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22 November 2012: The Boil Has Been Lanced. A New Consciousness Has Arrived
The votes have been cast, counted and the results have been made known. Radio and television stations are no longer relentlessly broadcasting anti-Obama and anti-Romney ads. The emotions of both victory and defeat have been experienced and expressed. The “blame game” is well underway. The 2012 election is over. President Obama has four more years …
First off, I want to thank you. I have read The Sins of Scripture and Jesus for the Non-Religious and truly enjoyed both works. Your progressive view of God and theology has certainly been inspiring to me. I admire your strength of character and integrity for standing at odds with your religious upbringing. You are a hero of sorts to me and I can't thank you enough. I know all too well what it is like to grow up and currently live in the buckle of the Bible belt. While my sociological and political views today are much more progressive, I grew up in Louisiana in a fundamentalist Bible church. My father was on the board of elders. After several years of doubting what he believed and following his divorce from my mom, he embraced atheism. For years I struggled with his conversion and felt so lost in my own spirituality. The old worn-out tenets of Deep South Christianity gnawed away at me. I felt like I would lose him to eternal hell. After a few years, my own search for what I believe led me to viewing YouTube clips of you and subsequently some of your books and essays. At this point in my life, I’m still charting my course on my view of a God and things of spiritual nature. I lean towards atheism, but could be considered agnostic or deist or even pantheist at best. I really don’t know how to characterize what school of thought I espouse. However, theism for me is dead or rather non-existent. It still feels really great to know that I don’t have to believe the Bible in a strict, literal sense anymore. I still struggle with guilt from time to time. Especially the fear of death at times because of my apostasy. I would like clarification of the gospel writers. I know that Mark was the first gospel written around 70-72 CE shortly after the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans. I recently had a fundamentalist Christian tell me that her reason for believing the literal account of the life of Jesus was because the gospel writers were “disciples” of Jesus. It would seem to me that obviously these were not first hand accounts of Jesus because the first gospel was written some 40 years after his death. And Paul gives us sparse details on the actual life of Jesus. Paul would seem to be a better fit for someone that actually “saw” Jesus. Do you believe that any of the gospel writers walked or talked with Jesus? Through reading Jesus for the Non-Religious, I realize that Matthew borrowed heavily from Mark and so on. Much of what was written in the gospels were filtered through the lens of Jewish heritage and the Old Testament. I just want to increase my consciousness on these points so that I can discuss cogently and truthfully with people I come across who are fundamentalist Christians.
15 November 2012: The Birth of Jesus, Part II: Paul and the Virgin Birth
In the writings of Paul, there is not a single reference to a supernatural birth tradition, regarding Jesus of Nazareth. That is a fact easily established. Determining what that fact means is a bit more complicated. Does this omission mean that Paul was unaware of this part of the Christian tradition? Is it possible that …
You may not remember me but I grew up attending St. John's Boonton with Father Jack Thorn. Back then I was known as Cindy and the daughter of Ian and Allie Moricz. Ian was the " Lay Person" who helped Father Thorn. I know you always meet so many people, but I did have a question and thought you would be the best person to ask.
As a child I knew that there were things we could and could not see around us. I am not just talking about the Holy Spirit or God, but ghosts, angels and demons. As an adult, I been involved with paranormal investigations. I have had some incredible experiences and began a blog site to share my personal stories as well as evidence I have captured (www.originalcynpi.com).
I always had an inclining that I wanted to write a book on the subject but there are so many out there that I wanted to be different. This past year, I have been praying to find a topic for a book that I could use to educate people on the paranormal - the good and the bad. The answer came to me that it should be about Religion and how it perceives the paranormal world.
My issue is I don't know where to start. Other than angels and demons, I haven't found any mention of ghosts. I am not really sure where to begin looking to find this information.
I know that you are truly busy but wondered if you could push me to a starting point as you are a publishing author.
PS - Thank you for being who God intended you to be. Your ability to question, allowed me to question and get some answers. Although, I know I have a long way to go before all my questions are answered.
Thank you for your consideration.
