Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jesus for the non religious - John Shelby Spong

This book is more appropriately titled as Jesus for the religious rather than the non religious as I think they will benefit more. Spong a christian bishop of 45 years has evidently concluded that his religion as practised today is far removed from what Jesus (within whom he sees God) taught or experienced. And he goes through and tries to interpret the various miracles that are now treated as literal. He dismisses the concepts of virgin birth, prayers answered, walking on water, even the resurrection as not literally true and point's out time and time again how these events seem to have been copied from jewish tradition with his explanation of that people tried to interpret what they experienced using the only language they knew. He tries to maintain that only after you discard all the various miracles that have accrued around Jesus, can you truly understand the message and even see God.
It is an interesting book and good enough to be read by people who believe in other religions too. Religious people mostly believe that questioning their faith is a sin, is somehow wrong, makes you weaker, takes you on the path to atheism/hell. This ofcourse is absurd. Faith that cannot stand the test of rigorous questioning should be discarded. And this is what Spong believes as well.
He also mentions christianity's irony now. Jesus was the breaker of all traditions, the unifier but now Christianity is the opposite, everyone want to stick to their traditions and the segregation found in Christianity itself is quite startling (The one place where blacks are still noticably segregated from whites is the black and white churches).
Spong however makes the same mistakes that most liberal religious people do. If some of the thing's in your religion's holy book are metaphors/ made up/ interpretations/ just plain lies then how do you know which is or which isn't? e.g. One of his point's is that Jesus didnt discriminate against the Gentile's and points to passages demonstrating it. But if some of the other passages are not literally true , how can we be sure this literally happened? He also avoid's some of the harder questions e.g. How does the concept of Jesus get reconciled with the concept of hell? And if say he does see God in jesus, does he also see God in say the Buddha who also shares some commonality in the tradition breaker, unifier? or does his devotion blind him to the other great teachings that exist?
The book is good though and people of other religions too should read it and see if they can question and investigate their faith as Spong does. I dont agree with all his conclusions but I respect them which is more than what I can say for the Pope!

No comments: