Why Did They Do It? Crosswalk America Revisited

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 20 September 2006 0 Comments
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Dear Friends:

To start the question and answer feature of this column this week I want to

share with you the words from a bulletin defining the way the members of the

Unity Church of Wichita, Kansas see themselves: "We are a Bible based Church

for thinking people. We are culturally Christian, radically inclusive, and

spiritually unlimited." Occasionally some one gets it right.

Another church announced on its sign: "God is our refuse and our strength:"

I hope not! JSS

Chaplain Joy Smith writes:

In your opinion, what bottom-line factor best distinguishes

Christianity from other world religions? Am I right in believing the

"Golden Rule" and the message of loving God and loving others are both

present in all world religions (although worded differently, of course)?

Dear Chaplain Joy,

The task of every religion is to answer life's perennial and

existential questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What does life mean?

What is my destiny? Because those are questions only asked by fully

self-conscious creatures, religion is a specifically human enterprise. In

the broadest sense I don't believe it is possible to be human and not be

inquisitive about life's meaning, and therefore not in some sense religious.

I suppose practitioners of every faith tradition can tell you

what is unique about their own spiritual journey. When you compare your

religion with one you do not practice, it is hard not to be pejorative about

one that is not your own. So I think you would be well served to ask Jews,

Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus as well as Christians to talk about what

distinguishes their faith. Even when you talk to Christians, you will get

Roman Catholic, Protestant, liberal, fundamentalist, evangelical ideas that

will hardly be identical.

Having said that, the thing that distinguishes the Christian

community to me is the Jesus story of a life fully lived for others, a love

wastefully shared with others and a picture of one who has the courage to be

all that he was created to be.

His life expands my life. His love frees me to love and his

being gives me the courage to be. That is why I join in the central

Christian affirmation of seeing God in the full humanity of Jesus.

John Shelby Spong




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