Since I became a born-again Christian, I never imagined I would vote for someone who admits of killing 1,700 people. I never believed some Christians like me, possibly millions, would do so, because I thought supporting a self-confessed murderer was not part of the Christian way of life. So, I was surprised when I discovered that 7,000 pastors had endorsed Rodrigo Duterte for president in 2016, comparing him to Moses and Nehemiah.
What convinced them to choose this decision?
1 Perceived rampant crime and slow judicial system. Many people felt insecure and vulnerable. They wanted a quick fix, and saw Duterte as the most qualified to deliver an instant-noodle solution. His widely-publicized, extra-judicial response to suspected or convicted criminals in his hometown Davao City inspired hope among the weary. He promised to end crime in the entire country in three to six months, and people cheered.
That's three to six months for 7,500 islands, low-tide or high tide, and everyone knew the promise couldn't be fulfilled, because nobody else had done it in any country. But the idea was better than nothing. Duterte is not perfect. But God is with Duterte and God will make it happen.
2 The God that would assist Duterte is the Old Testament genocidal God, the God who demolished the human population, save for Noah and his family, a couple of duck-billed platypusses and other beasts; the God who massacred the first borns in Egypt, the God who ordered his Chosen People to slay their enemies, including women and children. This is the God of rampant, ruthless massacres, the God who would also put to death the evil drug lords of the land.
3 the New Testament, loving God. My Sunday-school indoctrination was focused on this God, although it was equally clear that God subjected his own son to harrowing torture by having him nailed to the cross. (Ok, ok. it's Adam and Eve's fault and that rare, endangered talking serpent.)
Here in the New Testament, we find a teaching that says a bad guy who repents and accepts Jesus as his Lord and Savior, is far better than someone who is good from the beginning. God's power and glory is more dramatically demonstrated in the transformation of the bad guy. So, as we can see, Christians love drama, too.
This is the message of the "parable of the prodigal son".
So, during my active years in church, I was exposed to a lineup of preachers boasting about their sinful lives, how they ran after beautiful women, how they neglected their wives and children, how they wasted their money on drugs, alcohol and gambling. Then their talks ends with a sobering claim. The last part of the sermon, usually a tiny portion, is always a dramatic narrative about the preacher's discovery of Light, Salvation and Glory.
A good, old book that illustrates this formula is The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson. The novel was so popular in the 70s among Protestant Christians that it was turned into a film. Larry Flynt, the founder of the pornographic magazine Hustler was also, for sometime, a celebrated convert. His transformation was highly-publicized. But it did not survive. He resumed his contract with the Devil, so to speak.
Christians, however, are not bothered by this setback. Only God is perfect; not man.
This message about rooting for bad guys, or guys with moral defects, or incompetent guys, or guys with scientific bent because they doubt, or have psychological disorders or physical limitations, or just plain ordinary eventually merged in mutations of the same meme. They circulated online and found millions of receptive hosts, like a neurochemical that locks itself in the brain receptors. The meme says:
“Jacob was a cheater. Peter had a temper. David had an affair. Noah was a drunk. Jonah ran from God. Paul was a murderer. Gideon was insecure. Miriam was a gossiper. Martha was a worrier. Thomas was a doubter. Sarah was impatient. Elijah was moody. Mary Magdalene was a hooker. Moses stuttered. Zacchaeus was short. Abraham was old. And Lazarus was dead. God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called! Repost if you know you are not perfect but God has a plan for you anyway. Amen.”