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26 January 2011: Watching the United Kingdom Wrestle with its Deficit

All economic downturns have political ramifications. What the actual effect will be is determined to some degree by the psyche of the nation itself.  In the Great depression of the 1930’s Germany turned to Adolph Hitler to lead them out, while America turned to Franklin D. Roosevelt.  One must admit those were two radically different …

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Q & A:

I finished reading your book Liberating the Gospel this past Sunday and was fascinated and excited by the biblical scholarship you outlined in it. I’ve read Why Christianity Must Change or Die and Jesus for the Non-Religious and I look forward to reading the rest of your books as well. You have no idea how wonderful it has been for me to find a religious leader who presents such thoughtful and meaningful perspectives on the Bible; perspectives that allow me to use my brain while remaining spiritual.

Later that night, I turned on the TV only to hear Jack Van Impe and his wife Roxella (people I was not familiar with until that very moment) reminding viewers that he and his wife do not preach about the end of the world, they preach about the second coming of Christ. He quotes passages that say a certain number of people will go with Christ up to heaven and then come back to live 1000 years ON EARTH…and then something else will happen and then God’s chosen ones will live here FOREVER. Each of his assertions was supported with Bible verse after Bible verse like a man with Tourette’s.

The distance between your views in Liberating the Gospels and the views expressed by Van Impe’s struck me that day. In my life there are people around me who believe in the literal interpretation of scripture. Have you ever considered creating a television show of your own to provide an alternative view to the craziness I heard on the airwaves Sunday night? Are there personal approaches you might suggest that I take with people I know that take scripture so literally (e.g. women shouldn’t be ministers for Jesus had no female disciples, homosexuality is an abomination or “love the sinner, hate the sin”, etc., etc., etc.

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19 January 2011: Biblical Ignorance in Public Life

One of the things I look for in my elected representatives in government is that they understand the issues on which they speak with some level of competence. When people in authority take stands on public issues, I believe, they do have a responsibility to be informed.  Two events occurring recently in our political landscape …

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Q & A:

I was pondering this past week about the right wing fundamentalists and their real fear of anything that smacks of socialism. For me, the word socialism means that the society cares for those who are marginalized, who have major difficulties coping with basic life issues, the poor, etc. My understanding of Christian belief is that this care is at the core of our belief - to care for those who need our care, our support, our understanding. Why do those who are “fundamentalist” refuse to see this as part of the Christian gospel? Or am I missing something?

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12 January 2011: Facing Hard Choices in the 21st Century. It’s Either Hogs or Hines!

In the last half of the 19th century a country doctor named Edgar Hines lived with his family that included two sons, Edgar jr. and John Elbridge in Oconee County, South Carolina, near Clemson University.  Edgar Hines, Jr. went on to become an outstanding doctor.  John Elbridge Hines grew up to become the Presiding Bishop …

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Q & A:

As an ordained member of the Church of England, I do not think that Jesus is the founder of Christianity or that he intended to create the institution called “the Church.” My study, including the reading of your books, leads me to the conclusion that he sought to reform Judaism, to call people to share his experience of the God presence, an experience that helps people to know abundant life. (I’m still trying to find my way there!) The challenge then, for me as a clergyperson, is whether I simply bring comfort to the dying – individuals, congregations, the church – or a somewhat ill formed vision of the resurrection experience beyond, but not instead of death.

Your words to me the first time we met in England were “be of good courage, Mike, they can only kill you.” Whether you realized it or not, there was a great truth in those words. If I choose to challenge the “domination system” of the church then I know because of my personal vulnerabilities it could “kill me.” If I don’t, then suppressing that challenge is creating as dis-ease within me, which will cause me to wither away into the shadow of my being. At this point in time Buddhism (without a deity) seems to be a healthier and a better option. The wisdom teaching of Jesus and the Buddha feed my soul in equal measure. I would prefer to sit in a meditation hall than most church buildings.

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5 January 2011: Joseph – An Essential Character in Matthew’s Vision of Jesus

Christmas has faded from our memory.  The trees are down, the tinsel and the chaos of the day have been cleared away.  The crèche scenes have been stored in the basement or attic for another year.  It is, therefore, a good time to focus on the least understood member of the Holy Family that dominated …

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Q & A:

Why do we introduce the Lord’s Prayer by saying: “And now as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say:” Why does one have to be bold to say the Lord’s Prayer?

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30 December 2010: Thoughts at the End of 2010 – Darkness Ahead

Momentarily a new year will dawn. 2010 has been difficult economically for this nation and the world. Now is a traditional time both for looking backward and forward. When I watch our politicians discharge their duties at year’s end, I find myself despairing for two reasons. First, few people in public life seem eager to …

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Q & A:

I have just finished reading Eternal Life: A New Vision. Thank you for writing this wonderful book, and thank you for sharing your vision of life eternal fulfilled. I embrace your vision with enthusiasm and I share in your celebration of our spiritual life.

In the early chapters of the book, you spend some time describing your journey, as a child and as a youth, within the boundaries and constraints and limitations of a conservative Protestant tradition. I can identify with many of your memories, and I can recall (20 years ago or so) sharing many of the "fundamentalist" beliefs and ideologies with young Sunday School students that I taught for 10 years within a Lutheran church outside of Ottawa. The stories of Genesis and Exodus and the narratives of the gospels rolled easily into the empty, hungry minds of the children and, in the spirit of most stories (and especially folklore), left these children excited and intrigued. But now, looking both backwards to where I started and from what I see today, communication or rather education of our young people becomes a little more complex and challenging.

