Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mining Firebirds: the Church, State, and Citizenry

After reading this post about the medieval mindset, and because of how clearly the point of view of NPCs (and perhaps some PCs) in that era might be explained, I immediately jumped to thoughts on how Philippine culture can be mined for Fading Suns RPGs, particularly in the case of religion.

Here are couple of things that you might want to use for your Fading Suns storylines for flavor, or even an adventure premise:

Mass is always full

Okay, not always. The lunchtime mass at the But on Sundays (and Saturday evenings -- anticipated masses), they're full. Sometimes standing room only full.

The "mega-chapel" known as the Chapel of the Eucharistic Lord, located on the top floor of one of the bigger malls in Metro Manila, tends to have long lines on Sundays as the attendees of the next mass await their turn to enter after the current mass finishes. Yes, we have chapels in malls -- and masses in malls -- because it's very convenient in a country where traffic and parking can be part of the trial of keeping the Lord's Day holy. I though it would be very controversial, but it hasn't gone away. And the various other churches still get their fill on Sundays. I don't think churches in malls are particularly Fading Suns-y, unless you consider the Guild worlds and perhaps the more cosmopolitan planets like Byzantium Secundus.

Aren't there other religious denominations in the Philippines? Yes. The Christian services tend to be longer, I think, and also get full with worshippers, according to my Christian friends. And the Iglesia ni Cristo, and Jesus Is Lord, and El Shaddai movements have their throngs of followers choking their churches and causing traffic at their places of worship (public and more private).

So, even with all the atheists and agnostics and lapsed Catholics / Christians / etc. that I know personally in society -- well, basically if you throw a stone into a parking lot, chances are you'll hit a regular churchgoer.

Applying this in Fading Suns, it means that most NPCs spend a chunk of their day of worship at the Cathedral, or perhaps a properly sanctified and recognized chapel nearer to where they live. It's something they make a regular part of their lives, something the either set in stone on their schedules or something they always include on their to-do lists.

And I haven't even touched on the Muslims and the Chinese temples.

Faith and the Syncretic approach

By praying and walking on their knees
from the entrance of the church to the
altar, devotees believe their intentions
will be heard and answered.
This isn't to say that we're saints in this country. Crime and corruption are long-time residents of this archipelago. The sermons about Sunday-only Catholics certainly ring true here.

But more than that, there is an undercurrent of syncretic practice ("the combining of different -- often seemingly contradictory -- beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought") in this worship. Chinese superstition and feng shui are equally present at blessings of homes, offices, and public structures, even if no one of Chinese descent is present. Local monsters, spirits, and creatures of lower mythology have all been lumped together as 'demons' under the Catholic catechism, but provincial residents still have minor ways of appeasing them alongside religious observances and protections. There have been admonitions to the faithful that they should not view the lighting of candles, the kneel walker pilgrimages at the Baclaran Church, and the Holy Week practice of Visitia Iglesia as superstitious rituals, but instead as gateways to deepening faith.

But I have no doubt that in some minds, they're both.

In Fading Suns, this can be seen as the general ignorance of the populace about true Orthodox Church doctrine, and a multitude of local superstitions that have been infused (purposely, or by default) with the original, older set of beliefs that came from the planet's natives and from the earliest settlers.


  1. Really dynamite post. I'd had a really archaic vision of the Church for FS in my head, but that gives me a different perspective. I really need to think about that before I go to run this. There's some of that theme in Glorantha- the importance of faith in daily lives in the setting. But I think in modern takes on these ideas we often discount their importance. And worth thinking about how tech and social developments affect this.

  2. +Lowell Francis: Thanks! Tech and social developments are also continuously explosive topics of discussion. The recent RH (Reproductive Health) bill issue -- with the Catholic Church weighing in against it, of course, became a battleground between various factions. And some notable priests and institutions (which include schools, by the way) who came out FOR it were suitably chastised. I'll probably tackle that in another post; it's just a very volatile issue, and I may be too close to it.


That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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