09 Nov

At university I read a famous book called 'The Selfish Gene'. It was written by Richard Dawkins, a British evolutionary biologist, and he contended that human hereditary genetic material via 'genes' are passed along to successive generations and in evolutionary terms [they only] serve their own implicit interest. His book popularised the gene-centred view of evolution and introduced the term meme. His theory holds that adaptive evolution occurs through the differential survival of competing genes

The term 'selfish gene' was coined. 

Analogous to this idea Dawkin's also developed the cultural meme counterpart. A meme is an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads by means of imitation from person to person within a culture and often carries symbolic meaning representing a particular phenomenon or theme. These meme's act as units for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures. 

So Meme's essentially are described in the same terms as Genes - units of cultural hereditary material which are more about psychological survival rather than physical. This psychological fitness in evolutionary terms favoured the survival of cultures which served a community's particular interests. It helped human culture to progress and adapt in the same way physical genetic material adapted and changed to aid the 'survival of the fittest'. 

Memes spread through the behaviour that they generate in their hosts. Memes that propagate less prolifically may become extinct, while others may survive, spread, and (for better or for worse) mutate. Memes that replicate most effectively enjoy more success, and some may replicate effectively even when they prove to be detrimental to the welfare of their hosts.

Religion and religious thought are, to me, such cultural memes. And these memes are the ancient and historical 'archetypes'. Were they not the ideas which encompassed the social behaviour and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals in these groups? Did they not aid community survial? 

Most religions have a central meme - the death and sacrifice of something or someone to save the rest of a community. Over millennia this became an inherited unconscious idea found across many cultures. 

Years later i realised Christianity and the sacrifice of it's founder was one such psychological meme. And I connected with this cultural meme when i was about 7 years old - in a childlike form [through the books of Narnia by CS Lewis]. As a result i developed an interest in religious history and thought. 

In London, in the 1990's, i attended a theology course at evening class. One day my friend who attended with me asked - 'Have you read 'Holy Blood Holy Grail'? I had never heard of it. She said it was a story which hinted at a 'huge religious secret' – stemming from the strange life of a priest in Southern France who had become immensely rich and had decorated his Church in a strange manner. 

Of course, Pierre Plantard and Philippe de Chérisey were the main steers in that book. They were also behind the early French authors on the subject. I did not know Plantard or Chérisey personally. I did meet Henry Lincoln [one of the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail] on several occasions and i asked him what he really thought of these two men. For me, Lincoln was remarkably candid. He had alot of time for both Plantard & Chérisey - saying they were both erudite, intellectual and serious. I also met Louis VAZART on several occasions before his untimely death - perhaps the closest i got to the notorious Priory of Sion. VAZART knew Plantard and Chérisey. 

Plantard and Chérisey invested much time talking about Christianity and its various components in relation to the story of Rennes-le-Château. I had begun to wonder why.  It almost seemed at times, when reading their narratives, that they had knowledge of  'something' which they then hitched on to the farrago at Rennes-le-Château. And although it is always stated that the Priory wanted some kind of French renewal that involved religion in some way - the angle adopted by the Holy Blood, Holy Grail authors [ie the Jesus bloodline] seemed to be a red herring.

Take one example. 

Plantard said in an address to a conference held at Rennes-le-Château [around 1964] the following;

"Mary [Virgin Mary] was heiress to her father's posessions. However, as she was underage, Joseph became her tutor and took charge of administering her inheritance, until such day when, out of interest as well as love, he married her secretly, whilst respecting her virtue. One can imagine his bitterness when he had to face the evidence regarding Mary's condition. One can also understand why Joseph, who knew the father, accepted the situation and the fury of King Herod the Great at the birth of Jesus". [My emphasis]

Among the many questions to be asked regarding this statement, such as who was the father of Jesus that Joseph knew, [was it Herod the Great and that is why Herod was furious another married the Virgin Mary] - what has any of it got to do with the story around Rennes-le-Château and it's priest? 

Plantard continued: 'This individual, like so many others, declared himself the Son of God. .... His declaration was considered a crime and the Jewish law was applied by the Romans against a man who had only done his people good. But because of the colour of his skin, his claim to a divine origin, and his personal synthesis of various pre-exisiting mystical concepts, the teachings of Jesus remain those of a Galilean preaching for his race ....

Joseph, an eighty year old octogenarian, had children from two or three former marriages when he married Miriam, a thirteen year old girl who was fatherless since the age of ten. 

Mary was black, as she was the daughter of Joachim 'the black man converted to Judaism', and her mother was Anne, the prophetess. 

Legally, Jesus was a descendant of David, son of Mary, and was recognised by Joseph. He could also aspire to the title King of the Jews. This truth, revealed by Judas Iscariot to the Jewish priests during his betrayal, did not suit the Church at all, which opted for subterfuge of a spontaneous generation

Of course, Jesus preached a doctrine to the Jewish nation, but all great philosophers of antiquity did the same for their nations; often, they even wrote admirable works which survived to our times, but they were not martyrs for this simple motive. The revelation of the secret around Jesus' birth was the cause of his martydom. The glory of his Crucifixion gave him a religion'.

Philippe de Cherisey apparently also seems to refer to such things in his original novel CIRCUIT. Cherisey wrote that ..."Rome would have been directly interested in a project consisting of assimilating the Jewish cult of God into the Roman religious system which attempted to unify Rome under a single system of worship".

