Saturday, January 30, 2010

Good Business

There are some people who think that morals and money like the proverbial oil and water don’t mix. They assume that, for business to earn, ethics must take a back seat or step out altogether. Yet, still SM Cinemas imposed in 2002 its policy “not to screen movies classified by the MTRCB [Movie and Television Review and Classification Board] as R-18 … to offer wholesome and family-oriented entertainment.” (Jeffrey O. Valisno, “SM’s no-R-18 movies rule: How a mall can change an industry,” Business World, January 29-30, 2010, R-18 rated movies are for adults only. Cinemas that show such movies do not allow anyone below the age of 18 to watch it. SM’s policy includes trailers of R-18 movies. Business World added, “With the SM Group controlling a third of all the 647 cinema screens nationwide, the movie industry is invariably affected by its policies. More importantly, since SM contributes more than half of the total gross revenues of the entire cinema industry in the country, movie producers will most likely pay attention to the company’s rules.

Though he disagrees with the policy, famous scriptwriter Ricky Lee admitted that it is changing the movie landscape: “I cannot do a script that I know that producers will just reject knowing that it will get an R-18 rating from the MTRCB”. Lee claims that it affects artistic freedom. “The industry should be able to do what it wants, without external pressure, especially from a corporate giant like SM. It is unfortunate that it seems that we have no choice but to follow their rules, or suffer in the box-office”. I just wonder if the freedom he is talking about is not really about expression but the freedom to make money at the expense of people’s morals.

Whether SM acted out of conscience or corporate social responsibility or just plain business strategy, we ought to laud its R-18 move. Proverbs 14:34 says, “Righteousness exalts a nation” (ESV). We Christ-followers are often accused of imposing our morality on others. But those who cry out against us are also in effect imposing their morals or the lack of it on us. The problem is that those people demand such freedom but only limit it to their expression and seek to exclude us from questioning them. Also, that freedom is not absolute. One cannot just shout “Fire!” in a crowded movie house. It has to be responsible freedom.

Brethren, pray for more good business.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hope for Haiti

Last week, January 12, a 7.0-magnitude quake rocked Port-au-Prince, flattening almost the entire capital of Haiti and left 2 million people homeless and up to 200,000 dead. According to one U.N. official, “No matter what the final numbers end up being we already know that it will be heartbreakingly high.” (Source: The Washington Post)

But allow me to share an encouraging update that the Global Proclamation Academy got from one of its 2009 graduates: “Pastor Vijonet Demerothe says there is no hope, except spiritually. A lot of pastors, educators, university professors, professionals, and business men died during the earthquake. Some of the most important institutions (Churches, schools, government offices, and universities) are completely destroyed. They need to build hope in Haiti and right now there is no hope—but it’s a concept that needs to be created and we need to build an environment for hope with churches and universities

There are at least 40 people living in [Pastor Vijonet’s] yard and he providing food for all them, emotional support, services at the church... people are depending on him. Good news: more people accepting Christ, organizing worship services every morning and night - people show passion for Christ now - spirit of solidarity - living together in the street and sharing things; the church is growing in numbers - quality and quantity ... all they are doing is worshiping and praying! ... They are praying and staying positive ... trusting God to provide food for him and his children, and of course all others… [Pastor Vijonet] asked us to pray for his family and his church... that they would be comfortable and strong morally, spiritually, mentally, emotionally etc. Pray also that he would have more and more confidence to help people and the strength to do so. Finally he ended with this: ‘If anyone is sad about Haiti - tell them God is in control and he observes and feels that now there is a spiritual movement...people are crying, worshiping, and praising God! There is hope, spiritually!’ That is good news.”

That’s the church at work! Though they are in need themselves, they reached out to others in need also. Instead of wanting to be served, they serve. In the midst of an apparent hopeless situation, the church serves as a beacon of hope. Through their words and works, they are proclaiming that Christ is the only hope of their nation.