Cynthia A. MoriczdeTecso
8 November 2012: The Birth of Jesus, Part I: Introduction
Most of the portraits of the mother of Jesus that hang in the great museums of the world are dependent first on the biblical stories of Jesus’ birth and second on the presumed appearances of his mother at the foot of the cross. Take those two traditions away from the New Testament and the mother …
You have been a long time favorite author of mine ever since I read Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism. I have every one of your books in my personal library. I grew up in the tradition of a liberal Church of the Brethren to which I still hold some loyalty. However, in all my years, I was never able to understand much of the biblical language or teachings. I was in my 60th year before I discovered you and your writings. Let me say you are the first person who has helped me understand what for a long time has confused me. Recently, I came across a small book by Anthony Freeman, God in Us. He claims that his use of the term God (instead of referring to a supernatural being) refers to the sum of all values and ideals in life: Positive values like goodness, love, knowledge, wisdom, power (used rightly), etc. and negative values like freedom for the fear and tyranny of death, of suffering, etc. He says, “Do you believe in God? is like asking “How long is a piece of string? Just tell me what sort of God you have in mind and I will tell you whether I believe in him (her, it.)” He labels his philosophy, Christian Humanism, and his call to “radical insecurity” which carries an element of uncertainty, sure sounds a lot like your recent call to “Think Different, Accept Uncertainty.” Could you call the New Christianity for a New World Christian Humanism?
Try to imagine, if you can, a woman who was a Roman Catholic nun for 18 years, working during those years on a Native American reservation and later taking the level of academic training required of those who wish to become Roman Catholic priests. Next try to imagine this same women wondering just why it …
For years as an Episcopalian, I have taken Holy Communion, questioning along the way the words in the bulletin and announced by the clergy, "All baptized Christians are welcome..." Over the last few years, these words have become so loud and exclusive. I look around and wonder if there are visitors, someone who wandered in off the street, or an unbaptized person...all of them feeling excluded. Recently, our priest gave a beautiful sermon, "This is the House of Prayer for all People." Then the younger clergy person stood before service of Holy Communion began, raised her arms and announced to the congregation," all baptized Christians are welcome..." I have spoken with her about this and she believes that it is important that Holy Communion be kept sacred. In his book, Living Buddha, Living Christ, Thich Naht Hanh describes the time he shared Holy Communion with Daniel Berrigan. How beautiful. I believe our Jesus of history would welcome all.
I attended Myers Baptists Church in Charlotte until I moved to Davidson NC, where I met a remarkable priest, David Buck, and welcoming parishioners at St. Alban's Episcopal Church, so I decided to return to the Episcopal Church. At our Sunday services, the “all baptized” words still precede Holy Communion. I am told this is in the Canon. Once a month, there is a Celtic service which does not use the exclusive language so that is where I participate in the ritual of Holy Communion. It is a beautiful time.
I continue to go to Charlotte to attend the sessions of Bible Workbench, published by the Education Center here in Charlotte and begun by Bill Dols. In reading and discussing the text, we explore far beyond the literal words, asking ourselves what is the scripture saying to me, my community and the world. In these sessions, I find the New Testament wisdom is not about the rules of the Church but about love and caring. Can you recommend any way in which I might suggest to the Episcopal Church that they consider these words, “All baptized Christians are welcome,” and the impact they may have?
Thank you for the wisdom in your books, especially for your historical perspective of the Jesus whose teachings (especially from the Gospel of Thomas) I try to follow.
