The Study of New Testament Miracles, Part III
4 October 2006: Start the discussion! »
In the opening column in this series on miracles in the Bible, I noted two things. First, the accounts of miracles in the Bible are generally limited to three cycles of stories within the biblical narrative. They are part of the Moses-Joshua cycle of stories, the Elijah-Elisha cycle of stories and the Jesus-Disciples of Jesus …
Question & Answer
Why are so many of today's Christians so easily drawn away from Jesus'
message of LOVE and into the hateful, judgmental, xenophobic version of
Christianity that targets people who are gays/lesbians, Muslims, ACLU
supporters and others who want to embrace love as a basis for life? What
happened to the Golden Rule Christianity given that in the 1930's, Nazi
Germany engaged more than 400 fundamentalist organizations to fan the flames
for nationalism to help usher in fascism. What can progressives do to fight
the propaganda juggernaut of the Religious Right's adoption of
fundamentalist Christianity to move America into a modern fascism?
The Religious Right's fundamentalists attack on gays today as a "first
target" is reminiscent of what the Nazis did in the 1930's to desensitize
the public and prepare the way for other groups to be targeted.
Your letter makes many assumptions that space does not allow me
to unload but let me assume for the sake of argument that your analysis is
correct. My caution here is that you use loaded words like "hateful,"
"xenophobic," and "juggernaut of the Religious Right," none of which may be
wrong but I am suspicious that they also reveal a lack of objectivity. For
example, I know people who are politically located on the right but who are
not hateful, xenophobic and would be quite surprised to be told that they
are part of a "juggernaut," indeed many of them feel beleaguered and
Yet the fact remains as you have pointed out that one of the
oldest successful political tricks is to identify a "popular" enemy, arouse
the latent hostility among the people against that enemy and bring about a
political victory. You cite the example of Hitler's Nazi party identifying
the Jews with evil, enlisting conservative religious Christians by appealing
to their anti-Semitism and the resulting horror that we call the Holocaust.
While that tactic is always evil and divisive and it always results in
disaster, we need to be aware of the fact that Hitler never actually won a
political majority. The Nazis were the largest minority party in the
Reichstag when Hitler was asked to form a government with the assumption
that it would be a coalition government. However, Hitler used his minority
power to dismiss the Reichstag and to assume the complete power of a
dictator. Secondly, Hitler also had other designated enemies besides the
Jews. He condemned communists, Slavs, homosexuals and others he regarded as
inferior specimens of humanity. He also had a world wide economic
depression to fuel the anger of his voters.
I mention these things because while I deplore the power of
right wing politics in the present administration, and its crude
victimization of homosexual people as part of their political strategy, I
see no reason to think that this will be a successful strategy. I believe
that a majority of the American population, while not necessarily pro-gay,
are in fact unwilling to see homosexual persons victimized or even harassed.
I remind you that when the Bush administration introduced in the Senate a
proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, a measure that
requires a two thirds vote, the Senate not only did not give that measure
the required two thirds vote, it did not even receive a majority vote in
this body that is controlled by the President's party. I think that vote
reflected well the place of that issue in America. There will be no
national constitutional amendment on gay marriage. The tide of homophobia
in America is actually declining with every passing year. This was nothing
but a crude political tipping of the hat to the basest element in the
Religious Right that cannot win majority vote in any forum of a national
So my confidence is in the unwillingness of the great center of the American
people to be hoodwinked by the politics of prejudice. That does not mean
that those, who like you, see a "targeting of any group in our society" for
anyone's political gain, do not have both the duty and the responsibility,
to say nothing of the right, to challenge that prejudice in the public arena
with both your words and action.
Another factor in the rise of anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany was that the
main line churches from Pope Pius XII and the Roman Catholics to German
Lutherans were so consumed with their own needs for that evasive idol called
"unity" that they gave up their prophetic voices and retreated into silence.
Truth must always trump unity when the Church faces the crucial issues in
world history. The heroes of the Church are never the unity seekers. The
heroes are the people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemoeller, Desmond
Tutu, John E. Hines, William Coffin and Martin Luther King, who put their
lives and their careers on the line for the sake of the truth that cannot be
People always want to know where they can find and access that truth. They
do not understand that ultimate truth is not a proposition but a premise.
If the essence of Jesus' message is accurately captured, as I think it is,
in the words of the Fourth Gospel where Jesus says, "I have come that they
might have life and have it more abundantly," then any policy of any
government that diminishes the life of any child of God, based on a person's
being, is opposed to the gospel of Jesus and must be confronted. That
includes racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism. A church that
waffles and temporizes on any one of these issues has no claim on the Christ
they say they serve and must be forced to face the falseness of their own
religious convictions. I still believe that there are sufficient parts of
the Christian Church who stand ready to do that so that we will not sink as
a nation into the debauchery that marked the Germany of Adolf Hitler, though
it is clear to me that we are in a new "Dark Age."
Thanks for sharing your concern.
John Shelby Spong
In Need of a Good Word?
We encourage you to show your support for positive and progressive Christian views by becoming a part of Bishop Spong's growing online community. You'll receive a new column each week on topics in social justice and spirituality that matter most.
Free Q&A Email
Sign up for Bishop Spong's FREE weekly Q&A email.
Looking for something special? Search here:
Browse by Date
Browse our monthly archives: