Wednesday, April 25, 2012

from The Traditional Religious Definition of Human Life

by John Shelby Spong

“Traditionally, those of us who are the recipients of and practitioners in the Judeo-Christian faith system that marks the Western World have attributed to God all of the things of which we human beings are lacking. God is infinite, we are finite. God is immortal, we are mortal. God is perfect, we are imperfect. God is all powerful, omnipotent, we are limited in power. God is everywhere, omnipresent; we are bound to one place at a time. God is all knowing, omniscient, we are limited in knowledge. God is timeless, we are bound by time. God is the heavenly extension of all of the things about which we feel inadequate. So, against this common definition of God, we human beings have been taught to judge ourselves to be inadequate creatures.

“This definition of human life is also the primary background theme in the way we Christians traditionally tell the Christ story. Jesus comes, we say, as the savior of the sinner, the redeemer of the fallen and the rescuer of the lost. We are portrayed as helpless victims begging for the intervening God to come to our aid.

“We say God sent Jesus to save us from our sins. How did Jesus affect this salvation? ‘He died for our sins,’ we reply. That is, the unforgiving Father had to punish someone and since we were not able to bear the divine wrath, God punished Jesus in our place.

“Christians have made a fetish out of the cleansing blood of Jesus. Protestants want to bathe in it so that their ‘sins might be washed away.’ Evangelical hymn books are filled with such titles as: ‘Washed in the Blood,’ ‘Saved by the Blood’ and ‘There’s a Fountain filled with Blood!’ One Lenten hymn in my Episcopal hymnal exhorts God to ‘bleed on me.’ Catholics on the other hand speak of being cleansed inwardly by ‘drinking the blood of Jesus’ in the Eucharist. When these aspects of this ‘blood ritual’ are raised to our consciousness, we experience a sense of repulsion. Yet we Christians wallow in this mentality year after year.

“When we analyze this theological understanding we find that it misrepresents God, distorts Jesus and destroys our human dignity. It is wrong in every detail! First, it turns God into an unforgiving monster that must have a victim for the wrath of the offended deity.

“Second, this theology turns Jesus into a chronic victim. His love is seen as a willingness to accept divine abuse on our behalf. Perhaps that is why we have kept him hanging on his cross in the symbol of the crucifix. This allows us to crucify him daily through our ongoing sinfulness.

“Third, this theology dumps enormous amounts of guilt, unbearable guilt, onto us when we are worshipers. We are, this theology proclaims, responsible for the death of Jesus. Our sins resulted in his crucifixion. We are all “Christ killers.” Guilt has become the coin of the realm in church life. Have you ever known anyone to be made whole by being told what a wretched and miserable sinner he or she is? How does this square with the promise attributed to Jesus by the Fourth Gospel that his purpose was to bring abundant life to all?

“’Original sin’ is a concept that has to go. Not to go there is to face the death of the Christian faith.”

1 comment:

  1. Dear Reader:
    I have found that these ideas are held by many people along with Christians around the World. So I thought I would see if I can shed some light on some of the ideas expressed in this discourse. Naturally they are the ones that I don't agree with.

    The first one on my list is:
    "we human beings have been taught to judge ourselves to be inadequate creatures."

    Who has it that has been spreading this rumor around for thousands of years? Has it been the God of the Universe or is it a finite man who has taken it upon himself to help God out
    by acting as his mouthpiece. In his efforts to take the place of God among the people it is he who has come up with the idea that man- kind is inadequate.
    The truth is that our God has given us some tools that makes us more than equal to the task at hand.
    "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13)
    But people have been conditioned by some in the clergy into believing that they are spiritually inadequate and that they need a man or woman to help them and not our God's son.
    "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen."
    According to my Bible this isn't what my God promised me as help when I need it.
    But that's for you to decide.
    Me? I'm betting that my God will do exactly what he promised to do.