25 October 2012: You Are Profoundly Wrong! A Response to the Archbishop of Newark and Other Catholic Leaders
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Newark, the Most Reverend John J. Myers, has recently issued “A Pastoral Teaching on the Definition, Purpose and Sanctity of Marriage.” In this document, which is clearly politically motivated, he urges “faithful Catholics” and other “men and women of goodwill” to vote against any candidate for public office who supports …
As you know, I very much appreciate your books and weekly essays, even if I may be so bold as to say I do not agree with every bit of them. I wonder whether you have read a new book, Moral Transformation: The Original Christian Paradigm of Salvation, by A. J. Wallace and R. D. Rusk, who I believe are two New Zealand biblical scholars. The book, backed up by copious quotations from the New Testament and from early Christian writers such as Irenaeus and Origen, throws a flood of light on Christian beliefs and practices of the first three centuries AD, which were quite simply to follow faithfully the teaching and example of Jesus in the hope of being judged by God worthy of eternal life. There was no conflict between Paul and Jesus, no conflict between faith and works – the Greek word “pistis” and its assorted adjectives and verbs, commonly translated “faith,” really means, in 80-90% of the cases, faithfulness or loyalty, not belief in a system of ideas. They show how the reformers of the 16th century misunderstood the point that Paul was making, largely due to this mistranslation. If you have read the book, I should be interested in your comments on it. If not, may I respectfully recommend it to you?
Behind the narratives of Easter contained in the gospel tradition was an experience that was undeniable, powerful and true to the followers of Jesus. That experience exploded upon them in a manner that words could not capture, but it left its mark on them in indelible ways. Because of whatever that experience was their lives …
I know this email most likely will never reach you, but that is maybe not the most important thing. The important thing is that I do what I feel I need to do and that is, to thank you. I myself am an atheist and my wife is a believer. We have together listened to your speeches on the Internet. We think that one of the best ones is the “Burke Lecture.” We are both happy that there exists so special a person as you, who has the courage to challenge the harmful doctrines of the church and bring more adult kind of thinking into the religion. Thank you for your courage and we hope you have many good years to come so that more people can benefit of your words.
11 October 2012: The Presidential Campaign and the Book of Judges
A major debate in this year’s presidential election eliciting great emotion and spirited rhetoric relates to “the size and role of the federal government.” A study of American history reveals that this theme has been part of every campaign since our nation’s founding in 1776. It has become a once every four-year ritual, complete with …
The literal details are familiar: the third day, the empty tomb, the experience of seeing the risen Christ. These details stand at the heart of the Christian story, forming its essential climax if you will. It is celebrated annually in Easter services, normally with packed congregations. Its secular observances involve Easter parades, Easter egg hunts …
27 September 2012: An Open Letter to Ross Douthat, New York Times Columnist
Dear Ross, A few weeks ago in an op-ed piece of the Sunday New York Times, you began your regular column with these words, “In 1998, John Shelby Spong, then the reliably controversial Bishop of Newark, published a book entitled, “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.” Spong was a uniquely radical figure – during his …
It puzzles me that you believe we do not need a savior and that Jesus is not the same as God. You say that the word savior refers to God, but not Jesus till later in the Bible but Jesus is God. The Old Testament tells of the coming of a savior. Scripture says that there is no way to the father except through Jesus, that Jesus' death upon the cross saved us from our sins and gave us the chance to know God. Why do you think that Jesus said while on the cross: "My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” It is because that is when Jesus took on the sin of the world. God cannot look at sin. If you believe that we do not need a savior, then all I can do is pray for you, since you are missing the most important reason why Jesus came to earth. Just because the actual word is not mentioned does not mean that Jesus is not our savior. Of all the words used like man’s salvation and Jesus died for us all points us to see that Jesus dies so we can have a personal relationship with God, so we can have forgiveness of sins. I can go on forever. Psalm 22:27 says that all shall be blessed in Christ Jesus. I pray that God will show you that we do need a savior and that through Jesus we have been given that. I also pray that you are deceived when you say that the Devil does not exist. Even from the very beginning in scripture God warns that the Devil is a roaring lion looking for who he can consume. Jesus is the savior we all need to help us in our daily walk and understand the temptations and to live our lives the way God wills us to. I pray that the Spirit of God will show you the true meaning of what Jesus our Lord and Savior really means.
20 September 2012: “Think Different–Accept Uncertainty” Part XVII: The Story of the Crucifixion, Part Two
It is certainly a fact of history that a man named Jesus of Nazareth was crucified by the Romans somewhere around the year 30 CE. This crucifixion came during the procuratorship of a Roman official named Pontius Pilate, who was in his Judean post according to Roman records between the years 26 and 36 CE. …
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