“Brother Mike” and El Shaddai
Posted by akosistella on May 16, 2010
Rising out of the shantytowns and fetid creeks of this Manila neighborhood are a giant neon cross and a technicolor rainbow so tall they dwarf the golden arches of the local McDonald’s. They mark the new home of El Shaddai, part of a broader Christian evangelist movement that’s sweeping this predominantly Roman Catholic nation.
Billed as the biggest center of faith and worship in Asia, the sprawling 10,000-hectare complex in Parañaque is El Shaddai’s global headquarters. A lay Catholic group, El Shaddai—God in Hebrew—is among the largest of the new-generation Christian movements in the Philippines. It claims a fast-growing membership of more than eight million, including many Filipinos working overseas in locales from Hong Kong to Dubai.
The ascent of popular Catholic groups like El Shaddai, along with scores of breakaway Protestant ones, is shaping aspects of Philippine life from making babies to making movies. Protestants are flocking to them, but so are an increasing number of Roman Catholics. They are increasing in size and power in a country where religion and politics have been intermingled since the times of Spanish colonialism. Sociologists say the upshot is double-edged: Often entrenching traditional social and political conservatism, while at the same time spreading the gospel of material wealth—unusual for the Philippines— which could help spur development of businesses.