The Iglesia Ni Cristo captivated my interest the moment I caught a glimpse of their extravagant castle-like church headquarters found in Quezon City, Manila. The heavily fortified buildings often surrounded by high boundary walls and large iron gates, along with the unique, now iconic architecture radiates a feeling of mystery and secrecy.
Besides the obviously more dominant belief systems in the country such as Islam and Catholicism; It would be safe to assume that this is one of the more popular belief systems within the Philippines. Whether I was out in the provinces or traveling through metro Manila, I always seemed to come across the distinctive churches of Iglesia Ni Cristo.
When it comes to people’s beliefs, I can’t get enough. I love digging into these generally insular worlds and learning about what makes them tick. Naturally, I began asking friends about the church. I received a series of concordant responses all along the lines of, “I think that’s the church which takes 10% of your income”.
This spiked my interest as there seemed to be this meme related to Iglesia Ni Cristo, in which they maintained a level of influence over the allocation of the member’s income. I was actually raised in the Jehovahs Witness cult so this seemed to resonate with my experience with the church.
After a little research, I have found a series of external sources claiming they do require members surrender 10% of their income. This is contrasted by a series of internal sources all rejecting this persistent meme of mandatory contributions to the church.
Despite this being a persistent theme, there was no concrete information showing the INC forcing members to surrender 10% of their income to the church. Although this may seem to discredit the rumors surrounding the church, it does seem like a lot of the sources defending the church are somehow distorting the INCs method of eliciting funds from its members.
Despite my lack of first-hand experience with the church, it seems unusual that this has become a meme surrounding the church despite claims that the church is not engaging in the practice of tithing. I have a distrust of this style of organization, which has major parallels with the Jehovahs Witness and Mormon church.
I have no doubts that these organizations are generally filled with good, well meaning people, under the impression they are working towards something greater than themselves. In these types of organization, there is always an individual or group of people who insert themselves between these people and “God”. This becomes a basis for these individuals to appear as holding a kind of “divine authority”.
Despite the claims that members are not obliged to surrender 10% of their salary to church; I would not be surprised if another form of pressure existed within the church to elicit funds from the rank and file members. When the churches authorities portray themselves as delivering messages from god, controlling the lives of the members becomes a very straightforward exercise.
Due to my history, I have a deep distrust of these high control organizations. Although this is all just speculation, there is a clear visible framework which all these groups follow. If you strip these organizations down to their basic framework you can see that the Mormons, Jehovahs Witnesses, and Iglesia Ni Cristo are all basically the same.
Highly controlled information distribution, moderated by the charismatic seemingly benevolent intermediary group or individual. Create an “other” typically in the form of labeling aggressors as apostates in order to detract in credibility from their allegations. They often focus on the idea of an impending apocalypse or revelation in order to create a feeling of scarcity of time. This builds dependence on the “messenger of god” who will guide them through this time.