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16 May 2007: SA Weekend in Minneapolis with the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus

“I’m not afraid of your Yahweh, I’m not afraid of your Allah, I’m not afraid of your Jesus, But I am afraid of what you do in the name of your God” Dear Friends, These were the words of one of the pieces of music featured recently in a concert in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was …

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Q & A:

Given that the authors of the gospels were Jewish, why were the Jews instead of the Romans vilified and held

responsible for the death of Jesus? Making Jews responsible for Jesus" death justified incredible violence against the


Read the Answer...

9 May 2007: Special Question and Answers from Bishop Spong

Dear Friends, This week I will break momentarily my series on the rise of fundamentalism in America to cover a few pressing issues that I experience and that you, my readers, keep bringing to my attention. Today I will take you inside your television screen and show you what goes into even four minute segments. …

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Q & A:

My husband and I really enjoyed "Sins of Scripture." We were

both raised Catholic and now belong to what you so accurately refer to as

the Church Alumni Association. My family consists of Polish immigrants, so

they are what I call "fundamentalist Catholics." Think Irish Catholic...it

is that sort of fervor and dedication to the Church and the belief that the

Catholic Church is the only true Church. The Poles are not different.

We are now facing a dilemma. We did not get married in a

Catholic Church, which you can imagine caused a lot of grief. We have

"lost" some family members as a result, who are no longer speaking to us.

We just had our first baby, and the pressure is on to have him baptized


We have gently told my family that there will be no baptism.

They are beside themselves. It is one thing to deny ourselves the Kingdom

of Heaven they say but to cast our own child into the pit of hell because of

our own sin and stupidity, well, it is unforgivable in their eyes. Friends

of my father have urged him to "take the matter into his own hands," by

which I think they mean to simply baptize our son without our consent. My

father turns a bright red/purple with rage when the topic comes up and I

fear he is going to give himself a heart attack...at which point I feel

intense guilt and think maybe I should just give the man peace of mind that

his grandson will not wind up in hell for all of eternity. I think it is

absolutely absurd that anyone would characterize the perfect loving God I

experience as this scary monster throwing unbaptized children into hell, or

even purgatory, which are concepts I don't believe in anyway...you get the

point, this is why I "dropped out" in the first place.

So, I come to you with a request. Since we do not have the

wealth of theological knowledge to back up our feelings about God, and they

(the fundamentalist Catholics) have the backing of the Pope, the Bishops and

the "Church," my husband and I often stutter out a bunch of "We

believe...statements which just irritate the fundamentalist Catholics even

more because, in their eyes, it does not matter what "we believe," it

matters what "the Church" thinks.

Can you advise us on how we can gently help my fundamentalist

Catholic family members to respect our decision? We really need your help

on this because I'm afraid we are about to lose more family members and,

instead of losing them, we would really like to live in harmony and mutual

respect with them.

Read the Answer...

2 May 2007: Discussing Biblical Theology on CBS Television

The medium of television is a fascinating place through which to seek to dispel the ignorance of biblical fundamentalism. The time is always short, the network needs to be “fair and balanced” and neither the producer nor the interviewer is necessarily well versed in the subject matter. To push against these barriers in a brief …

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Q & A:

Thank you so much for your series on the rise of fundamental

Christianity. I particularly enjoyed the essay that described the Five

Fundamentals and the one on the First Fundamental - the inerrancy of the

Bible. I have wondered whether the Bible itself ever claims to be the

inerrant word of God. I recognize the difficulty of this question, since

the Bible itself is a hodgepodge of many books that have been bundled

together over the ages. What I have found, however, is that discussing

biblical scholarship with fundamentalists usually gets me precisely nowhere.

