Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Almighty Image

A generational divide separated those Filipino Americans who supported and voted for Barack Obama and those who supported and voted for John McCain. While this was certainly not always true, this is what might be concluded from attending a “Kapihan” debate hosted by the Philippine American Press Club (PAPC) in San Francisco last October where all the McCain supporters were over 50 years old while the Filipinos for Obama, except for me, were all below 30.

One McCain backer confided to me that whenever he thinks of "Americans", his subliminal image is that of white Americans. Because he is grateful to these "Americans" for whatever success he has achieved in the US, he believes that it is only fair that the president of the US should be an "American". In his view, Filipinos who immigrate to the US are still "guests" who have been invited to this great country and we should show our gratitude to our "hosts" by electing an "American" native like McCain instead of the son of a Kenyan student. (The irony is that McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone while Obam a was born in Hawaii.)

The young Obama supporters in the room, on the other hand, were all born in the US and grew up as "Americans" and don't see themselves as "guests" in the US. They look up to African Americans like Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as pioneers in the struggle for civil rights whose success benefited all minorities including Filipinos.

The main speaker for the McCainiacs was Milpitas Mayor Joe Esteves who accused Obama of supporting abortion and same sex marriage, which he said is against his religious beliefs.

The spokesperson for the Obamistas, New York University Law School grad Angelica Jongco, explained that Obama personally opposes abortion but believes that it is the women, not the government, who has the right to make that choice. She cited statistics that show that there have been more abortions under George W. Bush than under Bill Clinton. What Obama wants to do, Jongco said, is educate more people about how to prevent pregnancies so there will be less need for abortions.

While Jongco expounded on the social programs that Obama will create to benefit the poor and the middle class, "Joe the Mayor" Esteves warned that Obama would raise taxes which would not be good for business.In the Open Forum that ensued, va rious members of the audience expanded on their political views and religious beliefs. The stereotype that conservatives are religious while liberals are "secular" was found not to be true. As Sociologist Paul Froese noted, "political liberals and conservative are both religious. They just have different religious views."
A study that was conducted by the Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion in Waco, Texas and released to the public in September of 2006 showed that people’s political views are a reflection of their image of the Almighty.
In a national survey conducted by Gallup for Baylor, 1,721 Americans, a statistically representative sampling of the USA by age, gender and race, were each asked 77 questions, with nearly 400 answer choices.

"Though 91.8% say they believe in God", USA Today reported, they had four distinct views of God's personality and engagement in human affairs. These Four Gods - dubbed by researchers Authoritarian, Benevolent, Critical or Distant - tell more about people's social, moral and political views and personal piety than the familiar categories of Protestant/Catholic /Jew or even red state/blue state." Or even generations.

According to Baylor's Christopher Bader, "you learn more about people's moral and political behavior if you know their image of God than almost any other measure. It turns out to be more powerful a predictor of social and political views than the usual markers of church attendance or belief in the Bible."

The "Authoritarian" God, the God of the Old Testament, according to Bader, "is angry at humanity's sins and engaged in every creature's life and world affairs. He is ready to throw the thunderbolt of judgment down on the unfaithful or ungodly". Filipinos who were educated in Catholic schools in the Philippines were presented with an "Authoritarian" God as its primary model, a legacy of Spanish colonialism. Those who look at God this way "are religiously and politically conservative people", Bader says. They generally register as and vote Republican.

The "Benevolent" God is "primarily a forgiving God". This is the God of the New Testament, God the Son, Jesus Christ, who preached love and understanding. Those who believe in this God are inclined to say caring for the sick and needy ranks highest on the list of what it means to be a good person. Democrats generally believe in this "Benevolent" God.

The "Critical" God has his judgmental eye on the world, but he's not going to intervene, either to punish or to comfort, Bader said. "This group is more paradoxical, " Bader explained further. "They have very traditional beliefs, picturing God as the classic bearded old man on high. Yet they're less inclined to go to church or affiliate seriously with religious groups. They are less inclined to see God as active in the world. Their politics are definitely not liberal, but they're not quite conservative, either." People who vote Independent or Libertarian tend to look up to a "Critical" God.

The "Distant" God is seen as "a cosmic force that launched the world, then left it spinning on its own". This view is strong among "moral relativists, " those least likely to say any moral choice is always wrong, and among those who don't attend church", Bader says. They are also distant from the political process and generally don't vote.

What is your image of God?

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