Election 2004 Part 3 - An Analysis of the Evangelical Vote in the 2004 Election

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 24 November 2004 0 Comments
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Why is it so important to you to view the Gospels as midrash rather than as history?


If I am required to read the gospels as history, then I must be willing to believe that a star can wander through the sky so slowly that wise men can follow it; that stars are hung out in the sky to announce an earthly birth, that angels literally sing (in perfect Aramaic presumably) to hillside shepherds; that the fetus of John the Baptist inside the womb of Elizabeth can leap to acknowledge the superiority of Jesus, who is still in the womb of Mary; that Jesus could feed 5000 people with five loaves, still a storm, walk on water and finally return to God by rising up into the sky. Those things are inconceivable to me unless God is a constant miracle worker invading history to do miracles on a regular basis. If I believed that about God, I would have to accuse God of immorality because if God has that power, God did not use it to stop the holocaust, to intercept the progress of AIDS among Africa's children and to prevent the death of innocent people in terrorist attacks. One cannot have it both ways.

When I read the gospels as Midrash, using the lens of Jewish story telling to interpret its narratives, then the Gospel stories carry me deeply into the God experience.

If the Bible is to be understood as literal history then I no longer wish to be a Christian. I cannot violate my mind by pretending that it can be twisted into a first century pretzel. I see the gospels as portraits of the power of Jesus painted by artists who were seeking to make sense of the God they believed they met in Jesus. That is where God becomes real to me. I commend this pathway into the wonder of God to you!

-- John Shelby Spong




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