Thursday, September 6, 2007

Christian Bishop Decries GOP Fundamentalist Agenda

Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong in his book, Liberating the Gospels, challenges fundamentalist Christians on their seemingly lockstep support of the Republican agenda election after election.

The book itself is a refreshing look at the four Gospels from the angle of Jewish midrash stories. Bishop Spong readily assumes that his vision of these works collides headlong with fundamentalist reading of the Gospels. Of this suspected attack, Spong says:

Some who cannot escape the traps of their literal minds will surely think that this is an attack on traditional Christian piety and beliefs, but I do not! I think we Christians have tried to claim too much for our revelation. I think the Bible has endured a gentile captivity.

Spong then tries to find the 'message of Jesus' in the traditional Republican political platform. Beyond the fuzzy, so-called 'family values' plank, he sees little else that Jesus would embrace. He says:

I confront this mentality overtly and publicly. I do not want Christianity to be identified in the public mind only or even primarily with the narrow and sometimes mean-spirited religious agenda that is produced by those who seek security at the price of truth. I am embarrassed when the word “Christian” has been applied publicly to that hostile negativity that creates the environment in which murder at family planning centers is actually encouraged by some religious voices. I am offended when homosexual people are still abused and scapegoated by “Christian” groups who seek to raise money by exacerbating the ignorance that justifies this prejudice. I am angry when all-male gatherings of decoratively dressed ecclesiastics solemnly pronounce moral judgments, in the name of an exclusively male deity called “father,” concerning what a woman can and cannot do with her own body. I resent anyone who defines a woman in the name of the Christian God primarily in terms of her reproductive functions. I am distressed when Christian words are used to justify and to encourage violence against the poor and the weak under the euphemistic title of “necessary welfare reform.”

Spong goes further, directly into the political arena when he says:

I regret that those politicians who have aligned themselves with what has been called “the Christian agenda” have also been a voice against society’s willingness to care for young mothers, a voice against immigrants, a voice against health care for the poor and especially against health care for poor children. I flinch when I see my Christ used this way, and I want to cry to the public that this must not be and it certainly must not be as an expression of the Christ I know, the Christ I serve, and the Christ I worship. These are the negative concerns, which prompt me to be as confrontational as some parts of this book reveal me to be.

No doubt these excerpts will knot the panties of the Religious Right; I suspect indignant and very righteous comments. Comments will be tolerated as long as they are not character assassination which has become the style of many Republicans these days.

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