The Birth of Jesus, Part V. Matthew’s Original Story. The Prologue and Tamar, the Incestuous One

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 13 December 2012 0 Comments
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I am a 21-year-old student from Florida. Over the past year, I have gone through some changes regarding my view of religion and the world and would just like to thank you for your ideas on the current and future state of Christianity. Your writings and talks have been instrumental in helping me understand the role of religion and spirituality in my life. I never got to speak to my hero, Christopher Hitchens, before he died, something I regard as my only real regret in life. But I am glad I have a chance to thank you for your message of love, hope and a more modern take on a topic that has great meaning to me.


Dear Randy,

Thank you for your letter. I am delighted that you believe yourself to have been helped by my writings and I am pleased that you put your thoughts into words. I am also gratified to be in your pantheon of heroes alongside Christopher Hitchens. The world lost one of its most creative minds when he died. I knew Christopher Hitchens, but not well, and had the pleasure of being part of a two-hour debate with him on ITV in London a number of years ago, well before his book God is Not Great came out. He considered me an inadequate Christian, since I did not fall within his narrow definition of what a Christian is or believes. He assumed that the only way to think about Christianity was to define it in rather traditional, rigid and medieval terms, as he constantly did. He spent a lot of his time attacking his version of Christianity, which I had no trouble attacking as well. I thought of him as a brilliant man and an able rhetorician, but one who was very poorly informed about the movements in historical Christianity. He did not know there was any other way to view Christianity than the way he so thoroughly rejected and enjoyed lampooning. That is where I think he was wrong. In my series, recently completed through this column, entitled, “Think Different, Accept Uncertainty,” I spelled out an alternative to Hitchens’ version of Christianity that he and I both find easily rejectable. That series is now available, if you are interested, along with all of my previous columns, to those who are subscribers. That series filled about half a year in this column’s history. I hope the world recognizes, as you seem to do, that both Christopher Hitchen and I have a role to play in seeking God’s truth.

~John Shelby Spong





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