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22 November 2006: Debating a Fundamentalist in Orlando

Marcus Borg did it. John Dominic Crossan did it. The clear implication of the person issuing this invitation was that I should do it too. He wanted me to participate in a debate in Orlando, Florida, under the auspices of something called Sovereign Christian Cruises; an evangelical organization that does indeed do cruises. My debating …

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Q & A:

Thank you for inspiring me to think! Your message is very

relevant to the teens I teach.

You mention that Jesus did not die for our sins (I agree). My

teens believe that Jesus died for the resurrection to happen. What are your

thoughts?

Read the Answer...

15 November 2006: Miracles IV – Interpreting the Healing Miracles

I voted on Tuesday, November 7, and then, political enthusiast that I am, I listened to the election results that night until it was clear that the Democrats had won control of the House of Representatives. They had also preserved their threatened Senate seats in New Jersey and Maryland, had wrested senate seats from Republicans …

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Q & A:

Is there any material proof of any sort whatsoever that the man Jesus ever

lived at all? So many things are attributed to him that sometimes I think

he is a fantasy figure people make up in their minds, endowing him with more

capabilities that the fiction hero Superman had that prompts me to wonder if

that's all he was, a make-believe figure, like the action hero, Zorro, who

was inspired by the life of a real 19th century person.

Read the Answer...

8 November 2006: Miracles IV – Interpreting the Healing Miracles

When we begin to dissect the miracle stories of the gospels, it is easy to notice some fascinating connections. The nature miracles, for example, are clearly the retelling or reworking of earlier biblical stories about Moses or Elijah. One can see the similarities between Moses asking God to feed the multitude in the wilderness with …

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Q & A:

In response to your Q&A, The Difference between Fundamentalists

and Evangelicals, I would like to point out that the ELCA (Evangelical

Lutheran Church of America) would be considered more progressive than

conservative.

The name is the unfortunate result of a merger between the

Lutheran Church of America and the American Lutheran Church many years back.

Some leaders at the time were aware of the draw that "Evangelical" churches

were having and, being aware that evangelism is not traditionally a strong

trait of Lutherans, thought adding evangelical to the name would be a

reminder to Lutherans to be more vocal about their faith.

I have attended both Episcopal and Lutheran churches, and feel

at home in either setting. Although my views are more liberal than either

denomination is ready to embrace, I feel confident that, with time, the

churches will evolve.

Could you please mention that Evangelical is a word meaning 'to

teach Christianity' that has been hijacked by conservative groups? The term

seems out of place in the name of the ELcA denomination, even to Lutherans,

but I think many progressive thinkers would feel comfortable and welcomed

there.

Read the Answer...

1 November 2006: Three Cheers for the New Jersey Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of my beloved state of New Jersey, in its historic decision handed down on October 25, 2006, has defined the battle over gay marriage for the entire nation. I am convinced that many will look back on this 4-3 decision as the signal that the end of this debate has now finally …

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Q & A:

I've decided to read the Bible this year - taking notes. So far I am nearly

finished with Exodus. I find this revealing - the stories I've known since

childhood but with additional points of which I was unaware. (Pharaoh did

not respond because the Lord "hardened his heart" what is that all about?)

I'm reading the King James Version but I do find it a little

tough going and have been tempted to change to the New International Version

or the Revised Standard Edition. Which of these versions do you think I

would be wise to devote my time to? Thank you.

P. S. I have heard you speak twice. As a "Christian Alumnus" I

didn't feel anything could rekindle my interest in religion. But you give

hope to a world desperate for mature guidance.

Read the Answer...

25 October 2006: Sexual Hypocrisy in Church and State

It has long been observed in religious circles that the most outspoken critics of homosexuality frequently turn out to be themselves closeted homosexual people. Now we discover that among those in the political arena who have done most to politicize the homosexual issue in an effort to curry votes among conservative voters in recent elections …

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Q & A:

As long time readers of yours, we have come across something that we do not

know how to answer and we were wondering if you would like to shed a little

light on this subject for us. It concerns Heb. 11:8-16, particularly v. 16.

It states (paraphrasing here) that God is not ashamed of Abraham and Sarah

because they believed by faith the things God promised to them. No argument

there.... however...would God have been ashamed of them if they HADN'T

believed? And, by extension, is it possible for God to be ashamed of us if

we do not believe in that "heavenly country?" I'm not asking because I want

to know if God would be ashamed of me (because I believe that God isn't), I'm

asking because theologically I don't see how it is possible for God to feel

ashamed of those who have been adopted, sanctified and justified. It would

seem to me that IF a person were under grace, then it would be impossible

for God to feel anything but union with that person by way of the Holy

Spirit through Jesus Christ.

