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Faith, Homosexuality and the Bible

Posted by godmademegay_ga on 2006.09.10 at 23:49
Lately, I have been discussing the writings of Bishop Spong and I wanted to share with the community a Q&A from his newsletter that an old friend emailed to me.

For many of us in this community, we are torn between our identities and our faiths. John Shelby Spong, the retired Episcopalian Bishop of Newark, writes about this issue at length in the book, "The Sins of Scripture - Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love." If you're interested Wikipedia has an succinct entry on him, particularly the text under the heading New Reformation, here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Shelby_Spong

Back to the email from an old friend. He, like so many of us, has experienced a crisis of faith. The crisis isn't with the faith itself but with the other followers, especially those who use the Bible to oppress any other people. I thought I had lost my faith. I thought I was driven out of God's care because of what was in the Bible. It turned out that like my friend, my faith in God and the Son of God has always been intact, it was my faith in the Son of Man that was and is still in crisis.

Why I chose to start reading Spong's books has to do with the Q & A the friend sent me. For many of you, I think you will find it like it was for me, a revelation to read something so dynamitic and honest from a person of the cloth. Spong's work isn't going to find a home with everyone in this community and I'm not preaching or proselytizing, merely sharing an experience.


Matthew Baugh from the Internet writes:
"I've wondered for a while about the definition of theism and its
implications. There seem to be three central points you use most often. The
God of theism is 1) external, 2) supernatural, 3) intervenes in human lives.
Does this statement imply that God is the opposite of these three things? w

Much of what you write suggests that this is clearly true of point 3. You
present God as not intervening and not capable of intervening. The opposite
of point 2 would seem to be that God is natural. Is this a correct
assumption and, if so, how do you see God as manifest in the natural world?
The opposite of point 1 would seem to be that God is internal.

I'm very aware that I might be reading too much into your words but the
sense I get is that you suggest that God is internal to human experience.
This seems to fit with some modern brain research that suggests that human
beings are "hard-wired" to believe in some higher power and to worship it.
This research suggests that belief in God is a natural part of being human
rather than a social construct imposed from without.

Is this the non-theistic understanding of God? Internal, natural (thought
not manifest outside of human consciousness) and unable to intervene in the
world (except perhaps through God's effects on the consciousness of each
believer?"



Dear Matthew,

Thank you for your penetrating and perceptive letter that gives me an
opportunity to think publicly once more about the meaning of the word "God"
in human experience.
Let me begin by making a distinction. I try not to talk about the "God of
theism." I regard theism as a human definition of God. It is not who or what
God is. Theism is a human attempt to describe a God experience in pre-modern
language. Prior to Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo, people inevitably thought
of God as a supernatural presence over the natural world.

Before Isaac Newton, they thought of God as setting aside the laws of the
universe to do miracles or to answer prayers. Before Darwin and Freud, they
thought of God as the external creator and portrayed God as a heavenly
parent. Prior to Einstein, they assumed that these perceptions were
objectively true and not subject to the relativity in which all human
thought dwells since both the time in which we live and the space we occupy
are relative, not absolute. So when I dismiss theism, I am not dismissing
God. I am dismissing one human image of God that sought to define a human
experience of the divine.

To suggest that if theism is not true then the opposite of theism is true is
to make the same mistake. Every human attempt to define God is nothing more
than a human attempt to define the human experience of the divine. We can
never tell who God is or who God is not. We can only tell another of what we
believe our experience of God has been. Even then we have to face the
possibility that all of our God talk may be delusional.

When I try to talk of God, I am only talking of my God experience. That is
not what God is, that is only what I believe my experience of God to be.

I do not experience God as a supernatural power, external to life invading
my world in supernatural power. I see no evidence to think this definition
is real. The problem is that most people have most deeply identified this
definition of God with God that when this definition dies the victim of
expanded knowledge, we think that God has died.

I am not trying to form a new definition. I am only trying to share an
experience. In my human self-consciousness at both the depth of life and on
the edges of consciousness, I believe I encounter a transcendent other. In
that encounter, I experience expanded life, the increased ability to love
and a new dimension of what it means to be. I call that experience God and
that experience leads me to say that if I meet God in expanded life, God
becomes for me the source of life. If I meet God in the enhanced ability to
love, God becomes for me the source of love. If I meet God in an increased
ability to be all that I am, God becomes for me the ground of being.

I can talk about my experience. Having only a human means of communication I
cannot really talk about God. Horses can experience a human being entering
their horse consciousness, but a horse could never tell another horse what
it means to be human. Somehow human beings have never quite embraced that
fact that this is also true about the human being's knowledge of God.

I do not know how God acts therefore I can never say how God acts. For me to
say God is unable to intervene would be to say more than I know. For me to
explain how God intervenes or why God does not intervene is to claim
knowledge of God that is not mine.

I test my experience daily in the light of evolving human language. The
result of that is that every day I believe in God more deeply, while at the
same time, every day I seem to have less and less beliefs about God. Human
beings seem almost incapable of embracing mystery, especially ultimate
mystery. I am content to walk daily with the mystery of God. I walk past
road maps, past religious systems, even my own but never beyond the mystery
of God. I suppose that makes me a mystic, but an uncomfortable, never
satisfied, always-evolving one.

I find great meaning and great power in this approach. I commend it to you.
Thank you for your super letter.

-- John Shelby Spong




I live in a suburb NE of Atlanta and my county library system had just about every one of Bishop Spong's books and multiple copies of each, at that. 

As for my lion icon, I am, of course, referring to the hatemongering so-called Christians who need to act and speak more like Christ and less like the Christians they have become. I made the icon from clip art and anyone is welcome to use it and spread it around. I have a larger non-icon version of it, too, if anyone is interested.  In my galleries and my userpics, I've identified which items I made for myself and the various communities of which I'm a member.  Anyone may copy and use anything I've made.

Off my soapbox for now ;-)
Wayne

Comments:


godmademegay_ga
godmademegay_ga at 2006-09-12 13:23 (UTC) (Link)
I also wanted to share with everyone that Human Rights Campaign (www.hrc.org) has a section in their website called Faith & Religion. They also have monthly e-newsletters, literature about being out in your place of worship and other topics.

For me, it's a regular reminder that faith and religion are NOT exclusive of homosexuality.

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