An unnerving book

4 08 2010

The book I’m reading right now is John Shelby Spong’s Why Christianity Must Change or Die. It is a challenge indeed! I started it about 5 years ago and never made it through Chapter 1! I was just out of the closet and that was challenging enough in just questioning the conservative Church’s teaching on sexuality. I came in this time still thinking that this book was going to challenge every aspect of conservative Christian theology and I guess that’s true – I’m not sure. Right now I’m thinking that the thesis is much broader – that Christianity itself (would that would include the more “liberal” churches as well?) I came to that conclusion after finishing Chapter 2 that explains, in the author’s opinion that the whole Church is in exile. The first part of the chapter talked about the Babylonian exile and that because the Jews believed God lived in the Temple, all religious activities were to happen in Jerusalem, and civic law was tied up in with their religion, that their God didn’t travel with them to captivity and they couldn’t worship him from afar. Spong’s opinion is that with the new knowledge that came to be expressed by Darwin, Freud and others has stripped away the foundation of the Christian faith as professed in the Apostles’ Creed. In other words, the literal interpretation of the Bible has been basically (and these are my words) blown out of the water. At least this is how I understand the book so far. Fortunately for my peace of mind, Bishop Spong also explained that there is a separation of God and theism which the present day (conservative) Church does not do. The chapter ended with a question he was asked by a woman he met – “can I believe in God and not theism?” Can the question be, what is God, not who is God?  

The effect of the reading so far, though nerve-racking to (1) actually gain a very different view that encourages me to think for myself and (2) be stretched beyond my comfort zone, is exhilaration. I love it that there are believers who encourage others to find what is true for themselves, (even though that definitely questions what Truth is – but according to who? Whom? Whichever.) I definitely found this in the gay church. Can truth be as varied and unique as there are individuals who are all varied and unique? That really challenges everything I (once?) believed. And yet it is exhilarating to actually question and wonder and ponder. I guess I might be on to something because I haven’t been struck down by lightening yet for having the audacity to go outside the lines. One of the first things Bishop Spong wrote in the preface is that “any god who is threatened by new truth from any source is clearly already dead.” (I have this mental picture of God going, “She’s getting it, by Me, she getting it!”  I crack me up sometimes!)

I find it ironic that I’m typing this in the library of the Christian college I went to as I wear my Human Rights Campaign cap.  Can we all say, “passive aggressive”? Nancy has her granddaughters at the house and is giving a skin care class this afternoon, but even if that wasn’t the case, I would be here instead of at home or at a public library. Maybe I am symbolically (if quietly) proclaiming my spiritual independence. What better place than an institution that represents conservative Christianity? I do have to give Abilene Christian University props, though, because they have invited the Human Rights groups of gay and lesbian students to come on campus and discuss their views of sexuality within classrooms and at chapels. Other Christian colleges have barred them from entering their campuses, so that means something. (The cynic in me says that it means that ACU avoided a lot of negative publicity, but they’ve paid a price for it among the C of Cs to some extent.)

I’m going to take my radical and wayward self off and continue reading this book.






2 responses

5 08 2010

Great to see you blogging again, Anne! A friend turned me on to a blog called “A Time To Rend”. It’s a man sharing his shift in Christianity — very well written. You might enjoy it. Let me know if you can’t find it and I’ll shoot you the URL.

5 08 2010

PS: Your blog looks great!

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