John Shelby Spong

Recent Meanderings

1. I really enjoyed listening to this talk on the relationship between theology and science by Professor John Polkinghorne.

2. Ben, the father of a growing family, gives us a great wee review and critique of Spong’s latest book, Jesus for the Non-Religious. I reproduce his punchy conclusion here:

‘in spite of Spong’s characterisation of his own book as radical, “shocking” and “audacious” (pp. 10, 290), the real problem is that this book is not radical enough. The Jesus who emerges from these pages is ultimately indistinguishable from any other respectably innocuous, politically correct member of the Western middle classes. Instead of provoking a challenging political or theological response, therefore, this Jesus serves to justify our own values and assumptions. To adopt such a Jesus is like the new tendency of consumers to purchase “carbon offsets” as compensation for their own greenhouse emissions: one makes a seemingly radical gesture precisely in order to ensure that nothing changes! Like purchasing a carbon offset, Spong’s Jesus – far from challenging us or provoking us to action – simply reassures us that all is well. Bishop Spong’s Jesus may be useful and consoling, then, but he is not especially interesting, much less unique. He poses no threat, no challenge. He makes no demands. He tells us nothing that we didn’t know already. And for just that reason, it’s hard to see why “the non-religious” – or anyone else, for that matter – should have any special regard for this Jesus’.

3. I was inspired by this. The photo gallery is brilliant and you can read more here.

4. The ongoing Karen-Burmese conflict on the Thai-Burma Border continues to sporadically make news. The discussion starts about 18 minutes into this podcast.

5. ‘Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule’ (Stephen King). Whadda load of debris, dregs, dross, junk, litter, lumber, offal, refuse, rubble, rummage, scrap, sweepings, trash, waste, balderdash, bilge, bunkum, claptrap, crap, drivel, gibberish, hogwash, hooey, junk, moonshine, poppycock, rot, tommyrot, balderdash, baloney, bilge, etc… you get the idea.

Weekly Meanderings

‘Hundreds of demonstrators have defied the military junta in Burma to stage a rare protest march, despite the arrests of 13 leading pro-democracy activists.

Witnesses said 300 people staged an hour-long march then were dispersed by gangs of unidentified men, believed to be members of the regime-created Union Solidarity and Development Association (Usda).

There has been a series of midnight raids aimed at confronting the growing protests over rising fuel prices. Among those arrested were some of the country’s most important dissidents.’ Read on here.

Also, there’s a wee interview with Pat Dodson, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Long and Bishop John Selby Spong here and, more interestingly, Clive James here. Also, there’s an interview here with an Iraq veteran speaking out against the war and media coverage of Iraq.

More MP3’s of interest include this one on Religious Toleration in an Age of Terrorism (at about 18 mins) and this one on Minority Religious Groups in Iraq, and The War For Children’s Minds.

I really enjoyed this wee piece by Brendon O’Connor entitled Just something about George or is an anti-American century likely? and this piece by George Williams on ‘Does Australia need a Charter of Rights?’

And finally there’s Robert Fisk, who is always worth reading, on The Iraqis don’t deserve us. So we betray them… and this shocker on Abu Ghraib abuse.

And after all that heavy reading and listening …

Spong: Bishop for the non-religious

John Shelby Spong is in Melbourne this week, promoting his new book, Jesus for the Non-Religious, explaining again why he discounts almost everything in the Bible as unreliable but still believes Jesus has much to offer.

In this article, Barney Zwartz writes that ‘Spong admits that he is not a theist and rejects the idea of a personal God, but says that doesn’t make him an atheist either. He dislikes simple categorisations’. He goes on:

The problem I have with Bishop Spong is not that he is an interesting and challenging thinker, the problem I have is that he is a bishop. Because I cannot see in what meaningful sense of the world he could be called a Christian. I think he is a secular humanist – an entirely respectable position but not one that should be funded by the Anglican church. And I suspect, though this may be unworthy, that he wouldn’t have received the same notoriety as plain Jack Spong.

C’mon Zwartzy, tell us what you really think! What do you think?