Blogs Oct 26, 2010 at 7:52 am



seriously, this is good stuff!
Thanks Dan for the heads up!


So the remaining pillar of hate begins to fall...I'm actually starting to believe that it may be months, rather than years, to reach the point where saying something homophobic will be on par with saying something anti-semitic or racist. Although it may occur in private, it will be unheard of in church or on TV, and teachers will react the same way they would to a student calling someone the N word. Is it too cheesy to say that it seems like Slog is witnessing history in the making, here?
Great stuff Dan. All this religion/hate/saying/screaming/etc.
Great performance art. You remind me of yet another talking head.
His video is called Easy Bake Anne Frank. Check it out.
(i may have posted this before, but redundancy is a great theme on Slog) Be great!
There IS something happening here, Dan. I suspect that part of it has to do with the fact that many good people who were heretofore ignorant of what growing up queer is really like have spent time listening to our stories on IGBP. You have done a lot for our community, but that particular idea of yours may go down as your most important legacy.
Thanks for sharing, Dan!
If you look up John Shelby Spong's history, these comments are hardly out of character for him. This isn't to say that i don't tear up a little reading such a defense from a member of the christian clergy, but it is a defense that has been long present.
I love this guy! And you too Dan -

Why don't you give us a heads-up on your cable/news appearances?
We'll see if it sticks.
Of course, Spong's manifest has been out for over a year. Nice for someone to have noticed it. But I'm sure the only reason that reasonable religious opinions like his aren't heard are because they don't exist, right Dan? It isn't because you aren't looking for them.... no, no, of course not.
But, but, but THE POPE WEARS PRADA for god sake!

I hope what is happening here is that kids have started giving their parents and churches an earful about this whole bullying, hate thing. It would explain why more than a few congregations have posted these message of no longer tolerating the hate speech that used to flow so freely from the pulpit every Sunday morning. Whatever is happening, I couldn't be more grateful for the response.

Word of inspiration are making my imagination do wild, crazy things these days. I feel HOPE, HELP AND LIFE in the air. YAY!!!!!!
@2, you're far more optimistic than I. I do think we are witnessing history, but it will still be years before homophobia is placed at the level of racism or anti-semitism. 29 states explicitly ban gays from marrying. DOMA is still alive and well, and DADT, though dying, isn't dead. There are plenty of states where you can get elected saying things like "Gays shouldn't be allowed to teach in public schools".

Things are getting better, and I too feel like it's been accelerating of late. I know we'll win, eventually, but it's still a long-term thing.
yeah Episcopalians!
So I've never been particularly pious, but I remember, when I was younger growing up in Bloomington IN, how my church blessed the marriage of a same sex couple who had been attending for years. This was like, 10 years ago too. They were the nicest guys, always acting as ushers.
A few members of the congregation left due to this action, but our minister maintained his belief that equality was important.
Plus the liberal section of the episcopal church (which is basically the only section since most anti-gay congregations joined the Lutherans) not only ordains openly gay clergy but also WOMEN. suck it Catholics.

Dan should nail his theses on the church door.
Glad you finally found this, considering he wrote this over a year ago!
That's exactly what always annoys me: this "balanced" coverage and "two points of view". There can be two points of view on whether drugs should be legalized; that I can understand. But the idea of two points of view on gay issues is simply ridiculous. Then again, I live somewhere where there's only one point of view: that gay people are disgusting perverts.
Sorry. I've heard it all before. Call me cynical. Even when they are torturing/murdering the children, they don't change. Yes, when you torture somebody until they kill themselves, that's murder in my book. And when a child is the victim of religious bigotry, rape and torture, that says the very worst about your religion. And you can't make it all sunny and nice after that.
Bishop Spong has long been an advocate for equal rights and protections, a liberal view on both the inerrancy and literalism of the Bible and the role of churches in politics and social justice.
I'm glad he's specifically spoken out on this - he's awesome.
@13 Martin Luther...Savage...? Sounds good.

