The Origins of the New Testament, Part XXXIV: The Raising of Lazarus and the Identity of the Beloved

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 19 August 2010 0 Comments
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Anne Harrison from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, writes:

How does one respectfully answer or relate to dear friends who want to debate an issue (such as the "sin" of homosexuality)? I know they are trying to "convert" me!


Dear Anne,

You need first to separate religious conviction from hostility. One does not allow hostility to be expressed toward oneself that is demeaning and destructive, even when people package their hostility in the rhetoric of religion. Religious hostility is no less hostile than non-religious hostility! You must see it and call it for what it is. You simply tell these friends that you do not want to discuss these subjects, that their persistent attempts to do so are not acceptable, that you do not welcome it and that if they continue in this behavior, even though they are "dear friends," they will be putting your friendship at risk. That should get their attention.

Once you have gotten their attention, you then explain that there are some subjects on which your mind, based on your best study, are settled and thus are no longer up for consideration or further debate even though you are aware that they do not agree with you. This will certainly put them on notice, and then it is up to them to act in such a way as to continue their friendship with you.

What I think all people need to understand is that the pious rhetoric of religion, including quotations from the Bible, do not make hostility acceptable. Religious rudeness is still rude, religious anger is still anger and boorish people who are religious are still boorish. No one is required to absorb anger even when it is perfumed with a religious scent.

I hope this helps.

– John Shelby Spong




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