Thursday, January 31, 2008

Is Christianity Changing?

One of the e-lists I receive is a weekly mailing by Bishop Spong. Bishop Spong is one of the proponents of a new Christianity. In his most recent mailing he responds to a question asked by a reader. He is asking what Bishop Spong thinks of a new book by Sam Harris (an avoid atheist) which attacks modern Christianity.

Here is Bishop Spong's response:

I think Sam Harris has a great deal to say to America and I am pleased that he is writing. People need to hear the criticism of an honest atheist who is not afraid to speak his mind about what Christianity has come to mean to him. The public face of Christianity in America is already something with which I do not want to be identified. So many people who call themselves Christians are aggressive, hostile, closed minded and insensitive to anyone with whom they disagree. The public face of the Christian Church today is still both anti-female and anti-homosexual. Yesterday the public face of Christianity where I grew up was pro-segregation and anti-black. I reject the Christianity that Sam Harris rejects. The big difference is that I am aware of another and quite different Christianity. Sam Harris does not appear to be so. When I wrote A New Christianity for a New World, I tried to spell out what that different Christianity might look like. I believe it makes for a far greater and richer dialogue to engage the criticism of Sam Harris than to do what so many Christians seem to me to do, namely to search the Scriptures to find a way to give biblical authority to their latest prejudice.

The question is --- are we really moving toward a new form of Christianity, or is Christianity in America simply changing her clothes. I look at the Emerging Church movement and I hear the same comdemnations --- the same self-seeking --- the same zenophobic attitude --- just dressing in 21st Century trappings.

I pray that Ridge Church and others like her can continue to move toward an inclusive faith. One that shares the love of God as learned through Jesus of Nazareth, but listens and learns from others who have encounter the creator God of us all.


Mystical Seeker said...

I think Spong is right that Christianity needs to change, although I was never very clear on what, exactly, Spong thinks it should evolve into. His vision of God, for example, seemed vague; it was loosely based on Tillich, but seemed more pantheistic than anything else. He tends to be a little dogmatic, so if he is expecting everyone to march in lock step with him, I think he will be disappointed. Still, I think his criticisms of the status quo are spot on. The question is whether much of Christianity will evolve away from what he opposes.

Steve Conger said...

Great point. I am a huge fan of Tillich and embrace his "ground of all being" but I know that for many it is way too loose. We want something tangible to hold on to. Lets keep working to move it away from its current moorings!