An unnerving book, part 2

6 08 2010

I don’t know how coherent this will be because the thoughts are still swirling around, deciding how and when they’ll settle down.

Chapter 4 of Why Christianity Must Change or Die offers the theory that there is not an external God somewhere out in the heavens serving as protector, problem fixer, disciplinarian, performing miracles, etc.

“This God would not be the traditional divine worker of miracles and magic, the dispenser of rewards and punishments, blessings and curses. Nor would this God be the capricious heavenly superparent who comforted us, heard out cries, and became the terrestrial Mr. Fix-It for some while allowing others to endure their pain to the bitter end in a radically unfair world.”

Bishop Spong goes on to write that the psychological sciences have offered the insight that love is the source and creator of life, citing examples of the effect of love on relationships and the lack of love on newborns, etc. I can sit comfortably with that since God is described as Love in the Bible. So if God isn’t external, then God is internal, the Ground of Being that all of us are connected to. It is this connection that when delved into deeper, we become aware of our interconnectedness, interdependence and indivisibility. God is the inescapable depth and center of all that is. Because the Ground of Being is Love, then we are free to be ourselves, give our lives away to others, etc. The purpose of the church, then, is to oppose anything that binds us to something less than the fullest expression of our humanity.

There’s a part of me that wants God to be external/personal. I’m not crazy about the idea of an impersonal God. That is addressed in the chapter. If we have dared to live fully, daring to “love wastefully and abundantly” does this not reflect the image of God? This sounds REALLY personal!

The other question I have is what about the presence of evil? I hope that will be addressed somewhere in the remainder of the book.

Thoughts going through my head as I read this chapter:

  • Insecurity of an impersonal God, but fortunately that was addressed.
  • What about heaven and hell? Or at least life after death – I don’t know what the author’s opinion is but I like believing in that.
  • I can’t drop belief in answered prayers – I’ve experienced being the recipient and seeing others’ prayers answered.
  • I’m glad that I can pick and choose through these ideas – the author definitely isn’t proclaiming he must be believed; I’m enjoying thinking for myself!
  • Bishop Spong’s take on the presence of evil.

I’m taking all this in, thankful that I have the absence of pressure to believe one way or the other; that I have the luxury and challenge to think for myself on these things.





My new hero

6 08 2010

My new hero is Judge Vaughn Walker, the jurist who ruled that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. One of his statements (paraphrased) is that one group cannot deny another group something based on what the first group deems immoral.

My friend Aubrey Liggins wrote this: “Marriage has nothing to do with the church. A pastor cannot issue a marriage license and cannot legally marry anybody without it. Therefore it is a civil matter. Marriage rights that are denied are civil rights that are denied.” That is as a succinct a summary of the issue as I have ever heard.

I’m sure that there will be a whole lot more ranting and crap yet to come, and it might even make it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But for this moment at least, I feel exhilarated and hopeful. May this be the beginning of the end of the debate; may people stop being bullied by the conservative Church; and may we move onward and upward.





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.

 

 





Once again

4 08 2010

So, here I am again, starting another blog. I hope to not get tripped up on this blog like I did the other – how many people might be reading it; editing every comment in my head to not displease others; trying to write on a daily basis . . . . I plan to use this page as a place to wonder, ponder and think things through; a place to marvel at the beauty in the world and rant at the cruel and evil things.