Jesus for the Non-Religious, Part II

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 1 March 2006 0 Comments
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I think you could be a tremendous bridge builder,
bringing a diverse people together under your "call to
become more fully human." Your critique of
Christianity, however, begs the question, where are
you headed with this? Your views seem almost secular,
more rational than even the Unitarians but more
spiritual than Ethical Culture (which from my
experience seems a bit lifeless). Your ministry is so
inclusive that I'm sure you could build a global
following of people who want a spiritual home free
from the divisive myths of the past, who might agree
that Jesus was a great, if not the greatest,
philosopher and example, but not the only one worth
building a way of life around. So it seems you're
pointing to a global movement or alliance distinct
from Christianity that is too exclusive. Will it have
a name?



What you suggest I am doing sounds very impressive.
So much so that I have a hard time embracing it.
However, I have no ambitions to begin a new movement
that needs a name, though I appreciate your
attribution to me of that and other noble goals.

I simply try to combine two things. First, my
identity as a Christian who finds Jesus a doorway into
the transcendence and wonder of God and second, my
citizenship in the 21st century which means that I
cannot think as a 1st century Christian, the time in
which the Bible was written; a 4th century Christian,
the time in which the creeds were formed; a13th
century Christian, the time in which current liturgies
took shape or a 16th century Christian, the time in
which the Reformation occurred. I must be a 21st
century Christian. That means I have to force my
Christian faith into the thought forms dictated by the
21st century. In the process much of the traditional
understanding of Christianity, shaped as it was by the
mindset of the 1st Century must inevitably be
sacrificed as no longer either relevant or possible.

I draw a distinction between the experience of God
and the explanation of that experience. The
experience of God is, I believe, both real and
timeless. The explanation of that experience,
however, is always time bound and time warped.
Explanations, because they are always wedded to their
time will also and inevitably die. That should be

I see nothing in history that causes me to believe
that anyone can start a new religion. I see much that
indicates that new religious forms always emerge out
of old concepts. The tendency of religious
institutions is to suppress all change. This will be
the death knell of the Christian faith.

The Christianity I profess is radically inclusive.
There are no barriers, no boundaries. It is a journey
into the mystery of God without a road map.

I'm glad to have you as a fellow traveler.
John Shelby Spong


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Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love

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