Well that’s not very Christian.

I’ve been working on a post that discusses whether or not the bible condemns homosexuality in any huge way (spoilers- I don’t think it does. shush.) and while reading around the topic I found my copy of John Shelby Spong’s ‘Sins of the Scripture‘. I hadn’t read this book for several years; basically since I was so right of agnostic that I was essentially still an atheist.

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I’ve always considered myself firmly in ‘Camp Spong’ but as I read his thoughts about Paul and homosexuality (Spong posits that Paul may have been gay), I felt quite…threatened? No that’s not right because Paul being gay or not isn’t a fight that I have a dog in (I don’t care who you have sex with as long as you do not tell me about it). Obviously I would defer to Spong on essentially everything because this is his life work and I just dabble on a whim, but my first thought was ‘Oh come on, Paul wasn’t gay what is this free thinking chicanery?

Of course when I actually looked into it (a summary of his argument can be found here) I realised that there are some completely valid points made and it’s an interesting argument that does actually make some sense to me although there are equally powerful counterarguments but my point here (because I do have one) is how confronting it is when our beliefs are challenged, even if the beliefs aren’t held very firmly or passionately. when we have a ‘go to’ thought pattern and something jolts that, then our reaction isn’t always very helpful or useful. I could be referring to anything at all; a fundamentalist who begins to question biblical literalism, a skeptic who has a near death veridical experience, an incredibly accurate tarot reading thats leaves you wondering ‘what if…’ to anything along that continuum.

It’s OK if I don’t agree with everything that Spong has to say. He doesn’t believe that the resurrection occurred either and given the fact that I do believe in various things that are classed as ‘supernatural’ the resurrection isn’t actually something that I have a huge problem with.

But this made me take a metaphorical step back and I realised just how confronting this must be for people who define their whole lives and are convinced that there is no other way. Hearing someone say something that you dont agree with can be confronting and can cause you to immediately discredit everything else that they have to say. After having my little WTF Spong moment, I intuitively thought ‘I really don’t think that he is someone whose ideas I can get on board any more’ (I know, I’m awfully judgey but I am a constant work in progress and believe me I fight against it constantly.)

Maybe we should all have our preconceptions challenged from time to time. Even if we ended up exactly where we started, at least we have opened our minds a little. If I had just written him off because his ideas rattled me a bit then I wouldn’t have googled ‘John Shelby Spong interviews and found a passage from this article

I don’t think that what I’m advocating is an easy sort of bourgeois feel-good gospel. I think what I’m advocating is a new humanity that will deliver us from our deeply competitive, tribal, prejudiced attitudes toward other human beings, and indeed toward other religions. So I think the role of the church is not to rescue the sinners, but to empower people to become more fully human. This is why Christ is so important to me.

Of course it just adds to my understanding that being a ‘Christian’ is far more layered and complex that used to understand. It’s not as cut and dried as many would believe and discovering that someone is a Christian doesn’t actually tell you that much about their beliefs. Some will say that ‘to be a PROPER Christian you must believe this’ but seriously, you’re probably going to need to take a good hard look at yourself if that is your mind set.

Basically, no-one has the right to decide whether someone else is Christian or not. Just fucking stop it and love people. THAT is Christian.

8 thoughts on “Well that’s not very Christian.

  1. I have only read one book by Spong (not this one) so I have only a little sample to go on, but I tend to disagree with him and some other modern christians. The historians tell us that probably the best way to understand Jesus is as an apocalyptic prophet – i.e. someone telling the Jewish nation that they needed to change to avoid God’s judgment, because God’s new kingdom was dawning. I think he was more than that (i.e. Messiah, son of God, etc), but I think that description reflects something strong in his teaching. That makes Jesus a fairly tough character. But Spong and others seem to want to make Jesus Mr Nice Guy, which is a nice message for today, but maybe not historically accurate.

    Not sure how much that relates to what’s in this book and what you are saying here, but I tend to be a bit sus with people who say ancient figures like Jesus or Paul etc had very modern views or habits like being gay or feminist or married or having sex with Mary Magdalene or whatever. Not sure if that’s a kind of reverse prejudice or something, but it’s sort of how I feel.

  2. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed by all the teachings of the church and our internet bickering over ‘this’ teaching or ‘that’ opinion or ‘who is in’ and ‘who is out’ I remember what Jesus said:

    The greatest commandment, Love God completely. And second, love people like you love yourself. (my paraphrase – of course)

    But it sure helps me keep from getting sucked into all the nonsense out there.

    You sure have a great way of getting people talking. Thanks for that!

  3. Well, the article is definitely thought provoking, but there really is nothing in the text itself to support the notion that Paul was gay. For instance, the article suggests that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was homosexual tendencies, but the surrounding context (2Corinthians 11:22-12:10) gives a far more obvious suggestion as to what he meant. Everywhere he went, Paul experienced ridicule, imprisonment, rejection by other Jews, beatings, stoning, shipwreck, danger from robbers and nature, insomnia, hunger, lack of proper shelter…because of the gospel message he preached. He also mentioned the emotional stress created by his concern for the well-being of the various congregations of believers of that day. He explained that the purpose of the hardship and persecution was to keep him humble and dependent on Christ rather than on his own strength.

    • Thank’s for that perspective. I agree, it certainly doesn’t seem to be a very solid argument and your explanation makes sense. But I do love Spong and I’m always willing to give his ideas a little consideration 🙂

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