@11 I would have said the same thing a few months ago, but there seems to be more change brewing lately, perhaps more than the average bigoted old white guy will be able to overcome. Let's just say I'm much more hopeful than I've been in a while.
You go, Bishop!
Oh, snap!
The term 'homophobic' seems a bit outdated for this situation and these hate-filled people.
'phobic' (the fear of) doesn't seem accurate enough to describe how actively these people go about hurting others, spreading untruths and celebrating injustice, nor does it encapsulate their lack of humanity and worth.
Being called "Racist" in today's media is a label no one wants to wear, but I have a nasty feeling some arseholes out there have taken 'homophobic' to mean 'justified' 'sensible' 'religious', and wear it with warped pride.
I'm sorry, but the religionists lost me a long time ago. I'm old enough to remember the civil rights struggles of the sixties, and Christians were among the leaders of that movement. Sadly, Christianity's commitment to liberation struggles has waned to the point where we consider the bishop's rant against the haters as a hopeful sign. Religious folk argue that we need religion to teach constant moral precepts that aren't affected by the social fashion of the moment. The reality is that religion is as much ruled by fashion as any other part of society.
If everything every major leader of your particular brand says is wrong, then what is the point of your religion? Hatred of gays and women is wrong and those parts of the Bible that clearly support those things should be ignored; then why do you believe any of it? Why call yourself Episcopalian? Why make the equally outrageous claim that there is a god, that he wants us to behave and to worship him in particular ways? Why not just admit the entire thing is one colossal ball of lies and go and get a real job?
@23 Right you are.
@23 I think it's brave to become a mover and shaker in a very traditional institution. It might be easier to just throw up our arms and give up, but it's quite something to try to work towards progress instead, especially when it makes you unpopular.

Even as a non-Christian, I'd rather have Christian leaders that speak out for change against some of Christianity's faults and inconsistencies. There *are* some good things that come of religion--community, charity, etc. Why not try to correct the hateful parts, so that we can maintain the positive parts?
@23 Agreed, but hot damn, I'm loving this.
Spong, author of "Why Christianity Must Change or Die" and "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism" wrote in that second book about how Saul of Tarsus was quite possibly gay himself--and his conflicts on that subject warped centuries of Christian thinking...
Good god read the comments. Those people are deranged.
25: Community and charity do not come from religion, and when religions engage in them they often do so for one purpose only: to proselytize.

You can't "correct the hateful parts" because they're so tightly interwoven with religious thought: you can't have god without the Bible. You can't have religious denominations without dogma. You can't be religious without accepting that there's some truth in what you're being told. At some point you either have to reject religion entirely or you have to embrace it entirely.
Perhaps, because Ockham's (or Occam's, for 5280) razor does not cut deep enough for some? The blade becomes dull when trying to cut into the reality beyond nature. The beautiful, simplified, and minimalist approach that is inherent in Ockham's way of reasoning, that comforts so many of us, just doesn't cut deep enough to reveal the transcendental aspect of reality.

One of my favorite H. L. Mencken speaks to the dullness of the razor.
"Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable. But there it sits nevertheless, calmly licking its chops."

And, anyone who has read some of John Shelby Sprong's writings know that he has been on a "journey" within his own faith. He is not one someone would consider a classic example of a Christian. This manifesto is not surprising. To quote him from his book "Jesus for the Non-Religious" (HarperSanFrancisco, 2007):

"Traditional Christian doctrine continues to portray Jesus as a heavenly visitor who came from the God above the sky in a miraculous birth and who, when his work was complete, returned to that God by way of a cosmic flight. That completed work... accomplished by Jesus' death on the cross [is what brings us salvation]. On every level each of these assertions has become for me not only literal nonesense but also little more than theological gobbledygook."
Once again... I'm proud to be an Episcopalian!
@12 - I don't think the anti-gay Episcopal congregations joined the Lutherans - the ELCA has ordained celibate gay clergy since 1980, and started ordaining partnered gay clergy in this past year. And the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod would never allow congregations from other denominations to join them - they are isolationist to the point that they won't pray with Christians from other denominations.

