bible Institute, both in Rome, Italy. When Church and State Play God is now available at the CFA Sales office and selected religious outlets.