Brethren, let us pray for Haiti.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Do Unto The Lord

[Note: This is my personal position and does not in any way represent the stance of Makati Gospel Church.]

As a parent of a child with autism, I am deeply hurt when I heard how Cebu Pacific treated children with special needs. Last December 23, 2009, Mrs. Maritess Alcantara and her 14-year-old son, Arvin, who has such a disability, boarded its plane in Hong Kong on their way back to our country. Just before takeoff, a crew member allegedly “in a rude and arrogant manner” tried to force them to deplane because supposedly “airline policy prohibited having more than one person with a ‘mental illness’ on the same flight.” (Source: It appears that there was another child with special needs on board, whom the crew also tried to force to deplane. But Alcantara refused to do so. In the end, the pilot relented and allowed them to stay on board.

In fairness, Cebu Pacific apologized for the incident saying that “The attempt to offload a passenger with a developmental disability was a result of the cabin crew’s misinterpretation of government regulations designed to assure the safety of passengers.” But the apology was not enough to assuage the hurt. (People with special needs are no threat at all.) The family will file a lawsuit against the airline. According to their lawyer, “The policy is clear that special children are not included in the airline’s prohibition… a special child is not classified as being mentally ill”. The Commission on Human Rights has also condemned the shameful act.

When I heard about the incident, I actually prayed that the Lord would not bless the airline people with children with special needs of their own because I fear that they might not treat them with the love that such children deserve. They are also “a heritage from the LORD” (Psalm 127:3, ESV). I remember the time when Senator Mirriam Defensor-Santiago and Broadcaster Korina Sanchez publicly made autism a butt of joke on separate occasions. I personally e-mailed them a protest letter and they sent back their heartfelt apologies. This time, more than issuing a statement, I believe Cebu Pacific should have their entire company go through a retraining so that their staff and crew would be more sensitive to people with special needs and avoid such discrimination to happen again. It is just fitting for the Lord Jesus Himself said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” (Matthew 25:45)

Brethren, do unto others what we would do to the Lord.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

"Carpe Diem"

This is a phrase from a Latin poem by Horace, a Roman poet (65 BC-8 BC). “It is popularly translated as ‘seize the day’. Carpe means ‘pick, pluck, pluck off, gather’, but Horace uses the word to mean ‘enjoy, make use of.’” (Source: Wikipedia) What he actually wrote was, “Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero" (“Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future”). So, he meant it to mean, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” That’s living in the present with little or no thought at all about the future.

But, I think Ephesians 5:15-16 has the best outlook in seizing the day: Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (ESV) The word “walk” in verse 15 refers not to the physical act of putting your right foot forward then your left foot forward. It means “to live”. (The New Living Translation goes like this: “be careful how you live”.) But we are not just talking of living as opposed to dying. There are those who just let the days pass by. That’s not real living. That would be like a prisoner who counts the days left in his sentence but stays in his cell to rot away. Living is more than breathing. Paul was not talking of living it out. He is talking about living it up. That’s why he explained the command how to live carefully through this phrase: “making the best use of the time”. (The participle “making” clarifies how to apply the verb “look”.) We are careful in how we live when we make the best use of our time. Yet, Paul was not just talking about time management (though that’s one of the ways of careful living). In the Greek, “time” in verse 16 is not “chronos” or chronological time as we know it. It is not time as composed of seconds, minutes and hours. It is “kairos,” that is, chance, break or opportunity. (The New International Version goes like this: “making the most of every opportunity” or in The Message, “Make the most of every chance you get.”) We live up to our potential when we grab every opportunity to do so. In short, we must seize the day.

Someone commented that every New Year, we experience some sort of a rebirth. In other words, we receive another chance. Actually, every day we wake up, we get a fresh shot at change. We must live in the present with not just the future but with eternity in mind. As we face a New Year, we must seize the day. We need to seize it the right way by making our life count. Not the foolish sense of “carpe diem” but the Biblical sense.

Brethren, seize the day!