Most of the homophobic Episcopal congregations and diocese have broken off from the ECUSA and joined African Anglican churches, which are far more conservative.
Something is happening here. It's called a schism. The global Anglican church is splitting in half. Africa's going one way, Spong and about half of the rich Westerners are going the other. It's going to be real interesting to watch, especially those folks in the middle, who are philosophically aligned with the fear contingent.
@30: there is no reality beyond nature. Isn't nature rich enough for you?
"Traditional Christian doctrine continues to portray Jesus as a heavenly visitor who came from the God above the sky in a miraculous birth and who, when his work was complete, returned to that God by way of a cosmic flight. That completed work... accomplished by Jesus' death on the cross [is what brings us salvation]. On every level each of these assertions has become for me not only literal nonesense but also little more than theological gobbledygook."

First of all, all theology is gobbledygook. Second, he's a BISHOP for crying out loud. It just makes everything he says meaningless because he's simultaneously an ordained member of the clergy with a position of responsibility within the church--he's supposed to uphold the doctrine of the faith! So I ask again: if you believe the central tenets of your faith to be "nonsense" and "gobbledygook" then WHY DO YOU PROFESS THAT FAITH?
@29 Dude, the idea that at some point you either have to reject religion entirely or you have to embrace it entirely, is just not true. If Believers are anything, it's masters of cognitive dissonance. Francis Collins, case and point.

@30 You know scientific research is continuely coming up w/ ever increasing evidence that transcendental experiences are the result of real world interactions of chemicals in the brain, right? Ockham is doing just fine, Kim.
I don't always agree with Bishop Spong, but I respect him (his brother Will was an amazing priest as well), and I agree with him 1000% on this issue. Especially on the issue of interference of some of the more conservative African bishops. As an American Episcopalian with liberal social and political sympathies I think they should mind their own business, but at the very least they should not be encouraging division. And Archbishop Rowan Williams (and U.S. Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schory for that matter) need to publicly take them to the woodshed.

After all, if American or British Anglican bishops were interfering in this way in African dioceses, there would be very vocal complaints.
Go Bishop Spong!

I love this guy. Great theologian, very entertaining speaker. His books tend towards the dry side, but I forgive him.
"...nor do I believe that evil is somehow less evil if the Bible is quoted to justify it." FTW.
@38 His books take on an academic tone, I agree. But his non-apologetic passion makes up for it.
PaulBarwick @4,

I think the IGB project has been giving those of us trying to change things more media attention. I've been personally involved since the early 90s, and people like Spong and Marcus Borg have been speaking out for at least as long. We just have never seemed to get the attention in the media.

This manifesto is over a year old, and people have never heard of it? Why IS that?
@23, 29, 34 - You ask questions, but if you want actual answers to them, why not go read one of Spong's books, like "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism", "The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love", or "Resurrection: Myth or Reality?" to find out where he's coming from? Follow up on your curiosity. Anything else is just pure reactionary speculation.
Dear Chase, Dingo, OuterCow,

Thank you for your thoughts. I only answered as to why some people find "God" or "the idea of something more" as meaningful. I did not state that I was talking about myself personally. Although, I guess it is/was easy to come to that conclusion, after all, I'm not always clear in my writing style especially on a tiny phone screen.

And, Dingo, only John Shelby Sprong can answer that question for you. I can't. Nor do I wish to. I'm not an expert on other people's experiences.

Yes, Outercow, I am aware. Perhaps, that is a surprise to you, it was you who said I was moronic. And, I did politely disagree. ;) (Yes, I'm teasing you.)

