Seeking to Understand the Rhetoric of the Health Reform Debate

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 10 September 2009 0 Comments
Please login with your account to read this essay.


Shirley Krogstad from Hendersonville, North Carolina, writes:

If you had to name one "belief" of yours that has evolved or grown the most over the last ten years, what would it be?


Dear Shirley,

Since my whole belief system is deeply interrelated that is not an easy question to answer. I like the story told about an elderly bishop who remarked, "The older I get, the more deeply I believe but the less beliefs I have." That is exactly what I feel.

To answer your question more specifically, however, I believe it would be the way I think about God. God is no longer a person, a being or an entity to me. God is rather a presence in whom, to use words attributed to St. Paul, "I live and move and have my being." The "old man in the sky" was the first image to go, then the heavenly judge who kept record books and finally the father figure who desired praise and whose mercy I implored. The invasive, external heavenly deity faded and new images began to intrude themselves into my consciousness.

The interesting thing to me was that while these old images were fading, the God intensity within me remained steady and steadfast. Today I am a God-intoxicated person, but my definition of God is anything but crisp and well defined. I struggle to find words big enough to use when I try to talk about God. God to me is now more of an experience of transcendence, or perhaps the source of life, the source of love and the ground of all being. An experience to me is vastly different from a being who might be described externally. People hear these concepts sometimes as simply words. I hear them, however as a call to transcend all human limits and all human boundaries. God to me is a call to live fully, to love wastefully and to be all that I can be.

A redefined Jesus still stands at the center of my God experience. He is not the one sent to be my savior, redeemer or rescuer. Jesus is not to God what Clark Kent is to Superman, a deity masquerading as a human being. He is rather a God presence through whom I am empowered to be open to the life, love and being that flows through me.

I now call myself a mystic because in my understanding of God I have gone beyond words into a kind of wordless wonder, awe and mystery. This is not where I was a decade ago. I doubt if it will be where I am a decade from now, but it is where I am today and it represents the evolving, growing frontier of where I was ten years ago.

Thanks for asking.

– John Shelby Spong



Leave a Reply