They are unwilling to recognize that Moses could not have written the Torah,

or that the gospels were written years after Jesus' death. They continue to

believe that the books of the Bible arose more or less intact in that

particular order and mystically assembled themselves into a unit. They

insist that the obvious contradictions or factual errors are just our

misunderstanding of "the Word." They propose that the "texts of terror"

have been misinterpreted to justify the social evils of slavery, racism, and

sexism, or - worse - fundamentalists continue to quietly believe that these

social evils are indeed ordained by God! So, I want to take the argument

back into their court. I want to challenge the fundamentalists to prove to

me, via the Bible, that the Bible actually claims to be the inerrant word of

God. If the Bible itself doesn't claim it, why do they believe such an

outlandish claim? And my question to you is: does the Bible anywhere make

this claim?

Read the Answer...

25 April 2007: The Second Fundamental: The Literal Accuracy of the Virgin Birth, Part Two

For years now the book entitled “The Holy Bible” has topped America’s best selling list by a wide margin. The pity is that this book is seldom read and even less seldom understood. Most Christians encounter the content of the Bible only when they are in church, and that normally consists of only a few …

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Q & A:

I was introduced to your Internet essays only a few months ago and was so impressed with your ideas that I purchased and read your book A New Christianity for a New World. I heartily agree with your arguments against the existence of a theistic God and with your discussion of the implications to which such arguments lead. However, there is one fundamental implication that was not discussed in this book: the issue of immortality. As a scientist trained in physiology and biochemistry, I find it impossible to believe in the existence of life after death. I would be greatly interested in your comments on immortality, a topic intimately associated with all religious belief.

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18 April 2007: Tragedy on a University Campus

It is arguably among America’s most beautiful universities, nestled as it is in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia. Its official name is Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, though popularly referred to as VPI or Virginia Tech. It is well recognized in college athletics. I have been on that campus numerous times while serving as …

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Q & A:

I have a concern that I would like to share with you. I come from

Massachusetts, where pedophilia in the Catholic Church has been public since

the early 1960s. It has been an occasional topic of talk radio, newspapers,

and the underground. However, it was not until very recently called by its

appropriate name — instead it was referred to as homosexuality. I am

sure that you are aware of the vast difference between pedophilia and

homosexuality. In my opinion, the Catholic Church (and perhaps others) have

always used that misconception as justification for their dislike and

disdain for gays. Many pedophiles have also hidden behind the innocence of

many homosexuals.

I believe that the general public has been so indoctrinated by this

misconception that they still carry some of the old beliefs, and that

remains the biggest obstacle to acceptance of homosexuals

I also believe that, as you say, "the Catholic Church created the biggest

closet for homosexuals." It also created one of the largest closets for

pedophiles, and rather than deal with it for what it is, the Church has

fostered many untruths about homosexuality.

I would appreciate it if you would consider the above. Perhaps as you

champion the cause of God as love, you will also assist the public and all

homosexuals in clearing up this misnomer.

Read the Answer...

11 April 2007: The Second Fundamental: The Literal Accuracy of the Virgin Birth

The story of Jesus’ birth has now been celebrated in pageants, Christmas cards and in hymns for almost two thousand years. The characters in this drama like Mary, Joseph, the Christ Child, the Shepherds and the Wise Men are familiar icons even in our secular society. The star in the East, Bethlehem, the manger and …

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Q & A:

I'm really bothered by the fundamentalist Christian movement that talks so much about the 'end times.' My daughter-in-law admits to being a fundamentalist Christian, and my husband and I get into some discussions with her from time to time. I'm wondering about your views on the book of Revelation, since I haven't heard you mention it. Do you have any reading suggestions about Revelation?"

Marilyn's husband adds:

I recently reviewed the Book of Revelation, which I hadn't read for some time. There's been a lot of fuss about end times among evangelical friends and family. It's no wonder, in the 2x2 church in which I grew up, that we didn't spend a lot of time reading this book. I have a question about the 12 tribes mentioned, of which 12,000 each are spared: Are they the original Israel and Judah tribes (which couldn't have all been around when this material was supposed to have been written)?

Read the Answer...

