You can have PRIDE too!

Column by Rev. Deshna Charron Shine on 22 June 2023 0 Comments

Systemic racism and oppression of marginalized folk’s experience is ingrained in all of us and in every system. Even if every person became anti-racist and radically inclusive, our systems would still be a huge barrier to the liberation and equality of all.

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I feel that Bishop John Shelby Spong hollowed out so much of traditional Christianity that nothing much is left except humanism! He was clearly very drawn to the person of Jesus (as I am), but it is perfectly possible to believe in the greatness and goodness of Jesus whilst being an atheist, Jew, Muslim, or whatever. What is left that is distinctively Christian?


Dear Alex,

I am right with you, my friend. Once Bishop Spong was finished with his deconstruction of the Bible and the life of Jesus as it had been celebrated for millennia, there wasn’t much left that was distinctively Christian. But there is good, and it’s good that’s shared across and beyond all religions. It’s the “congregating” part, the part where we intentionally don’t distinguish ourselves from one another.

In Leaving Christianity, 2017, Brian Clarke and Stuart Macdonald raise the spectre of society without communities that gather around church. It isn’t pretty. Statistics show that while as many who don’t regularly attend church donate to charities, their donations are a fraction of church-goers', and they are far less likely to volunteer than those who do attend. Communities are already facing volunteer shortages across the board.

Stats related to well-being correlated positively with social connection; it's participation in church, not belief, that stands out as significant.  I often say the greatest off-label benefit of religion is “falling in love with being together.” Churches create people who choose to become involved in the wider world in a meaningful way when they welcome and provide opportunities for people of different ages, sizes, relationship statuses, financial security, race, interests, sexualities and gender identities, ethnic backgrounds, neuro-diversities, etc., etc., to mix and mingle, talk about the weather or the meaning of life, build resilience and care for one another. That’s the best thing about church that ever was.

As Bishop Spong challenged Christianity, he paved the way for those who no longer or never did believe to seek out communities that know how to “do church” without the need to distinguish believers from non. As one young person who recently attended my community said on their first Sunday, “Churches just don’t realize that language is a gate-keeper.” I think Bishop Spong, who made it so difficult for us to use religious-y language, would have resonated with that.

~ Rev. Gretta Vosper




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