Bishop John Shelby Spong on being a mystic and the sins of scripture —

14 Aug

Storing this partly for my own reference.

All religion seems to need to prove that it’s the only truth. And that’s where it turns demonic. Because that’s when you get religious wars and persecutions and burning heretics at the stake. But if you go back and look at the Jesus story, there are three texts in Mark, Matthew and Luke. They all came from the same source, but Matthew changes a word which makes it really crucial. Mark has Jesus say, “If you’re not against me, you’re for me.” Luke has Jesus say, “If you’re not against me, you’re for me.” Matthew changes that and says, “If you’re not for me, you’re against me.” And that’s the one that Christians have used over the centuries, but it’s two to one against Matthew being authentic.

Now who can argue that the Buddhists are against the Christians? You could argue that they’re not for the Christians, but you couldn’t argue that they’re against them, or the Jews or the Muslims. All of those are paths that humans have walked toward God. And they’re not enemies, they’re just different paths. But Matthew has turned that in such a way that you’re either on my side or you’re my enemy…

Yes. Religion is man-made, but God is not. Our ideas of God are man-made. The moment we explain it, the moment we say, “This is how I experience God” then you’ve captured God in the mindset of your time and history, your level of knowledge, your language, your prejudices, everything…

…You can’t have a world where 50 percent of the people are dieting and 50 percent of the people are starving if you want stability. Helplessness always manifests itself as terror. Because who gives a damn? I mean, what does it matter that I die? I’d rather be dead than alive. And if you could kill a few people who have ruined your life in the process….

But if you begin to give people hope that there is a brighter future, there is a new tomorrow, then the people who were yesterday’s terrorists become tomorrow’s elected officials and they’re part of the system.

I don’t believe my country will go the way of the righteous right, because I think my country is stronger than that. But it takes a long time…

I see God not as a being up in the sky, but as the source of life, the source of love and the ground of being. So I think that anything that begins to give people a sense of their own worth and dignity is God. I experience God as a life force that flows through the universe. I’m going to worship God I need to get on the side of the life force and enhance it instead of being opposed to it…

That’s, looked at from one perspective, positive postmodernism. Of course you need to read the whole article to contextualise these extracts. There was a good review of Bishop Spong’s new book The Sins of Scripture in today’s Australian: that link is not to that review but to a number of others. I have read some of his earlier books and find them inspiring.

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Posted by on August 14, 2005 in Bible, book reviews, Christianity, culture wars, faith and philosophy, fundamentalism and extremism, interfaith, peace


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