Question and Answer With John Shelby Spong
Norrie May-Welby, via the Internet, writes:
In one of your recent Questions & Answers a woman asked about her friend saying “Go to God” for the ethics on homosexuality and you interpreted this as “go to the Bible.” You asked her to question the Old Testament principles that, as you point out, include not only homicidal homophobia but also ruthless misogyny and regulated slavery. Fair enough, but one can also point to God’s promise that no one who seeks him is excluded and his refutation of the use of laws to oppress humans. But on the point of “Go to God,” may I share that as a gay teenage Christian (thirty years ago), I had questions arising from the condemnation others put on my own romantic attraction. I didn’t go the Bible for answers. I went to God in my heart. I then knew deeply that my Creator neither hates me nor made me to be hateful nor hated and that my profound romantic love for a certain guy at school, a homosexual love if you like, was a divine gift. It may be that for many people if we “go to God” in our own hearts, we may have some feelings indicating whether we should buy into hateful divisive prejudices or find it in ourselves to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Thanks for your beautiful letter and for sharing your personal story. When a fundamentalist condemning homosexuality says, “Go to God and you will find that my condemnation is also God’s condemnation, I am sure they mean read the Book of Leviticus! I go to the Bible daily and I find there Jesus quoted as saying, “Come unto me all ye,” not “Some of ye.” I find the God of Israel commanding that the people care for the stranger and embrace the outcast. I find Jesus stating that his purpose is to give life and give it abundantly.
Whenever we diminish life in the name of God, which is what every prejudice does, we are violating the deepest purpose that we claim for the worship of God.
Religious systems are not divinely created. They are intensely human, bearing all the marks of our survival-oriented self at the center of world humanity. Yet as you have experienced it, it has transcendent moments that change hearts and expand life. God is not bound by human religious systems. God is not a Christian; God is not a Jew, a Moslem, a Hindu or a Buddhist. Yet every system can lead its adherents beyond religion and into all that God means. Our hope for humanity lies in that path. We need to honor the pathways to God that millions walk in this world. If they lead us to a deeper humanity, they are all of God. If they result in our attempt to dominate, control, persecute or kill in the service of our religion, they are all destructive and evil.
The Christian faith has produced its share of horror in 2000 years – The Crusades, the Holocaust, religious wars, the Inquisition, various persecutions, the diminishment of human life through slavery, the abuse of women, children and gay and lesbian people just to name a few. Christianity has also, however, produced lives of such transcendent beauty that they stand out from the rest of humanity in clear relief. I do wish that we would concentrate on producing more of the latter and less of the former. Your story will help by inspiring others to love their neighbors as themselves.
John Shelby Spong