Sexism! Still a Force in American Politics

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 12 March 2008 0 Comments
Please login with your account to read this essay.


I subscribed to your essays a few weeks ago. I live in
Turkey, where most of the population is Muslim. I accepted
Christianity about three years ago and began to study the Bible
with some missionaries living near my university. I realize they
are very hostile to those who think or act differently. They see
people who have different beliefs as inferior creatures. Turkey
has always been the hub of different cultures, different
civilizations, and, of course, different religions. A person
living in this land could never believe that Christianity or any
other religion is the only way to experience God or, in Christian
terms, the only way to salvation. The Christianity to which I
converted is love. It is not magic. I am blind but I didn't
become a Christian because Jesus would open my eyes miraculously.
I am also against all dogmas that limit our minds. Questioning
the Bible or God or anything should not be an act of sinfulness
or shame. Whenever I challenged the missionaries, they said I was
absolutely wrong and I would definitely go to hell. So I left
that Christian church because it did not respect people equally
and did not love as Jesus commanded.

One day, I was listening to Internet radio and
heard an interview with you that inspired me a lot. I felt I was
not alone in the world. You were expressing my feelings very
well. Before I was hesitant to say out loud that I am a
Christian because I didn't think the literal stories in the Bible
reflect real Christianity. You have given me courage to say
openly that I am a Christian. I am happy to know you and to be a
new Christian of this new and ever-evolving world.

My question is, have you ever been to a Middle
Eastern or an Islamic country to deliver lectures or to give
conferences? If you have, what impressions do you have about
them? Unfortunately, war and destruction are almost everywhere
in the Middle East, and there the children need love, the
families need care, and, most importantly, people need to know
who God is. I think you would be much more welcome here than any
missionaries who are trying to convert people and bring them to
their own way of thinking.


Yours is a remarkable letter. I admire the fact
that you became a Christian and want to continue to be a
Christian, but you realize that you must dismiss many of the
attitudes of the Christians you have come to know as not worthy
of the Jesus you seek to follow. I fear that what you describe
is not limited to the Christian missionaries to the Middle East.
Christianity has come to be identified by many with similar
hostilities and prejudices toward other religions, toward women
and toward homosexual people. Such behavior is surely not true
to the gospel, which calls us to fulfill Jesus' promise to be
agents committed to bringing abundant life to all the people of
the world.

I have only been to Palestine and Israel in the
Middle East and that was some years ago. On that trip I stayed
with an Anglican bishop in Jerusalem who was a Palestinian
Christian. He was so filled with hostility toward the Jews that
he was anything but a reconciling presence. His hostility was
born out of the Six-Day War in which his family's property was
destroyed and confiscated by the Jews. He called the Holocaust
Museum, Yad Vashem, "nothing but Jewish propaganda." He was
amongst the least inspiring bishops I have ever met.

I would find it an amazing opportunity to lead a
conference or give lectures in the Middle East, but I doubt if
that would be possible given the current tensions. Islam has
many noble things about it which I admire, but Islam has yet to
undergo the critical scholarship about the Koran that Christians
have undergone about the Bible. There can be little real
dialogue with or learning from another religious tradition so
long as the claim to possess absolute truth in one's own
religious forms is still operative. Every religious system the
world over is plagued by that mentality, which hinders both
dialogue and cross cultural learning. The fact is that there is
no infallible Pope, no inerrant Bible, no one true faith and the
Koran is not God's dictated words through the Prophet Mohammed.
All of these things represent primitive stages in religious
consciousness that must be sacrificed before interfaith practice
can be developed.

Thank you for writing.

John Shelby Spong




Leave a Reply