If many (or rather, most) adults have difficulty jettisoning the literal interpretations of the Bible, how do we pursue the important task of presenting allegorical, symbolic stories abut the history of God's journey with humanity in a format and language that our young children can absorb and understand? Consider the following analogy: If we don't learn how to ride a bike before we can balance ourselves on two legs (and hopefully walk a few meters), should we not then continue to educate our very young with the images and stories that capture their imaginations and speak to their intellect (at that age)? Possibly, the problem with our Christian education process is that we never leave "the uncomplicated pictures" that we experience in the early grades of learning and that rather than maturing and growing in our divine-human journey, we remain closed in an understanding that we should have outgrown a long time ago. In other words, is the problem equally as much how we teach, (i.e. training adults not to remain in a child's thinking) as what we teach?

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23 December 2010: Christpower

Dear Friends, On December 24th, 1974 I delivered in my Church in Richmond, Virginia, a sermon, which sought to put the Christmas story into a modern context through the medium of poetry. It was based on an earlier poem I had written, entitled Christpower. In 1975 this Christmas piece was incorporated into and published along …

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Q & A:

In a lecture series last spring in Hendersonville, North Carolina, I noticed that you were wearing a cross, one of the symbols of Christianity. In light of your spiritual evolution, what does the symbol of the cross mean to you today?

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16 December 2010: An Adventure At A Law School

Recently, I spoke at the Law School of Marquette University, a Jesuit institution in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My topic was “Homosexuality and the Law.” It was in many ways a fascinating experience. I was introduced by an attractive, bright second year law school student, who, I gathered, had worked very hard to have me invited. She …

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Q & A:

It is more and more becoming my belief that Jesus shows us more about what humanity truly is than what divinity is. As I hopefully expand my Christian understandings, I am now 74, I find I am expanding my humanity. I call myself an existential Christian. Is this too limiting a theology?

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9 December 2010: Birth, Maturity, Transition

The story began in 2001 when Mark Tauber, now my publisher at Harper Collins, but then with BeliefNet.com, came to our home in New Jersey to see if I would be interested in being the author of a subscription column that would be marketed by a new company that he and two other friends were …

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Q & A:

My husband and I have read Sins of the Scripture and I was so impressed by its message that I called the leader of the Focus Study (Presbyterian Church) group that we attend and suggested that we study it. We had our first meeting last night on Chapter One. Our next assignment is to read through Section 2. More fun to read further. In re–reading Chapter Two, I wonder what seminaries are discussing today as they teach future pastors. Are they considering the science of the 21st century? The points you have made so clearly — and points that many ordinary people in Bible classes have questioned — and yet our clergy does not seem to recognize. In my paperback edition, pp 25-26, I am happy to read your goal. Where do you see the progress getting to the churches? Do Catholics see this at all?

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2 December 2010: Pandemics and Interdependency

My grandfather, Augustus Maye Spong, died in the influenza epidemic, which accompanied and followed World War I. He was 57. I never knew him since his death occurred twelve years before I was born. I was told, however, of the cause of his death, as this trauma lived on in our family’s history. Recently, drawn …

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Q & A:

You wrote in one of your columns recently "One reads the writings of some of the figures of history like Irenaeus, Polycarp, John Chrysostom and even Martin Luther for documentation of the deep anti–Semitism that has marked Christianity over the centuries." In those writings, Jews were described as "vermin" and "unfit for life." How do you think those writers reconciled the fact that Jesus is a Jew?

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25 November 2010: My Journey Out of Homophobia

“In the struggle to emancipate gay and lesbian people from oppression, you have been what Martin Luther King, Jr. was in the struggle to emancipate people of color from oppression.” These words, spoken by Dr. Lawrence Carter, Dean of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Chapel at Morehouse College in Atlanta, marked the unveiling of my …

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Q & A:

I have read and reread Eternal Life: A New Vision over and over again. Each reading "breaks another code." Yesterday, I was reading the "preface." I was really grooving with you, understanding from your simple talk how you came to write the book. Then I chanced on your description on how a reading of John brought the idea of "Oneness" home to you. That was so beautiful. I love the simplicity of your words. That is what keeps me going back to your book. I have it on my Amazon Kindle so it is always "at hand." The Kindle doesn't use page numbers; it shows the percentage of the volume read to the point that you are at. The dialogue between 49% and 52% speaks to me.

That aside, though my recent reading of your "aha moment" with John 4 really grabbed me. I felt I was in an intimate conversation between you, Jesus and the Samaritan. I live the oneness, it is my everyday life. I didn't realize this sense of divinity until I found you, thanks to a Charlotte Talks interview with Mike Collins that my wife heard and referred to me, that I had been thinking this way all of my life. The uniqueness of my experience of finding your writings is that you have enabled me to see the truth I have always known in print. It is so therapeutic for one to see his own thoughts in print. So, I thank you for allowing yourself to be an instrument of my revealing myself to myself. You won't remember me in human terms; perhaps you do in the spirit. You and I had a short aside in one of our breaks during your presentation in Hendersonville, North Carolina recently.

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