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31 January 2013: Malcolm Warnock 1905-2012

He was a remarkable man, a superior lawyer and one who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II. He had many, many friends and I was privileged to be one of them. I knew him for 35 of his 107 years. More than that, I knew him in some deeply personal settings. I …

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Q & A:

You are of the persuasion that Jesus was deserted by his disciples. Do you believe that is “literally” true? Does that mean you are “literally” selective of the Bible as you accuse the fundamentalists of being? My feeling is this: no matter what we do or accomplish in the “physical” realm ultimately we will make that final journey alone. Regardless of the number of people who are “present” or have taken up “our” cause, we face death one on one.

P.S. I hold your work and world view in very high regard. Thanks very much for that and all that you have done for me and those like me.

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24 January 2013: Inauguration Day 2013

Inauguration day in America is a time of transition, the proper moment to articulate the hopes and dreams of the future. These things are more vivid if the one to be inaugurated is just beginning his or her presidency, but even when it is the beginning of a second term for a sitting president, it …

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Q & A:

I understand and support that “you do not think of God theistically,” i.e. what could be called the God of the Old Testament. But, as I have read, the study of theology is based on accepting the fact that a transcendent reality called God truly exists, i.e. there is a God existing outside the material universe, but having an influence or some sort of presence on earth. Do you believe in this concept of a transcendent God and, if so, do the experiences of the disciples and apostles that you attribute to them being transformed into their world-conquering evangelism represent an example of God’s actions here on earth through the mind invasions that produced their seeing an image of Jesus? These concepts seem to me to be a necessary part of including in any “New Christianity.” What do you think?

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17 January 2013: The Birth of Jesus, Part VIII. The Fourth Woman in Matthew’s genealogy: The Wife of Uriah

The fourth and final woman included in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus with which he opens his gospel and simultaneously introduces into the Christian tradition the story of the virgin birth, is the best known of them all. Matthew in this genealogy, however, does not ever call her by her name. He refers to her rather …

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Q & A:

I am a retired United Methodist minister of the Central Texas Conference of the UMC and am most interested in your writings. I have not only read, but have copied your articles and used them as a teaching guide for persons I know are interested in a more authentic understanding of Holy Scripture. A question rose in my mind as to the worship practices of the Followers of the Way whom you state remained in those early years (some eighty) as part of synagogue worship. I am aware that Paul had a meeting of the minds, so to speak, with Peter concerning the practice of circumcision of those Gentiles who wished to be part of this new movement. If so, were the Gentile members of the “Way” welcomed into the synagogue to worship (without being circumcised)? You may have already made a comment about this, but I must not have incorporated it into my thinking. Being in my 82nd year, I am not as alert as I was in my seminary days…Lo!! With appreciation for your ministry, I am a joyous follower of your philosophy.

 

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10 January 2013: The Birth of Jesus, Part VII. The Role of Ruth: The Seductress

The third woman mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus is also unique in a number of ways. Her name is Ruth and she, like Rahab, is a foreigner. Rahab was a Canaanite citizen of Jericho. Ruth was a Moabite, and the widow of a Jewish man named Mahlon. Her story is found in the tiny …

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Q & A:

I know that you are invited to Unity Village, Lee's Summit, Missouri, on occasions. I think I have read a comment from you saying that Unity was a positive resource for the future understanding of faith. My wife and I have regularly attended a Unity congregation until recently. I had searched to see if you had written anything in regards to interpreting scripture metaphysically and could not find any articles. I would like to know in more detail your feelings of the strengths and weaknesses as you see it in Unity thought. Also, any suggestions for a resource other than the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary and Charles Fillmore's The Revealing Word: A Dictionary of Metaphysical Terms. I look forward every Thursday to receiving your articles.

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3 January 2013: The Birth of Jesus, Part VI. Rahab the Prostitute: The Second Woman in Matthew’s Genealogy

The second woman mentioned in the genealogy of Matthew comes out of a story told in the book of Joshua. One can read the details in chapters two and six of that book. There are two things that are noteworthy about this woman. First, she is not a Jew, rather she is a citizen of …

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Q & A:

In talking to a friend, I stated my opinion that “in future years, I believe Bishop Spong will be looked upon as one of the greatest theologians of our time.” I was wondering, do you consider yourself a theologian? Why or why not? Also, who are some of the past and current theologians you would recommend for study? Thank you for living your faith so beautifully and courageously. You have certainly been an inspiration in my life.

