Hannah Keziah Agustin of Christianity Today writes about how Filipino Christian leaders are working to reconcile their religious beliefs with the legacy of colonialism. The Philippines remain one of the few Christian-majority countries in Asia, and while Catholicism dominates (thanks to 300 years of Spanish rule), American evangelicalism had a major impact on religious culture in the nation during US control from 1898 to 1946.
Today, this has led to a paradox, where religious leaders acknowledge the impact of their relationship with God while realizing such a relationship came about due to American colonialism.
The country’s large Christian population today is the result of 300 years of Spanish rule, which brought Catholicism to the Philippine archipelago. Then the United States colonized the Philippines for about 50 years until 1946. During this time, Americans introduced a universal education system, the English language, and Protestantism.
As a result, American evangelicalism has an outsized influence on the Filipino church today. From churches’ adoption of English-language Bibles and Hillsong worship songs to the embrace of US-brd Christian NGOs working in the country’s urban slums and rural areas, Filipino evangelicals often look to their American counterparts to understand their relation to God.
CT interviewed five Filipino Christian pastors and ministry leaders in the Philippines and its diaspora to examine how American evangelicalism has shaped their view of politics, liturgy, culture, and gender, as well as what living under the painful reality of their country’s colonial past is like as a Filipino believer.
Obed Relliquette, lead pastor of Crusade Bible Church in Quezon City, Philippines:
The brand of Christianity in the Philippines is American. It has a long, deep root in our country. This is why I almost cannot distinguish what is culturally and theologically American or Filipino.
I studied in the Febias College of Bible, which American G.I.s founded in the 1940s and led until the ’70s. The church I grew up in was influenced by Americans who were pragmatic and democratic. Our church polity was patterned after that kind of government.
We are used to debating with one another in the church. Each individual is given equal rights to express his or her opinion on a given topic before arriving at a decision. It is very American. Meanwhile, the indigenous way of determining the will of Bathala—the highest god in Philippine mythology—involves slaughtering a chicken to see what the color of the liver is to know if he says yes or no.