The Columbus, Ohio, Episcopal Battlefield

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 7 June 2006 0 Comments
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If we accept the fact that Jesus was a man with a
beautiful and powerful teaching and not a Savior,
Messiah or the Christ, is it not time to make the
shift away from calling ourselves Christian? Perhaps
Jesuian or Jesuist, something more affirming of Jesus
the man and not as Christ and away from the Almighty
Father God toward what you describe as a non-theist
ground of being? As I move enthusiastically and
rapidly to this new and wonderful horizon that you and
a growing number of others point toward, I find I can
not call myself Christian or even a liberal one any
longer. Isn't it time to differentiate this new
religious sense with a new name that affirms the new
direction and the new way of being in the world?


I treasure the word Christian and refuse to abandon
it to the Falwells, the Robertsons and the Ratzingers
of the world. The word Christ translates the Hebrew
word "maschiach," which means literally "the anointed
one. Originally it was the Jewish title for their
king, but when there was no Jewish King (from 586 BCE
on) it began to stand for the coming messiah who would
restore the throne of King David. Eventually it came
to mean a life in whom the voice of God is heard or
the will of God is lived out. That is exactly how I
view Jesus of Nazareth. God's voice of love is the
voice I hear in Jesus. God's being is the being I see
lived out in Jesus. I see him calling us beyond tribe,
prejudice, gender differences and even religion into a
new humanity. I see him acting out the divine purpose
to enhance the life of this world. I see God as the
source of life revealed when we live fully. I see God
as the source of love revealed when we love
wastefully. I see God as the Ground of Being revealed
when we have the courage to be all that we can be.
When I look at the portrait of Jesus as he was
remembered in the scriptures and in the Christian
tradition, I see the fully alive one, the totally
loving one and the one who lives out all that he was
destined to be, even as his life was betrayed,
forsaken, denied, tortured and killed. That is why I
have no problem joining St. Paul and saying, "Yes!
Yes! God was in that life," or joining St. John and
saying, "if you have seen Jesus you have seen God."

Later theology turned this experience into stultifying
creeds, irrelevant doctrines and controlling dogmas.
I can sacrifice those. The God experience I find in
Jesus I cannot sacrifice. So he is Christ for me and
I claim the title Christian and work to transform its
meaning into what I think it was originally designed
to communicate.

Hope you find this helpful.

John Shelby Spong

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