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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 …
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?
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 …
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?
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 …
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?
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 …
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.
11 November 2010: The Bible – A Divine Gift or an Immoral Treatise?
Cecil B. DeMille, one of the great motion picture producers of the ages, called the Bible “The Greatest Story Ever Told” when he produced and directed a motion picture by that name. Christopher Hitchens, a well-known transatlantic journalist and political pundit, has recently referred to the Bible in a New York Times review of a …
I have been made to think that we are perhaps like a walnut. We have a soft outer shell or husk, which is our "civilized–self." This is the part of us that makes friends with others and keeps us (relatively) well–behaved. But with minimum pressure, this husk breaks way to reveal a tough shell underneath. This shell, our "survival–self," saves us from getting hurt; it puts food in our bellies and protects us from the dangers that surround us. That is good, but it also prevents us from experiencing the core of our being, our "God–self." This is the part that Jesus' message is all about; only by breaking open and discarding our "survival-self" can we experience God. If we are to follow Jesus' example we must, as best we can, ignore our own needs and open ourselves fully to the needs of others. It is very dangerous as Jesus and those who have successfully tried it have found out. By doing so, however, we and those around us will catch a glimpse of what God means — or what I call a "God experience." I would appreciate your comments on this simile.
4 November 2010: Elijah and Elisha (The Origins of the Bible, Part Xa)
While going through past columns in my series on the origins of the Bible this fall in preparation for their publication next year by Harper Collins under the title Reclaiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World, I came to a startling realization. I had, in my unit on the rise of the prophets in Israel, …
Our book group is reading "The First Paul" by Borg and Crossan. Their explanation of Paul's "illness/burden" as malaria seems probable. The symptoms of malaria with its periods of fever and headaches certainly could place limits on Paul that he would like to be rid of. What do you think of that possibility and their arguments for it?
28 October 2010: A Gem of a Church in Montana
A major street near the center of this city was named “Last Chance Gulch.” Another was called “Prospect Street.” One quickly got the sense that Helena, the state capital of Montana, was born in the western gold rush and that its original prospectors were disillusioned and even financially ruined before gold was actually discovered. Now, …
As you have moved into the origins of the gospels, accepting your accounts of how they came to be written as they were, do these books still constitute our main source of our knowledge of who Jesus really was, how he spoke and how he related to his contemporaries, indeed our main reason for calling him great? After explaining how Mark's gospel served the synagogue, will you dwell on his choice of the taxpayer Matthew as his disciple, on his placing of children in his scheme of things, indeed his whole view of life?
I shall look forward to this part of your articles.
21 October 2010: An Open Letter to Political Leader Newt Gingrich and Religious Leader Pat Robertson
Dear Newt and Pat, You have both walked on the national stage for some time now. Your names are well known, even household words, across this country. I think it is fair to say that both of you have made contributions. Your recent activities, however, lead me to suggest that the time has come for …
I have only recently entered upon my religious inquiry path, having been raised in an American Baptist Convention Church, but really only attending church during my adulthood to support my wife who has been more involved. While I think I have always believed this is God's creation and we are a part of it, I haven't really paid much attention to it and, quite frankly, the biblical miracles and stories really seemed so impossible to me as to turn me off to the Bible generally.
Over the past year or so, I have read eight to ten books (including three of yours
14 October 2010: How St. Luke’s Church in Tarboro, N. C., Challenged My Racism
As I stood in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Chapel at Morehouse College recently to witness the unveiling of my portrait to hang in the Hall of Honor, I could not help but look back on my life with wonder. I was raised uncritically in the racist prejudice of the South and yet I had …
Thank you for your columns. I have been reading them for seven years and have enjoyed every one. I use them for reference in many discussions with other Christians and non–Christians or, as you say, "Church Alumnae." Having just finished a column about New Testament books, a thought occurred to me. Do you or other biblical scholars use any of the writings that were not adopted or canonized as New Testament material to determine the authenticity of those books that were accepted as New Testament material in the 4th or 5th century? I am speaking of the material discovered at Nag Hammadi. When you say that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a reference, could those groups that wrote that material have used for example the Gospel of Judas or the Gospel of Mary? Thank you for your time with this question.
7 October 2010: Stephen Hawking and the Death of Theism
Stephen Hawking, probably the best known and best read scientist of this century, has just published, with his co-author Leonard Mlodinov of Stanford University, a book entitled The Grand Design. This book has achieved headlines in newspapers around the world because Hawking’s conclusion is that one does not need the God hypothesis to explain the …
Thirty five years ago, I was taking a theology class from an enlightened and controversial Roman Catholic priest, The Rev. Ron Rolheiser. He told us of a little–known parable that involved a tree, the leaves of which were highly unusual. The sides of the leaves facing upward were so varied that they all looked like a different species. However, underneath they were essentially identical. Father Ron said the lesson was that while we humans all subscribed to different belief systems, deep down we were identical. He went on to talk about "Covert Christians," those whose lives exemplified the precepts of a "true Christian." Such people, Father Ron contended, would experience the same salvation as would a Catholic. That drove the nuns in the class into paroxysms of denial. My question: where is that parable written? I cannot find it in the Bible. Of course, given my advanced age, I may have dreamed the whole thing!
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