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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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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 …

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Q & 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.

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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, …

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Q & A:

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?

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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, …

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Q & A:

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.

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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 …

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Q & A:

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

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