The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) asks Manny Pacquiao to respect and not abuse the Bible and consequently to respect and not dehumanize fellow human beings.
“In Pacquiao’s recent statements comparing LGBT people to animals, he overlooks one central theme of biblical witness” said Fr. Rex Reyes, NCCP General Secretary. “That is that all people are created in the image of God. When any group or person in society is compared to an animal rather than being regarded with the dignity that the creator has given, the real danger is that they will be treated as animals rather than people who bear the divine image.”
Fr. Reyes explained that the kind of rhetoric that often goes hand in hand with the abuse of peoples’ human rights is to first label them as less than human. This strategy has been used to marginalize and oppress people throughout history.
For NCCP, Pacquiao is a public figure and many people listen to him because of his celebrity as a sports figure and his standing as an elected official. Thus, Pacquiao bears the responsibility for his words and the effect that they have. This is a responsibility he should not be allowed to take lightly.
In his initial statement and in his apology, Pacquiao used as defense that he is simply referring to scripture. According to NCCP, “it is not the manner of scripture to dehumanize people, but rather to highlight the dignity we have received from the creator.”
Specifically, the passage from 1 Corinthians 6:9 that Pacquiao quotes “nowhere refers to people as animals, it refers to a wide range of ethical behaviors (including thieves, the greedy and drunkards) and does not single out homosexuality for singular attention. There has been a great deal of biblical scholarship in regard to whether the passage refers to homosexuality in general or to homosexuality as practiced in regard to pagan religious rituals.”
There is diversity within the Christian community in regard to the interpretation of scripture, attitudes towards homosexuality, marriage equality, among other issues, and there is unlikely to be a shared view on these issues among all Christians in the near future. However, “we must hold on to the dignity of the divinely created human person and the respect that is due to every person. Pacquiao has dangerously betrayed one of the most fundamentally accepted premises of the Christian faith, that every person is created in the image of God.”
“If at all,” Reyes said, “an open and honest conversation on the whole issue of human sexuality may yet lead us to a greater appreciation of our common humanity rather than creating barriers among ourselves.”
The Psalmist says “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:4-5). We call on Pacquiao to study more deeply the scriptures, examine his own attitudes towards his fellow human beings, and cultivate an attitude of humble respect for others. In this way we do not lose sight of the central themes of scripture, the freedom that redemption brings, and God’s love that should be for all and in all.”