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12 March 2008: Sexism! Still a Force in American Politics

The quest for the Democratic nomination continues to ebb and flow as the two rivals struggle to gain an edge. Senator Clinton was presumed to be the front runner prior to the Iowa Caucuses, but Senator Obama won that state impressively. Then Senator Clinton came back to win the New Hampshire primary and looked poised …

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Q & A:

I subscribed to your essays a few weeks ago. I live in

Turkey, where most of the population is Muslim. I accepted

Christianity about three years ago and began to study the Bible

with some missionaries living near my university. I realize they

are very hostile to those who think or act differently. They see

people who have different beliefs as inferior creatures. Turkey

has always been the hub of different cultures, different

civilizations, and, of course, different religions. A person

living in this land could never believe that Christianity or any

other religion is the only way to experience God or, in Christian

terms, the only way to salvation. The Christianity to which I

converted is love. It is not magic. I am blind but I didn't

become a Christian because Jesus would open my eyes miraculously.

I am also against all dogmas that limit our minds. Questioning

the Bible or God or anything should not be an act of sinfulness

or shame. Whenever I challenged the missionaries, they said I was

absolutely wrong and I would definitely go to hell. So I left

that Christian church because it did not respect people equally

and did not love as Jesus commanded.

One day, I was listening to Internet radio and

heard an interview with you that inspired me a lot. I felt I was

not alone in the world. You were expressing my feelings very

well. Before I was hesitant to say out loud that I am a

Christian because I didn't think the literal stories in the Bible

reflect real Christianity. You have given me courage to say

openly that I am a Christian. I am happy to know you and to be a

new Christian of this new and ever-evolving world.

My question is, have you ever been to a Middle

Eastern or an Islamic country to deliver lectures or to give

conferences? If you have, what impressions do you have about

them? Unfortunately, war and destruction are almost everywhere

in the Middle East, and there the children need love, the

families need care, and, most importantly, people need to know

who God is. I think you would be much more welcome here than any

missionaries who are trying to convert people and bring them to

their own way of thinking.

Read the Answer...

5 March 2008: The Origins of the Bible, Part 1: Examining the AuraCreated Around the Bible

Publisher’s Note: Last summer John Shelby Spong began a series of lectures at the Highlands Institute for American Religious and Philosophical Thought in Highlands, North Carolina, on how the Bible came to be written. Originally intended to be completed in four presentations, the material proved to be so complex that the series will be continued …

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Q & A:

First let me say how much I enjoyed reading Jesus for the

Non-Religious. It was extremely insightful, debunking the

myths surrounding Jesus to bring out the humanity of the man. I

particularly enjoyed your thesis that Jesus' crucifixion might

actually have occurred in the festival season of Sukkoth. You

explained that, for liturgical reasons, the crucifixion was moved

by Mark to the time of Passover and attached there so that the

commencement of the new faith story would align with the

commencement of the old faith story. This allows Mark to tie his

stories to the Jewish Holy Days and be read on every Sabbath from

Rosh Hashanah to Passover. Matthew then expands Mark's text to

fill in the balance of the Jewish calendar, beginning with Jesus'

genealogy and the birth story. My question is this: Since

Matthew's birth story would have been read sometime during late

April, how did the birth of Jesus come to be celebrated in

December rather than late April? Did it have to do with the

Emperor Constantine blending the birthdays of Mithras and Sol

Invictus (both supposedly occurring on December 25) with that of

Jesus in order to unify the people and various religions? Or is

there another reason, perhaps tied to Jewish rather than pagan

cultures?

Read the Answer...

27 February 2008: Holy Cross Lutheran Church: A Jewel in the Frozen North

The wind chill factor was minus 25 degrees. Snow showers fell regularly on the already icy white countryside. It was not the time one would normally visit Newmarket, Ontario, a town about fifty minutes due north of Toronto, but I had been invited by the Holy Cross Lutheran Church, a congregation of less than forty …

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Q & A:

I have been fortunate enough to be a recipient of your

newsletter for just a few months. I dropped in to your thesis on

the Third Fundamental, which sent little shivers through me as

you revealed something of which I had not been fully cognizant.

Your words resonate with truth when you illustrate the nexus

between God and evolution, in a way that I believe Pierre

Teilhard de Chardin always did. My questions are "Are we going

somewhere? Is there purpose driving evolution?" In other words,

it would seem that a theology of God and evolution demands human

responsibility to see that plan through to fruition. This

changes the status quo somewhat, from patiently waiting to

purposeful action. How say you? May God bless you and your

ability to make connections.

Read the Answer...