 

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27 December 2012: Learning about Europe’s Economy and Christianity’s Place in it

Throughout the past few years, and certainly as a factor in the recent American presidential race, the state of the economy has been front and center. An important aspect of this debate is our sense of increasing globalization that ties all nations into a single world economy. The Dow Jones Average has been whipsawed by …

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Q & A:

I noted your use of the term “Post Christian world.” What do you mean? For some time it has come to me that when Jesus used the term, “I will be with you to the end of the eon” it meant to the end of the Christian era and that is the time we are in now. Am I totally confused or muddled with my thoughts here, or am I on to something?

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20 December 2012: On Speaking at the Athenaeum in Madrid

It was a uniquely Spanish event held in the beautifully ornate Athenaeum in downtown Madrid. It followed the format of a carefully orchestrated, intellectual and cultural pattern. The audience numbered over 300 participants. It began at 7:00 p.m. and lasted until 10:00 p.m. after which we went out to dinner. That was not late night …

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Q & A:

Dear Friends:

The images of this past weekend collide in my brain this holiday season in a violent and cacophonous way. I have the mental picture of children, six and seven years of age, piled up in the corner of a school room riddled with bullets from a civilian version of the M-16 rifle used by our armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. No child in this mental picture received less than three bullets, some of them received as many as eleven. In the pile of carnage with them were their teachers. Down the hall were the bullet riddled bodies of their principal and their guidance counselor. Twenty children, twelve girls, eight boys, and six adults, all women, the youngest 27, the oldest 56, were dead.

On Sunday I was in my parish church, St. Peter’s in Morristown, New Jersey for worship. It was pageant Sunday and the church was filled with children costumed as angels, shepherds, wise men and even as lambs, donkeys, cows and camels walking on four legs. King Herod, who was about seven with his crown in place, directed our attention to Bethlehem. Then we heard the familiar story of the presence of God being experienced in the life of a helpless baby, a dependent child. We listened to the narrative in which the “Holy” was found in the vulnerability of an infant, who was subjected to the dangers of human existence. Our gifted rector, Janet Broderick, spoke to the children about their fears, the pain that life inflicts. She did not hand out panaceas or cheap grace. She did not seek to dull the pain we were feeling with rosy pictures of heavenly bliss now being enjoyed by the victims, nor did she delude us with the idea that twenty-six new stars are now shining in the sky. Instead she let us feel the trauma of the Newtown shooting, the human situation where no one is ever completely safe and the fact that we must embrace and live with these exigencies of human existence. Her message was not “God will take care of you,” for clearly God did not take care of these Connecticut children, but rather that God is with you, God is in you, so have courage, live life fully each day, love wastefully, to all that each of us can be and make every moment count as if it is part of eternity.

I looked at the faces of those children in my church last Sunday. They had embraced the horror of the Newtown shooting. Yet, they set it aside momentarily to bask in the glow of knowing that they were performing and were appreciated and loved by their audience. Every parent, however, held his or her child a bit more tightly, a little longer than usual, and much more poignantly. I looked around at the faces of those in that congregation that I know so well. I saw a number of people who had recently lost their spouses. They were both elderly and young. They were black and white. Their losses were six months ago, three months ago, three weeks ago. I looked at the faces of parents with whom I have walked when they lost their children to sickness, to accidents, or to the violence of the natural world.

In that congregation on Sunday we prayed not for the security that life will never possess, but for an enlarged capacity to live, a greater ability to love. We prayed not for the absence of pain and hurt, but to be enabled to share in a peace that transcends pain and hurt, the peace that passes understanding. It is not peace “as the world gives.”

I then went over in my mind the arguments heard so often in America’s political gun law debates. “To limit a citizen’s access to own legally any sort of weapon is an infringement on their freedom.” Twenty-six people in a single school in Connecticut have had their freedom dramatically ended by a legally owned weapon! “The constitution guarantees us the right to bear arms.” Does that constitutional guarantee allow anyone the right to bear assault weapons? “The reason guns need to have an expanded magazine for rapid firing is that in target practice it takes too long to reload after every shot.” Does that minor inconvenience override the worth of a single child whose life is snuffed out by a barrage of fire power designed to stop an advancing army? How long will we continue to allow the paranoia of a few to endanger the lives of the many? Can this nation, which was born in a new world with a frontier that had to be tamed, get over the gun obsession that we have incorporated into our national psyche and ever grow up to recognize that the frontier is not there any longer, but that we have become a large interdependent society of diverse people, where all of us must temper our individual desires for the sake of the well-being of the whole? We do that in thousands of ways already. We drive on the right side of the street, we stop on red and go on green, we have rules about who can drive and we take licenses away when the privilege of driving has been violated. Is it too much to think that we must ban once and for all the personal ownership and use of weapons designed for mass murder, prosecute those who sell or possess arms illegally and close the loopholes that now exist in background checks for all gun owners? When does a person’s right to carry fire arms conflict with another person’s right to live without fear of violence?

