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30 November 2005: How Religion defined Women as the Source of Evil
We began this series of columns by searching for the source of the almost universally negative definition of women that is held in religious circles. Somehow it has been imperative for men to portray women as weak, dependent wards, wrapping that portrayal in the garments of patriarchal religion. This definition used what they called God-given …
Much is in the news of late about the AIDS epidemic in
Africa. In the past, the focus has been on condom
distribution that has helped Uganda in particular to reduce
AIDS infection. But now, with the influence of Pope
Benedict, the Bush administration and ultra conservative
religious groups, the BBC and MSNBC and other news agencies
report that abstinence is now being promoted as the only
workable solution. This had resulted in a shortage of
condoms and an increase in HIV infection.
BBC reported that Stephen Lewis, U.N. Secretary General's
special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa has said that
fundamental Christian ideology is driving Washington's AIDS
assistance program known as PEPFAR with disastrous results,
including condom shortages in Uganda. Uganda has previously
cut HIV infection rates to about 6% from 30% in the early
1990s. Now U.S. legislation requires 1/3 of AIDS prevention
funding be spent to promote abstinence.
I see the promotion of abstinence as an unrealistic
solution in countries where literacy and knowledge of modern
science is often very limited. Do the Pope, President Bush
and the ultra conservatives have their heads in the sand on
this? I would be interested in your opinion on this.
23 November 2005: The Bias Against Women in the Judeo-Christian Tradition
Last week I began an exploration of the origins of that incessant religious negativity toward women. I located its deepest root in the evolutionary process where survival becomes the ultimate self-conscious value that dominates the human psyche. I suggested that part of this survival process involved the definition of the stronger and faster male as …
When the lights go out and doors are closing, where does
one find the courage to look for the way? I know this will
sound like a bizarre question but I just finished your
autobiography HERE I STAND: MY STRUGGLE FOR A CHRISTIANITY OF
INTEGRITY, LOVE AND EQUALITY, and am sincerely impressed by
the apparent fact that you found a reason to continue despite
an unrelenting opposition. To what do you attribute this
courage, drive, resolve, or stubbornness?
15 November 2005: Women: Religion’s Traditional Victims
Have you ever noticed that organized religion has historically been a major force in the oppression of women? Have you ever wondered why? The battle over abortion being waged in America today, with the support of both the Vatican and the religious right is simply the latest chapter in this perennial war. Since ‘religion’ is …
9 November 2005: Troy D. Perry – One of God’s Original Saints
It all began on October 6, 1968. On that day, twelve people gathered in a house in Los Angeles in response to an advertisement in a four-page magazine for homosexuals called “The Advocate.” This ad was addressed to gay men and lesbians who might want to be a part of a Christian Church in which …
The one area where I would welcome more thought and
discussion concerns the too rapid "doing away" with all the
old forms, rituals, hymns, etc. which reflect a theological
perspective to which we cannot subscribe. We accomplish
little if we drive people away rather than get them to move.
And some of the old forms can, I think, be used in new ways
while being respected as part of our history - a part that is
no longer logical or relevant but is part of our transition.
It's like the singing of hymns such as "In the Garden" - the
theology is lousy but the tune evokes positive feelings.
Perhaps such "dinosaurs" can be utilized as tools, by which
to share new directions and interpretations that make more
2 November 2005: 2000 Deaths Later, the Time Has Come to Render to Caesar His Due!
A well-known and oft-quoted verse in Matthew’s Gospel portrays Jesus, responding to a question designed to trap him between competing loyalties. Where does the line fall between what one owes to God and what one owes to the State? To this question Jesus responded, “You render to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar and to …
19 October 2005: Surveying Fifty Years with the Class of 1955
Nothing forces an awareness of the passing of time into one’s consciousness quite like a school reunion. Recently my classmates from our seminary days gathered to recognize the 50th anniversary of our graduation. We began our life together as sixty men (no women were then allowed), all seeking ordination to the priesthood of the Episcopal …
My question for you concerns prayer that is directed to
those other than the ultimate God. People pray to humans who
have moved on to whatever happens after death - to Jesus of
Nazareth, to Mary his mother, and to the vast litany of
saints, many of whom have been declared patrons of causes,
events and professions. All of these are, or were, human
beings who have passed over the threshold of death. Does not
this type of prayer assume the immortality of the individual
human spirit or soul? What are your thoughts on the
existence, activity and power of the individual soul/spirit
after death? For example, I admire the writings of Thomas
Jefferson but I don't try to contact him in his "other world"
for enlightenment. Why should I pray to St. Cecelia to help
me play the right notes or to St. Jude for some lost cause,
or to St. Mary to intercede for me with her son? Do these
individual souls still exist and do they have any power or
inclination to relate to us? Why should I pray to Jesus of
Nazareth if he has returned to the Divine? If God is indeed
Being, Life and Love, do not all human souls melt back into
this Absolute after death? In a larger sense if the
individual spirits of the saints remain intact, does not the
soul of every human endure eternally as a unique spirit?
