The Tragedy in Norway and Its Meaning

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 28 July 2011 0 Comments
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Have you read the recent book by Rob Bell “Love Wins,” containing his thoughts on heaven and hell? He is a pastor in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area.


Dear Madelyn and Jack,

Yes I have read about Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins” and welcome his voice to the current debate.  The debate is, however, not on his ideas expressed in that book.  Those ideas are in fact already in the mainstream in religious academic circles.  The debate is on the reception he has received from the Evangelical base of American fundamentalism, which thought he was one of them and who now discover he has moved out of their narrow definition.  He is being vigorously attacked there because he has grown beyond the limits that fundamentalists can tolerate. That too will pass for this evangelical thought process is dying despite the hysteria that its own rigor mortis is creating.  The idea that anyone can claim that God cannot or will not be understood outside a narrow, imperialistic frame of reference based on the idea that everyone who does not accept that point of view is doomed to eternal punishment, is so weird and so absurd that it is not worthy of debate.  So I leave that to the Pat Robertsons and the Albert Mohlers of the world.  The fact is that people like them speak only to their narrow constituency and generally offend everyone else.  They make loud political noise, but I refuse to believe that the average American does not recognize this mentality for what it is – a limited response from limited people.  I have no objections to fundamentalists having strange opinions.  I do object when they try to impose their opinions with various coercive threats on everyone else.  The Tea Party Republicans seem to me to be infected with this same sickness.  We will simply have to live through it. They are the 21stCentury version of the “Know Nothing Party” of the 19th Century.  These types of responses always overstep and self destruct so I am content to let them do so.

~John Shelby Spong




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