In Praise of the United Church of Christ

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 11 July 2007 0 Comments
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Can you please comment on Communion? I'm a church-going Christian, and I don't feel like a sinner or that Jesus died for me. I have read all your books, but I'm confused about why I receive "the body and blood" of Jesus. It's got to be more than remembrance. Can you share your thoughts on it?


You need first to identify the source of your understanding

of Communion. I suspect it is not the Eucharist itself, but the

inadequate and bizarre theology of the Eucharist that is at the

center of your problem.

Much of traditional Christianity defines human beings as

"fallen, victims of original sin and therefore evil." I reject

that definition as both inept and uninformed. The problem with

human life in my opinion is not that it has fallen, but that it

has not yet evolved into full humanity. I am a post-Darwinian

thinker, while the traditional ecclesiastical spokespersons are

still thinking in pre-Darwinian terms. That means I do not look

to Jesus for either rescue or for saving, as the traditional

voices still appear to do, I look to him for empowerment on my

road to wholeness.

So I do not view the Communion service as a re-enactment of

the story of the cross where Jesus died for us or in place of us

to satisfy an angry God, who was intent on punishing someone to

satisfy the divine sense of righteousness. I consider this

theology to be barbaric at best. It makes God an ogre, Jesus a

victim, and you and me guilt laden.

I prefer to look at the Communion service as a time for the

community to break bread together in the presence of the Lord.

My experience in life is that relationships never grow or deepen

until people eat together. That is what Communion is designed

to do and be. The problem with the Eucharist is that a simple

act has been overlaid with atonement theology and cannibalistic

practice. A reformation is badly needed.

John Shelby Spong




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