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The Vatican vs. the Nuns

3 May 2012: 4 Comments »

Perhaps it takes a political campaign to reveal the fault lines in both our nation and in institutional religion.  At least that is what appears to be happening in current American politics.  The political season has a way of loosening latent fears, exciting the extremists and bringing silliness to the political arena.  We have watched …

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Question & Answer

Kessy, via the Internet, writes:

Question:

This has been a most unusual day for me.  I picked up Vincent Bugliosi’s new book, Divinity of Doubt, at the library.  I agree with Bugliosi, whom I do not know.  I defined myself before reading this book as a spiritual atheist, but now I think the term agnostic is more suitable.  Until today, I always felt I had to know, but in reality I do not see how that is possible.  I do not know if there is a God or there is not a God.  I am much more comfortable with uncertainty than the certainty expressed in the Christian religion and creeds.  I have been reading a book on Spiritual Literacy by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat that gathers spiritual expressions from many different literary sources.  It is quite refreshing.  I do not need to know.  I am at peace. I experience joy on the things I learn that resonate with my own spirit.

 

Answer:

Dear Kessy,

Thanks for your letter.  I think it is fair to say for all of us that there is no God who is exactly like the one we define and claim to know through any particular religious system.  The question for me is whether the fragment of the holy that I believe I experience is in touch with some reality beyond my own imagination.  The problem with all religion in its organized forms is that it believes, I think, that it knows who God is and, before long, it is making incredible claims in the name of this God such as “my religion is the true religion;” “my church is the true church;”  “my Bible is the inerrant Word of God,” or “my pope is infallible.”

The Jewish tradition tried to confront this tendency that is found in all religious systems by saying that Jewish worshippers must never speak the holy name of God out loud for fear that they might begin to think they actually understood God.  The Jews also placed in their list of Ten Commandments, one that forbade anyone from trying to build an image of God.  That commandment seems to me to prohibit the making of images of God out of human words which we do when we act as if the scriptures, the creeds and the various doctrines of the church can actually capture the truth of God in these human vessels.  Scriptures, creeds and doctrines can at best point beyond the limits of human words to a reality those words could never contain, but that we are certain is real.

The Christian life is really about a journey into the mystery of God.  The trouble with most churches and I fear with most clergy is that they think they have already arrived, so no further journey is necessary.

John’s gospel has Jesus tell his disciples that the Holy Spirit will lead them into all truth.  The presumption of that text is that no one now possesses all truth.

My advice to you is that you find a community, whether in a church or not, that will allow you to walk beyond the boundaries of religion into an exploration of the ultimate mystery of life that we call God and then enjoy the journey.

~John Shelby Spong

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