and movingly last night of the challenges of getting into scripture and
respecting the scriptural tradition of the Judeo-Christian faith
Bishop John Shelby Spong spoke eloquently and movingly to the Network of Spiritual Progressives on Thursday evening about the reclamation of the Bible by mainstream faith communities.
Bishop Spong told the group the Bible is not static. “It has always been a growing, evolving epic of a particular people” in relationship to God, he said.
He said the Bible, like all religious traditions, begins in a “tribal mentality,” but it does not stop there. It grows to define God as love and justice, not only for the tribe but for all the world.
To illustrate, he spoke movingly about the Biblical story of Hosea, the prophet married to Gomer. He explained how Hosea took Gomer back into his life after she left him and became a prostitute. Hosea’s acceptance was considered completely illogical to those around him. But the point of the prophet’s acceptance is to demonstrate God’s love and acceptance for all, according to Bishop Spong. It included a call to repentance and to return to an understanding of a God of love and justice.
Jesus took this understanding of God and expanded it further. He told us to love our enemies and those who are different from us. Paul took this further and said if you are in the Christ experience you will discover there is no Greek nor Jew. We are all part of a single family, and that is where all religion must walk.
“If this is true,” Spong asked, “why must religion lead us to walk to the past? A past that divides us and sets one against the other. The God of tribal religion is too small for our expanding world.”
He was speaking directly to the current debate about the use of the Ten Commandments in public spaces, the divided positions on gays and lesbians, and differences over a woman’s right to choose. He said the use of scripture by some to claim absolute truth for their political positions and cultural beliefs puts Biblical understanding at risk.
The Bishop said in this climate we’re in danger of losing three key truths: 1.The Jewish gift of the Torah teaching that all life is holy and there are no exceptions; 2. the central meaning of the story of Christ that every person is loved; 3. and the Judeo-Christian teaching that every person is called to be all that each of us is capable of being. No society nor religion should ever be allowed to diminish a child of God, he said.
The crowd gave him a long, standing ovation at the end of his address.