Source of Article (Jeffrey L. Fitzgerald):
In response to Frank Santos's letter from May 25, I must confess that I am the "Catholic defender" to which he refers. At no time was I rude with Mr. Ventilacion or any other Iglesia ni Cristo member.Indeed it's an honor to defend Christ and his Body, the Church.
Because their "evangelical mission" was located in a public facility (the Umatac Community Center), I attended the event to hear the speaker's comments on the doctrine of the Trinity. I was not disruptive at any time; I only asked for Ventilacion to use the complete Bible verse when justifying his position, instead of relying on a verse fragment, which may skew the meaning of the scriptural text..
This request was the extent of the "disruption." All other engagement beyond my request was initiated by Ventilacion, whom I readily admit is a talented speaker. Even as I was silently listening to him after my request, he insisted on a debate with me that was little more than verbal sparring, even going so far as calling me onto the stage and handing me a microphone. When he saw that I was nervous while speaking in front of so many people, he began making fun of me in his effort to make me look foolish.
Is this the "community outreach" to which Santos refers? Is intimidation now a means of evangelization? To say that I am the disrespectful party in this case borders somewhere between blaming the victim for the crime and outright hypocrisy.
Respect is the secondary issue. Santos implies in his letter that my disagreement with both the content and method of Iglesia ni Cristo's message should be handled "respectfully," and I certainly understand his point and agree with it for the most part. However, the manner of respect being asked in this case is nothing more than silence in the face of opposition. Questions could be asked at the end of the presentation, Santos points out. Yet, without adequate light or materials for questioners to prepare a question based on the speaker's statements, such a question-answer session can serve no real purpose other than to reinforce what had already been said.
I am obliged not only as a Catholic but as a Christian to defend so central a truth as the Trinity. This is not a defense of Catholicism; it is a defense of Christ and is therefore the duty of all Christian believers.
Indeed, Christ was explicit when He said, "Whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father in heaven" (Matt. 10:33).
The problem is not that Christians are not respectful enough; it is rather that we confuse silence for respect, for fear we might offend.
I never (to my recollection) referred to Ventilacion as a liar; rather, I said that by his interpretation of the Gospels that denies His divinity, he makes Jesus a liar.
I thank Santos for calling me a "Catholic defender." Since, for any Christian, to defend the Lord is the greatest honor, I must declare this to be the greatest compliment I have ever received, and it is a title I would never have been bold enough to call myself. For such an honor, I am grateful.
JEFFREY L. FITZGERALD
Windward Hills, Yona