As the Christmas season is celebrated, we see the smiles on our children’s faces, but we also remember those bullet-filled bodies in Connecticut. We hear the message of peace on earth, but we also remember to the shame in our unwillingness to act politically to make our children safe. It is not just our children, we need to recognize that we also did not make safe Representative Gabby Gifford of Arizona, nor did we make safe our own political leaders like John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George Wallace and Malcolm X. Do we want to be a society where children are at risk and where political debate is decided with the use of guns? Is that responsible citizenship? Is that a faithful way to be followers of the one we call the Prince of Peace?

A blessed Christmas to you all.

John Shelby Spong

IN MEMORIAM

Charlotte Brown, 6

Grace McDonnell, 7

Daniel Barden, 7

Ann Marie Murphy, 52

Rachel Davino,29

Emilie Parker, 6

Olivia Engle, 6

Jack Pinto, 6

Josephine Gay, 7

Noah Pozner, 6

Ana Marques-Greene, 6

Caroline Previdi, 6

Dylan Hockley, 6

Jessica Rekos, 6

Dawn Hochsprung, 47

Avielle Richman, 6

Madeleine Hsu, 6

Lauren Rousseau, 30

Catherine Hubbard, 6

Mary Sherlach, 56

Chase Kowalski Victoria Soto, 27

Nancy Lanza, 52

Benjamin Wheeler, 6

Jesse Lewis, 6

Allison Wyatt, 6

James Mattioli, 6

 

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13 December 2012: The Birth of Jesus, Part V. Matthew’s Original Story. The Prologue and Tamar, the Incestuous One

Matthew is the gospel writer (82-85) who first introduced the story of Jesus’ miraculous or virgin birth into the tradition. He did so with the seventeen most boring verses in the entire Bible! (See Matt. 1:1-17) These verses are Matthew’s version of the genealogy of Jesus, but we refer to them the “who begat whom” …

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Q & A:

I am a 21-year-old student from Florida. Over the past year, I have gone through some changes regarding my view of religion and the world and would just like to thank you for your ideas on the current and future state of Christianity. Your writings and talks have been instrumental in helping me understand the role of religion and spirituality in my life. I never got to speak to my hero, Christopher Hitchens, before he died, something I regard as my only real regret in life. But I am glad I have a chance to thank you for your message of love, hope and a more modern take on a topic that has great meaning to me.

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6 December 2012: The Birth of Jesus, Part IV. The Two Versions of the Birth Story

The familiar stories of Jesus’ miraculous birth entered the Christian tradition in two different forms, separated by perhaps a decade. The original narrative was written by a man we have named Matthew somewhere between 82-85. The later narrative was written by a man we call Luke somewhere between 89-93. The second story is by far …

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Q & A:

I wonder if you have ever thought abut producing a monthly homily for those of us weary to death of two hundred years of scripture scholarship being ignored in what we hear. Last week it was, “You are Peter...” and not one word about whether or not Jesus actually said it or even that the original building was to be of a polis. Some years ago I did this for some of my friends and posted them to me website at www.chartherineberrystidsen.org, but I do not have your expertise or pastoral experience. I’m a Catholic laywoman, now widowed, who took seriously the documents of Vatican II and trained to the PhD level to be one of those lay leaders who were to balance the clerical mind-set in decisions in my church. Of course, I have no forum to do so. Anyway, just a thought from a weary traveler in Christian country.

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5 December 2012: The Birth of Jesus, Part IV. The Two Versions of the Birth Story

The familiar stories of Jesus’ miraculous birth entered the Christian tradition in two different forms, separated by perhaps a decade. The original narrative was written by a man we have named Matthew somewhere between 82-85. The later narrative was written by a man we call Luke somewhere between 89-93. The second story is by far …

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Q & A:

I wonder if you have ever thought abut producing a monthly homily for those of us weary to death of two hundred years of scripture scholarship being ignored in what we hear. Last week it was, “You are Peter...” and not one word about whether or not Jesus actually said it or even that the original building was to be of a polis. Some years ago I did this for some of my friends and posted them to me website at www.chartherineberrystidsen.org, but I do not have your expertise or pastoral experience. I’m a Catholic laywoman, now widowed, who took seriously the documents of Vatican II and trained to the PhD level to be one of those lay leaders who were to balance the clerical mind-set in decisions in my church. Of course, I have no forum to do so. Anyway, just a thought from a weary traveler in Christian country.

 

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