Wednesday, December 21, 2011

From: What Do Christian Symbols Mean in a Land Where Christianity is No Longer Practiced?

by John Shelby Spong

“Traditional Christianity is clearly dying in Italy – perhaps it has already died. The human experience, however, which traditional Christianity once interpreted, is as real today as ever. Our task is to find new forms through which our eternal yearnings can find expression. That is never achieved by reviving the past. It comes by embracing the future, walking courageously into it and in the process redefining the meaning of being human. To accomplish this Christians must begin by freeing ourselves of binding creeds and dated liturgies. We need to cast aside pious ignorance, the fear of science and of new insights. We probe the dimensions of our humanity, identifying those things that lift us beyond our limits and those that force us to live behind defensive barriers. We look at the freedom and the wholeness of Christ and seek those same qualities in ourselves without worrying about what will become of our traditional and familiar symbols. People living today might not recognize what the Christianity of the 22nd century evolves into being, but we must nonetheless be about this journey.

“Perhaps the secularity of Italy gives the Italians a head start, while we in America still have to push aside the thin, lingering religious veneer. We still see at political rallies in America a hard and harsh presence called “the religious vote,” which suggests that those without health care insurance be allowed to die; boos a gay soldier, who has served courageously, when he seeks equality under the law, and tries to define the religion of a presidential candidate as a “cult.” The Bible is still quoted to defend popular prejudices. Christian liturgies remain pre-Copernican and Christian theology pre-Darwinian, while we search for meaningful answers to such perennial questions as: Who am I? What is my purpose, my destiny? Who is my neighbor? When we begin to ask those questions in honesty with no preconceived religious answers, the time will have arrived for the Christian faith to be born to new dimensions of truth. I yearn and work for that day with confidence that it will arrive.


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