Read the Answer...

18 October 2006: Dallas, Texas: A New Vision

Dallas, Texas, has never been one of my favorite cities. Its image was firmly set for me during the course of a single month in 1963, when two events occurred that rocked this country. First, the American Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai E. Stevenson Jr., was booed, abused and spat upon by a Dallas …

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Q & A:

Several weeks ago I solicited reader comments on a letter from

Graeme Moore on torture. I promised to print the responses in place of the

regular question and answer feature to my column. The letters below are a

fulfillment of that promise. Thanks to all of you for your participation in

this debate.

John Shelby Spong

Read the Answer...

11 October 2006: Questions and Answers

To My Readers: The correspondence that this column engenders is both appreciated and amazing. I feel the need to make sure that my readers know that all of your letters are read, even though the sheer volume makes even acknowledging them impossible without a full-time secretarial staff. The ones that we print represent only the …

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4 October 2006: The Study of New Testament Miracles, Part III

In the opening column in this series on miracles in the Bible, I noted two things. First, the accounts of miracles in the Bible are generally limited to three cycles of stories within the biblical narrative. They are part of the Moses-Joshua cycle of stories, the Elijah-Elisha cycle of stories and the Jesus-Disciples of Jesus …

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Q & A:

Why are so many of today's Christians so easily drawn away from Jesus'

message of LOVE and into the hateful, judgmental, xenophobic version of

Christianity that targets people who are gays/lesbians, Muslims, ACLU

supporters and others who want to embrace love as a basis for life? What

happened to the Golden Rule Christianity given that in the 1930's, Nazi

Germany engaged more than 400 fundamentalist organizations to fan the flames

for nationalism to help usher in fascism. What can progressives do to fight

the propaganda juggernaut of the Religious Right's adoption of

fundamentalist Christianity to move America into a modern fascism?

The Religious Right's fundamentalists attack on gays today as a "first

target" is reminiscent of what the Nazis did in the 1930's to desensitize

the public and prepare the way for other groups to be targeted.

Read the Answer...

27 September 2006: Small Leaders in A New Dark Age

At the end of the first of the two debates that most recently captured the attention of world opinion, a compromise was reached, but many people voiced their belief that the President of the United States would pay no more than lip service to this settlement. At the end of the second debate there was …

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Q & A:

American response to American torture is perplexing. There can be no doubt

that American government officials, military and civilian, torture. They

may call it by other names but just as "a rose is a rose," so torture is

torture.

Setting aside for the moment the fact that the considerable evidence that

most "information" obtained through torture is unreliable, or worse, there

is a fundamental conflict between present day American Christian

Christianity and torture.

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Christ's commandment

cannot be clearer. It is fundamental to Christian belief. It is the

bedrock of the Christian way. Torture cannot be reconciled with Christ's

commandment. One cannot be both a Christian and a torturer. America's

current President proudly and readily announces he is a "born again"

Christian. He is surrounded by persons of similar convictions. Many

Christian "leaders" support him. The President, however, has authorized

torture; he encourages its use even to the point of finding various dubious

and devious ways and means to avoid any attempts to curtail torture by

Americans or their proxies.

Why do American Christians and certain American Christian "leaders" support

torture? (Those people who torture and those people who order, advocate or

tolerate torture are equally culpable.) Many Americans contend that America

is a Christian nation. It would appear so based upon utterances and

statements of America's political elite and on the number of Americans who

profess to be Christians and belong to a congregation whose services they

attend on a regular and frequent basis. Can America be a Christian nation

when it tortures?

Why do American Christians not rise up to strike down those Americans who

torture? When will American Christians demand an end to torture? When will

Christian "leaders" take a public position, such as open letters against

torture? When will Christian preachers condemn torture from their pulpits?

When will Christian say loudly that torture is unchristian and un- American?

When will Christians demonstrate and protest torture in a manner similar to

their actions against choice? If Christians can stir up a storm in Florida

over the "right to die," when will they unleash a tempest in Washington

against torture? The current silence of American Christian is eerily

reminiscent of the silence of earlier generations against the evils of

racism. Perhaps it is to be expected that a people who lynched their fellow

citizens because of their race would torture their enemies.

Read the Answer...

20 September 2006: Why Did They Do It? Crosswalk America Revisited

In early September, I looked out from the pulpit of the historic Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., preparing to address a group of foot-weary people who had just completed a twenty-five hundred mile, five million-step walk across America. I admired their energy and their dedication. I was in awe of their willingness to …

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