This has become a major stumbling block on my path to the
Divine. Can you help?
12 October 2005: Is History Repeating Itself?
“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” These words of philosopher George Santayana are terrifyingly true. Recently, I have looked again at what happened to the Jews in Christian Europe in the 1930s and 1940s and compared that to what I believe is happening today to homosexual people in the United …
On July 13, 2005, this column ran a story entitled
"Phyllis' Garden." In that column I asked my readers to send
Phyllis Welder a letter or card to thank her for her part in
beautifying her surroundings by turning a tiny piece of
ground 18 inches by 36 inches underneath a street sign in
front of her house into a lovely garden for all to enjoy. It
was the major contribution of this 85 year old widow to the
community where she had spent all of her life. At last count
224 of you did that. The mail created quite a bit of
conversation in the village of Stoneleigh, where suddenly
this simple and unprepossessing woman received more mail each
day than anyone else in the village and sometimes more than
everyone else put together! I want to thank you for doing
that and these letters will reveal that your response brought
great joy to this lady and offered an opportunity for her
community to see greatness in the ordinary which was the
subject of the article. For those who might have missed this
column or for new subscribers who did not receive it you may
read it by going online to http://www.bishopspong.com. If you
do that it is not too late to send Phyllis a letter from you.
I would love to see the tally reach 300 letters. My thanks
to all of you for taking the time to do this little act of
John Shelby Spong
5 October 2005: The Christian Church in Sweden
Recently Christine and I spent fifteen days on a lecture tour across the beautiful, gracious land of Sweden stopping in the cities of Vasteras, Rattvik, Stockholm, Uppsala and Goteborg. Sweden has a long and distinguished history. In the 18th Century when its boundaries included all of what is now Norway and Finland, Sweden’s armies conquered …
"As a recovering Roman Catholic, Jesuit educated, who still
reveres much of the theology and the theologians in that
church, I have been on a long journey of discovery. I did,
in fact, discover you as an important part of that journey,
in an issue of the Science of Mind Magazine. I still believe
in the concept of tithing; that you should contribute a
percentage of your income to the source(s) of your spiritual
enlightenment and well-being. Since you fulfill a
significant part of that role in my life, I would like to
send a portion of my tithes to you for the work that you do.
How and where would I do that? Advise."
28 September 2005: Born Gay!
A new book co-authored by Dr. Qazi Rahman, a lecturer in psychobiology at the University of East London and Dr. Glenn Wilson, a member of the faculty of the University of London, has just been published in the United Kingdom. It was reviewed in The Guardian, one of the United Kingdom’s four major daily newspapers …
In my state the Board of Education threw out the teaching
of evolution a few years ago. Upon election of moderate
members, the Board brought it back again. Now conservatives
are in the majority again and the whole issue of universe
origin is being debated again. This time the issue of
"intelligent design" is being brought in as needing to be
taught. Is this just another way of bringing in conservative
belief about instant creation?
21 September 2005: Jewish Fundamentalism
Religious fundamentalism is built on the assumption that the truth of God has been captured for all time. It comes in many forms including inerrancy for the words of scripture, ex cathedra utterances of a religious leader and the conviction that the ultimate truth of God has been captured in one’s developed creeds. Fundamentalism is …
I attended all of your lectures when you were here in
Birmingham back in March of 2004. I've also read all of your
books. In your lectures and your books, you state how
important daily Bible study is to you. In one of your
lectures you stated that you begin the day with Bible
readings/study and have set "course" to read the entire Bible
with the Apocrypha over a fixed period of time, somewhere in
the 12-18 month range, if I remember correctly. What I
wonder is have you ever considered writing a Bible study book
for liberal/progressive Christians so we could accomplish the
same? I'm thinking of something much deeper than a daily
outline. Something that would include notes and musings from
you on the history behind the day's passages, translation
issues, questions to ponder/answer, etc. The goal here is
for you to provide a format that liberal/progressive
Christians could read the entire Bible with the Apocrypha in
a fixed period and really study what we're reading along the
way. This would be quite a daunting task but many would
welcome such a volume.
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