And, with that I am bowing out. I found Sprong's personal manifesto lovely to read. His body of work suggests that he is seeking an end of theism. I'm not a lover of religion, but I do find hearing how it is meaningful to others fascinating. I just don't feel like I have the right to deny any person their experiences or insist that they conform to my opinions. I figure that is a recipe for disaster, it gets their back up. Question it? Yes. Seek to understand it? Yes. Discard it as not being meaningful to myself? Yes. Allow it to be used as justification to deny what I would consider universal human rights and civil equality? No. I guess I don't appreciate fanaticism in any form or on any subject. I accept that I don't know everything and have much to learn. But, being willing to learn/listen does not make me a doormat.

Take care.
42: the questions are rhetorical. There is no "god of love," there is no way to "rescue the Bible." Theology is inherently meaningless.
There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a bible over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound, Everybody look what's going down

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side

It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, now, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

One word was changed. This could be our new theme song. Hooray for our side!
@22, just because you weren't paying attention, doesn't mean that Christians haven't been engaged in liberation struggles for the past 40 years. Spong's manifesto is not a strange new development from the far fringes of Christianity. While it's very different from evangelical theology, it's very much part of mainstream protestant Christian theology.

@41 -- thanks for pointing out that this was posted last year.
You guys can crap on this all you like, but it still made me cry. Goddam, but that was good to read.
@23: Not sure where you were raised, but take a good hard look at, for example, St Mark's church on Capitol Hill. Also Episcopalian, also does a lot of really good charity outreach, and does most of it without any pretense.

Religion, like all aspects of society, progresses and changes as some people die and other people grow up. I would much rather it progress in this direction than another.
Unfortunately, Bishop Spong has virtually no credibility with most people, and most Christians view him as a latter-day Karl Marx.
@43 It does surprise me, Kim. And that may be because I tend to rush to judgment more quickly than you (oh how wish I was teasing here).

@45 Mmmmmm, so good.
You Go Baby, Go On with Your Bad Self!!

More atrocities have been committed by man, against man all in the name of religion and Jesus the magic sky friend. Nice to see someone finally speaking out from within.
@43: Spong, Kim. No "R". A minor quibble from someone who loves reading your sensible loving contributions!
Much as I'd like to think that is part of a larger and recent movement, look at the post more closely - it was dated October 2009.
@46 -- just for the record, both comments 9 and 14 pointed out that this manifesto was a year old as well. as long as we're doling out compliments... :-)

Dan, this is way better -- in the sense of more uplifting, more conducive to good feelings among sloggers here -- than the old Pastor Watch.

Christianity has changed a lot throughout its history. Let's see what it will do this time. Who knows? Indeed there is something happening -- something interesting.

And you know what, Dan? This whole It Gets Better thing that you came up with -- may have played a role in making this happen at this point in time.

By the way, Dan, did you know the It Gets Better project already has its own Wikipedia page (cross-referenced in your own personal Wikipedia page)? I know you don't think highly of Wikipedia -- but still...
@55 -- your timeline is a little skewed. Bishop Spong has been talking against homophobia for YEARS. This piece is over a year old. While the IGB project is amazing and Dan is a near-saint for launching it, let's give credit where credit is due. And in Bishop Spong's case, he's been a bright line for gay rights in the darkness of the Christian world for a very long time.
@54 sam2300

You made it more clear than I did!

Apparently it needed to be pointed out more than once. :D
It does feel like a turningpoint. And, I too, feel like the time is ripe to press the case in this way, although, unlike Sponge, I pray for the patience that will be needed to make the case over and over again; because even if it is settled among the cognoscenti, it is not in the world of public opinion.