4 April 2007: A Second Look at the First of the Five Fundamentals: The Inerrant Bible

I return this week for a second look at the first of the “Five Fundamentals,” that series of principles which in the early 1900’s gave birth to the rise of fundamentalism in America. In this second column I want to examine the claim that the Bible is the “inerrant Word of God” from a different …

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28 March 2007: The First of the Five “Fundamentals:” The Bible is the Inerrant Word of God!

“God wrote it! I believe it! That does it!” Those words adorned the bumper of a car I saw in the deep South. “This is the word of the Lord!” That is a liturgical phrase heard after the scriptures are read in many Christian churches. “The Bible says!” “It’s in the Bible!” Those are phrases …

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Q & A:

I am concerned abut the early faith education of my grandchildren in

Sunday school. What suggestions/books can you give for their learning in

the more progressive stance of the development of faith as most church youth

education is still in the Dark Ages?

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21 March 2007: The Rise of Fundamentalism, Part III: The Five Fundamentals

I remember well an experience I had as a young lad in the late 1930’s in the South’s Bible Belt when I first heard about evolution. A neighbor was visiting my mother and they were sharing “a dope” (the colloquial name for Coca-Cola in that day, a carry-over from the days when that soft drink …

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Q & A:

I can find countless numbers of biblical commentaries that hold a very

conservative, fundamentalist, evangelical, literal and archaic world view.

I cannot find one biblical commentary with a post-modern (or is it post-post

now?), pluralistic, scholastically valid, metaphorically interpretive

contemporary world view.

I have read most of your books, many of your essays; listened to your

tapes (can I get more? Where?) And I have read most of Marcus Borg's

books, some of John Hick's books and essays. All of you relate alternative

(to literalist) and astute interpretations of biblical stories but where can

I get a complete volume? I know they exist somewhere. An excellent example

of this is your interpretation of the Book of Job.

Can you help me with this? I want to help create a new Christianity for

a new world but I need a way to teach not only educated adults but also

lesser educated adults and children. If we could start out teaching

children in a loving and compassionate, rational way, we would not have to

re-program them to a new cosmology, etc. when they grow up and start

realizing that certain things they were taught in Sunday School and church

do not make sense.

Read the Answer...

14 March 2007: The Rise of Fundamentalism, Part II

One of the things we need to embrace in order to understand the conflicts being waged in most of the main line churches today is that throughout most of human history, the average man or woman could neither read nor write. That is why the Church used art forms, like the Stations of the Cross, …

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Q & A:

My name is James Jensen. I read of you through UU World and recently read

"Sins of Scripture" (excellent book, by the way).

Today, I ran across this article on Wired, entitled, "The Church of

Non-Believers". The

author talks about a so-called "New Atheism," pioneered by Richard Dawkins,

Sam Harris and Daniel Dennet that is quite militant about their non-belief.

They accuse moderate and liberal believers of being essentially accessories

in the harm done by the fundamentalists and radicals.

They make a few good arguments, essentially mentioning the fact that no

politician in this country has declared himself or herself an atheist

because it wouldn't be politically safe to do so. I can also sympathize with

the idea that moderate and liberal believers aren't doing enough to oppose

the fundamentalists, who strike me as not unlike the "Nation of Islam" in

their approach to freedom and justice.

It seems likely to me that this means there is going to be a new

consciousness (as you term it) breaking through soon enough but I am left

wondering whether this will be more of a breakthrough in Christian thinking

or in atheist thinking. In other words, is this the end of religion or

atheism? What's your opinion on the matter?

Personally, I am no longer sure what to believe and while I sympathize with

atheism, it seems to me that without "some" basis in faith for proclaiming

that life is not only good but right, crackpots are going to start thinking

they can "fix" human nature, just like people have thought nature needs to

be "fixed" and made more orderly, resulting, of course, in environmental

destruction. After all both the experience-affirming Carl Rogers and the

utopian-behaviorist B. F. Skinner were chosen Humanist of the Year by the

American Humanist Association.

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