21 February 2008: Pope Benedict XVI and Captain Robert Fitzroy of The Beagle

I want to return this week to the book Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger, better known as Pope Benedict XVI. I do this because I was so shocked at the indefensible conclusions revealed in this book that I began to wonder what happens in the minds of people who, like the Pope, continue to …

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Q & A:

Sydney is a conservative place, where the only approach to the

Bible is literal and judgmental. The God of the Bible seems to

be vengeful and angry. The God in the Old Testament is

particularly unappealing. What resources could you suggest to

help me find a more open and life-affirming interpretation of the

Old Testament God?

Read the Answer...

21 February 2008: Pope Benedict XVI and Captain Robert Fitzroy of The Beagle

On February 26, 2008, my latest book, Jesus for the Non-Religious, will be released by my publisher, Harper Collins, in a paperback version. Since its original publication on February 27, 2007, I have traveled extensively to speak about this book, delivering 168 public addresses in 16 states, eight countries and four continents, including two trips …

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Q & A:

I am a Christian, a person of faith, but one who

ascribes to the spirituality of it all, not the religiosity. I

have found a church in the Presbyterian tradition in which I can

worship, one that is very active in social justice. Recent

conversations with my atheist brother have posed a problem for

me. He has decided to write an article about the "mistakes in

the Bible" and draw the conclusion from these that there is no

God. Because, he believes, if God is omnipotent and is the

author of the Bible, why would God give information to the

writers that was not true? This is such a basic assumption that

I found myself at a loss to delve into a theological discussion

that would assist him in his quest. Can you suggest any of your

writings that might be helpful for him? He is open to reading

more.

Read the Answer...

7 February 2008: Teaching at Drew Theological Seminary in 2008

I have just completed teaching a course at the Theological School of Drew University. The creative faculty at this respected institution has developed special opportunities in the month of January that allow students to have an intense and concentrated course taught by an outside lecturer that is designed to supplement and enrich their core curriculum. …

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Q & A:

Since the Bible contains so much misinterpreted

information, what kind of reference should a praying, spiritual

person use? Are there certain translations that are less

derogatory than others? Also, in looking at a deeper and clearer

understanding of the Bible, are there metaphysical understandings

that would enhance one's spiritual journey and that would be

useful? If so, what are they?

Read the Answer...

30 January 2008: Heresy on the BBC

Recently I had the privilege of doing an interview with BBC World Service from its studio in New York City. The program was entitled “Free to Speak” and was hosted by Dan Damon, one of the BBC’s best known radio personalities. The topic for this interview was those religious leaders who seem to be theological …

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Q & A:

Have you read Letter to a Christian

Nation, by Sam Harris? If so, I think many of us would

like to learn what you think of his seemingly well thought out

arguments in condemnation of religion.

Read the Answer...

23 January 2008: Governor Huckabee: A Second Generation Evangelical Politician

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson managed to get through the Congress of the United States a national Voting Rights Act. It was not an easy task since Johnson had to maneuver the bill through a Senate controlled by old line Southern Democrats still wedded to segregation. To achieve this victory, he employed his prodigious reputation …

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Q & A:

You mentioned the problem of miracles and the hand of God in prayer, but even men and women have power to affect the world. In what sense do you believe that God has such power?

Read the Answer...

16 January 2008: Reflections on our Final Days in South Africa

On our last few days in South Africa, we tasted the land in several ways. With Professor Izak Spangenberg as our guide, we went on a four day, three night safari in Kruger Park near the Mozambique border. With Professor Hansie Wolmarans as our guide we ventured into the depths of the historic gold mines, …

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Q & A:

The news has been received that a California Episcopal Diocese

(San Joaquin) has reached the second stage in voting to leave the

national Episcopal Communion over the issue of homosexuality.

The media is describing the anti-gay position as biblical, the

pro-gay as being against Bible teaching. After reading

Living in Sin and The Sins of Scripture, I

cannot believe that it is that simple. Reporters are not doing

their job of careful investigation.

  • Have these biblical stories and texts that are quoted to

    support the anti-gay position ever been read, analyzed,

    thoroughly debated, and defended in bishops' conferences? These

    are supposedly intelligent people who respect scholarship. How

    can they support exclusion on such flimsy evidence?

  • Am I wrong to think this struggle among Episcopalians might

    be a healthy thing, and that resistance from the highest levels

    might be a way of teaching and illuminating facts and reality,

    exposing the prejudice for the evil it is?

  • Where is all this going? What could or should be done to

    bring about a rational and acceptable result?

    Your thoughts and your comments would be very much appreciated.

Read the Answer...

9 January 2008: Iowa’s Vote – National and International Scandals

In the Iowa caucuses last Thursday a mighty tide of frustration was released in both of America’s political parties. Establishment candidates, well financed, were overturned by newcomers. Political pundits were shocked. They should not have been. If these pundits had only looked at three recent events across our world: one in Pakistan, one in Kenya …

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