However, being a natural contrarian, perhaps, I worry about leaving behind all the 'reluctant conservatives'. We focus on the truth and being set free from old ignorance, an unrefined understanding, a blunt public policy. However, freedom comes with responsibility, and without the conservatives, I'm not sure who will make that case and I worry about the trajectory if the forces of change are not 'in balance', so to speak...
@14 and the others - I'm glad to have seen it at all. I would never have gone looking for this on my own.
Once again, the evangelical atheists care more about attacking liberal, gay-friendly Christians than saving gay kids. Bless Bishop Spong.
I would love to have lunch with Spong sometime. He's a smart guy with hella integrity and I can't think of anybody I'd rather talk about regarding fundamental disagreements and how we can be cool to each other in spite of them.

@61, I don't know what the fuck you're talking about, because neither this post nor the vast majority of the comments have been by or about "evangelical" atheists. Way to miss the point in order to trot out your pet talking points.
"Justice postponed is justice denied." Loved it.
@23, 35, etc.:
I no longer profess any faith, for various complex reasons, but the central tenets of the christian faith, as taught to me in the Episcopal church, were gospel based, not old testament based. The lessons in the gospels supersedes those in the old testament, with the main lesson - the central tenets - being the two new commandments.
The old testament was taught as history or myths leading up to the gospels, but the gospels were what was important. They were what christianity was all about - the life of Christ, the teachings of Christ, hence the name christianity. Jesus supposedly came because folks had got all bogged down in rules and got it all wrong. He tried to wrest it back to the way it was supposed to be. Pharisees were blasted for sticking to the rules for rules sake.

Unfortunately, a large chunk of christianity seems to have gone right back to rules for rules sake and focusing on the old testament as the basis for christianity, ignoring the lessons in the new testament. I suppose it takes a lot less brain power to do it that way.

The epistles, while read in the church, still weren't directly from Jesus and therefore were just somebody's interpretation, with the usual possibility for human error.

Again, I'm no longer a christian but I do remember that woman hating and gay hating were not in the gospels and therefore not central tenets of my religion 50 years ago.
despicable me: thank you for that song: it exactly captures the sense of hope and possibility I have every time I read something like Sprong's manifesto, or hear Hillary Clinton or Obama add their voices to a project like It Gets Better. Last week, I saw a lot of purple being worn on support LGBT kids day, and each sighting made me smile.

It may not be happening as quickly as Canuck thinks could be, and of course change is always met with resistance--the more desperately threatened people in power feel of having their power taken away, the harder and dirtier they fight.
But ultimately, the good fight makes its strides.

I feel as if I am living through the second (or maybe third) wave of the Civil Rights Movement, as if I am watching again the mechanism for tearing the Berlin Wall move inexorably into place.

Momentum is building, and as the old Jesus Jones song said: "Right here, right now: there is no other place I want to be . . . watching the world wake up."

I feel optimistic. Optimism and hope fuel great social/political change (does anyone remember the 2008 presidential election?).

Dingo: you can hate religion all you want, and you may have some excellent points, but hoping for the abolishment of it before real meaningful change occurs is a futile expectation. It fills too many needs in too many people. And, as people like Bishop Sprong, the pastor who wrote the op-ed piece in the Fort Worth Star Telegram (think about it: Texas!), and Minister Richard Bott--all posted to Slog within the past three days--demonstrate, you can be Christian and not be a bigot.

I don't want anyone to force his religious beliefs on me, and I want my own belief system (atheism) to be respected as something I have a right to; other people deserve to have their right to their own belief systems respected, so long as their beliefs don't impel them toward acts of hatred. And not all Christians are haters.
@62, I am a fan of Spong and like-minded Christians. My comment was directed at the atheists on this page that attack even gay-friendly Christians out of their desire to lead others to the light of atheism.
Bishop Spong is the reason I became an Episcopalian. The Church has, at a national level in terms of doctrine, finally, largely, caught up with him. We have openly gay and lesbian bishops, and couples can have commitment ceremonies formally recognizing their relationship as recognized by the Church. All true Christians should follow his lead. I am hoping, though he claims his last book was likely his last, that he has one more book in him. It sounds as if he may be heading in that direction. He has too much of importance still to say.

Please wait...

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