Today, Philippine bloc group, Iglesia Ni Cristo unveiled their new City of Victory near Manila. Complete with what has been touted as the largest domed arena in the world. You can read some more on Rappler. As well as the truth behind another one of their false claims here.
What I really wanted to point out here, was as I read Rappler’s article, I came across a photo of some of Iglesia’s followers, which immediately reminded me of North Korea and how its people blindly and in robotic fashion, have followed the Kims’, who have ruled over their nation for 60+ years now.
Once again, my curiosity got the best of me, and ignited another spark.
So how can I even compare a church and its brethren to a rogue nation? It’s actually very easy when you look at the recorded history of both parties.
First, let’s take a quick look at Iglesia and how it began:
Iglesia Ni Cristo was founded by Felix Manalo in 1914 in the Philippines. The phrase “Iglesia Ni Cristo” is Tagalog (the language of the Philippines) for “Church of Christ.” Sadly, while claiming to be a church, Iglesia Ni Cristo has all of the basic elements of a cult. The first and foremost is a single charismatic leader who claims to have a special revelation from God.
Felix Manalo was a former Catholic who abandoned Catholicism in his teens. He experimented with several Protestant denominations and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Manalo finally started his own church, the Iglesia Ni Cristo, in 1914. When a schism in the church appeared in 1922, he began claiming to be God’s prophet in an effort to accumulate power and re-assert his leadership over the church. As well as giving rise to a Personality Cult.
And now for North Korea:
Although the DPRK (Democratic Peoples Republic o f Korea) officially describes itself as a Juche Korean-style socialist state and elections are held, it is widely considered a dictatorship that has been described as totalitarian and Stalinist with an elaborate cult of personality around the Kim family. The Workers’ Party of Korea, led by a member of the ruling family, holds de facto power in the state and leads the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland of which all political officers are required to be a member. Juche, an ideology of self-reliance initiated by the country’s first President, Kim Il-sung, became the official state ideology, replacing Marxism–Leninism, when the country adopted a new constitution in 1972.
So there you have it. Plain as the nose on ones face. Both parties, groups, organizations, political factions, or whatever the hell else you want to call them, center around a singular being or entity, who has not only placed himself before God. But set himself up in a “godlike” position for their followers to worship.
Both parties are known to have “purged” their worlds of so-called non-believers.
North Korea has done it through forced disappearances. Arrests and/or jailing. And even killings. In fact, the one killed is very likely to find his/her entire family waiting for them in the afterlife.
Iglesia has a more subtle approach. For any irregularities (suddenly giving less in the obligatory tithing), you are brought before the congregation and publicly humiliated. Greater infractions (marrying someone outside of Iglesia), gets you excommunicated from the organization itself. Sadly, your own family will practically be required to shun you. And you may also find it hard to find gainful employment, due to Iglesia’s clout with many businesses.
Now that I have gone through the hardcore, publicly known facts. And North Korea is beyond any kind of rescue, we return once again to the Philippines and what I shall now refer to, as the “Cult of Manalo.” How is it, that such an organization can thrive the way it has for 100 years now? This too, is a very simple question to answer. And in the following order.
Historically, Filipinos seem to have suffered from an identity crisis. For nearly 500 years now, they have lived as others. First, Spain and Great Britain fumbled around with the islands for 400 years. Then came the Americans. Only in the last few decades has any attempt been made on the Filipino’s part to create a sovereignty of some sorts.
This creates a sort of social weakness within a person. And can lead to that person searching for some kind of acceptance. This is exactly what Iglesia Ni Cristo has been feeding on for a century now. Much in the same way street gangs gain new recruits. Confused youths seeking acceptance.
By claiming their founder, Felix Manola was some kind of biblically prophesized angelic messenger (who died, by the way), this also allows Iglesia justification to play the “fear” card at the same time. In a nation that is heavily religious to begin with, Iglesia preys on the Filipino’s need of being truly accepted by God if they ever expect to enter Heaven. Thus, by joining their organization, you surely will. And if not, you are guaranteed a bus ride straight to hell.
Which brings us to the ever-popular notion of control. Once they have you resting cozily in their arms, controlling you is never far behind. This has been done by reminding the “now blind” follower that he/she must continue coming to their church. Giving their required tithe. Listening to their minister spout altered biblical readings. Etc. If none of this is followed, to the letter. Be prepared to get booted out the door. And reminded that you’re going straight to hell.
Which, when you think about it? Either North Korean or Iglesian. It’s probably a blessing in disguise.