This is a little something by John Shelby Spong. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mr. Spong, he is the retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey. He is also a (very) liberal theologian, a biblical scholar, and an author. He has written a host of books on Christianity over the years. Anyway, I've been interested in his views for a while now and have finally gotten around to purchasing one of his books. His latest one: Jesus for the Non-Religious. I've just started it, but I'd like to share the prologue to the book, titled:
The Lament of a Believer in Exile
__Where have you gone?
____When did we lose you?
Was it when we became so certain that we possessed you?
__That we persecuted the Jews
________And used violence and war to achieve conversion?
Was it when our first century images
__Collided with expanding knowledge?
Or when biblical scholars informed us that the Bible does
__Not really support what we once believed?
Was it when we watched your followers distorting people
Was it when we notice that many who called you Lord
__And who read their Bibles regularly
____Also practiced slavery,
______________And hated homosexuals?
Was it when we finally realized
__That the Jesus who promised abundant life
____Could not be the source of self-hatred,
______Or one who encourages us to grovel
________In life-destroying penitence?
Was it when it dawned on us that serving you would require
__The surrender of those security-building prejudices
____That masquerade as our sweet sicknesses?
We still yearn for you, Jesus, but we no longer know where
__To seek your presence.
Do we look for you in those churches that practice certainty?
Or are you hiding in those churches
__That so fear controversy that they make "unity" a god,
____And stand for so little that they die of boredom?
Can you ever be found in those churches that have
__Rejected the powerless and the marginalized,
____The lepers and the Samaritans of our day,
______Those you called our brothers and sisters?
Or must we now look for you outside ecclesiastical settings,
__Where love and kindness expect no reward,
____Where questions are viewed as the deepest
______Expressions of trust?
Is it even possible, Jesus, that we Christians are the villains
__Who killed you?
____Smothering you underneath literal Bibles,
__________And dying structures?
If these things are the source of your disappearance, Jesus,
__Will you then reemerge if these things are removed?
____Will that bring resurrection?
Or were you, as some now suggest, never more
__Than an illusion?
By burying and distorting you were we
__Simply protecting ourselves
____From having to face that realization?
I still seek to possess what I believe you are, Jesus:
__Access to and embodiment of
____The Source of Life,
______The Source of Love,
________The Ground of Being,
__________A doorway into the mystery of holiness.
It is trough that doorway that I desire to walk.
__Will you meet me there?
____Will you challenge me,
__________Reveal your truth to me and in me?
Finally, at the end of this journey, Jesus,
__Will you embrace me
____Inside the ultimate reality
______That I call God
________In whom I live
____________And have my being?
For that, Jesus, is my goal in this book.