Religion in America: A Christian thorn speaks out
As the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, Jack Spong ordained the first openly gay Episcopal priest in 1989. He has claimed that over 50 percent of Roman Catholic priests are gay and that even the Apostle Paul was homosexual. For these and other opinions, his opponents have called Spong a heretic. His latest book, Sins of the Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love (HarperSanFrancisco), brings a new round of criticism.
Having retired from the diocese in 2000, Spong is now a full-time writer (he has a weekly column at watersidemedia.com), lecturer, and thorn in the side of conservative Christianity.
Q. You don't believe in virgin birth. You don't believe in the Resurrection. You don't believe that Jesus is the son of God. What kind of Christian are you?
A. I'm a God-intoxicated, nontraditional thinker. God is very real, but to portray God as a supreme being who lives up in the sky is a very primitive view of God. Jesus is a lens, a doorway, a window, and a path to God for me. I don't ever want to abandon that.
Q. Why did you write The Sins of Scripture?
A. Texts in the Bible are being used to hurt, oppress, and denigrate. The Bible was quoted to support slavery and segregation, to hurt Jews, and to not educate women. Today, I see the Bible being used politically for all sorts of evil things. We have a president who wants to quote the Bible to condemn homosexual people. Somebody from within the heart of the religious community needs to speak out against it.
Q. What does the Bible say about homosexuality?
A. There are nine passages in the Bible dealing with homosexuality. Leviticus 18 and 20 say a man who lies with a man as with a woman is an abomination and both shall be put to death. If you're going to cite that, you should read all of Leviticus. It also says if you talk back to your parents, you should be put to death. If you cuss, don't observe the Sabbath, or worship false gods, you should be put to death. Even people in the right wing like the Jerry Falwells and Jim Dobsons, they can be pretty vicious, but I don't know anybody who would call for an execution of homosexuals.
Q. But if not the Bible, where can people turn for guidance?
A. Would you go to a doctor who practiced medicine between 1000 B.C. and A.D. 135? The Bible believed that epilepsy is caused by demon possession and a deaf mute has a devil tying his tongue. The Bible assumed the whole life of a person existed in a sperm of a man and the woman contributed nothing but nutrients. The Bible assumed Earth was the center of the universe and the sun rotated around it. We almost put Galileo to death for that, and today we engage in space travel. The use of the Bible as something you can quote with final authority on something about which the Bible knows nothing is ridiculous.