Presumably this would have been attained by the merging of state and religion in a belief system which we call today emperor-worship. Cherisey thought that for Rome, the Jewish concept of belief in one God and their own idea of Emperor-worship [which deified emperors and some members of their families with the divinely sanctioned authority of the Roman State] fitted extremely well with the interests of Rome. 

However the Romans felt the Jewish cult could be tweaked to serve its own aspirations and would be better suited to Rome if it underwent some minor changes.... reforms that would make possible the remodeling of the One God, in such a way that it would first make him mortal, and supply proof of his death to exist, and to officially ascend to the sky, and unofficially ... to leave descendants on earth. 

In this manner, controlled by Rome, faith in this god would lead the emperors, within a few generations, to become the pontifex maximus, with a truly sustainable legitimacy.

In a strange twist of fate along the lines proposed by Cherisey the word pontifex and its derivative "pontiff" became terms used for Christian bishops, including the Bishop of Rome, [i.e the Pope].

Plantard continues in 1964;  'A new cycle is beginning; even the Vatican, sensing that the structure of its vessel is cracking up on all sides, knows very well that the volte face of their pontiffs will not prevent the boat from sinking in the tempest'.

Volte face of the pontiffs? Volte-face means a total change of position, as in policy or opinion, or even a sudden change from one set of beliefs to the opposite, which in our context may be more appropriate! It means that someone has changed their opinion or decision completely, so that it is the opposite of what it was before. 

For Plantard, he insists that the Vatican knows 'the structure of its vessel' [i.e. the Church and its hierarchy] is cracking, so the Pontiffs have performed a volte-face, presumably to stop the whole edifice from crumbling & sinking.  

But what an earth does all this mean for Plantard? That Jesus had dark skin? He was mixed race? He wasnt? Why did Jewish Law have to be applied by the Romans to execute Jesus? But no, for Plantard, it is the revelation of the 'secret' around Jesus' birth! And this secret hereditary quality was the cause of his martydom. A martyr (Greek: μάρτυς, mártys, "witness", or μαρτυρία, marturia, stem μαρτυρ-, martyr-) is someone that suffers persecution and death for advocating, renouncing, or refusing to renounce or advocate, a religious belief or cause demanded by an external party. In martyrdom narratives of the remembering community, this refusal to comply with the demands results in the punishment or execution of a person by an alleged oppressor.

The suggestion by Plantard of some huge revelatory secret around Jesus sounds remarkably similar to a statement by Raymond Lull, in 1309, during the trial of the Knights Templar. He said:

It is very probable that the Christians have many secrets. Among them is one (in particular) which would be an incredible revelation, such as that now being made by the Knights Templar; If such an infamy were to be made openly public, it would jeopardise the continued existence of the Roman Church.” [from Liber de aquisitione terrae sanctae 1310]

Lull is saying that there is one secret, incredible and revelatory, which was being made public by the Knights Templar during his time [around 1310, i.e precisely when the Templars were being persecuted]. Is the information hinted at by Plantard the same as that being divulged by the Knights Templar? This seems incredible to comprehend or believe!

What vital secret were the Templars giving away according to LULL, that could jeopardise the existence of the Roman Church? If it was an infamy [something with an evil reputation brought about by something grossly criminal, shocking, or brutal] did the Templars find out something that changed their view of the Church? 

The French Templars were simultaneously arrested on a set date. The arrest warrant started with the words: Dieu n'est pas content, nous avons des ennemis de la foi dans le Royaume" ("God is not pleased. We have enemies of the faith in the kingdom"). Claims were then made that during Templar admissions ceremonies, recruits were forced to spit on the Cross, deny Christ, and engage in indecent kissing; brethren were also accused of worshipping idols, and the order was said to have encouraged homosexual practices. These allegations, though, were highly politicised without any real evidence. 

But the arrest warrant stated that 'We have enemies of the faith'. How is it that such a noble and Christian Order became 'enemies of the faith?'

The leaders of the order, the elderly Grand Master Jacques de Molay, who had confessed under torture, retracted his confession. Geoffroi de Charney, Preceptor of Normandy, also retracted his confession and insisted on his innocence. Both men were declared guilty of being relapsed heretics, and they were sentenced to burn alive at the stake in Paris on 18 March 1314. 

As conspiracy theories go, was all this drama around the end of the Templars because of that one central 'secret' that could ruin the Church alluded to by Lull, and was it centred around the birth of Jesus? Like who his 'real' father was? 

I found one other reference to this engimatic Templar quote [in Spanish] and my rough translation of the reference is as follows:

" .... in the final part of his book, Llull comments on what he calls "the dangers for the ship [barque] of Saint Peter", in a rather ambiguous passage: [He states that] among Christians there are many secrets about which there may be a horrible revelation of what can happen to the Templars. Thus, I refer that to power, to wisdom and charity, then to the subject in which they are accustomed. I also say this openly about some very torpid and obvious things because of which the ship of Saint Peter [will?] sink”. 

[The term Barque of St. Peter or Ship/Boat of St. Peter symbolises the Roman Catholic Church as a barque [a small sailing ship]. The symbolism refers to St. Peter, as the first Pope, originally a fisherman [hence a boat] who became one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus. The Roman Catholic Church believes the role of St. Peter and the Pope as his successor is steering the Barque of the Church towards the port of salvation/heaven].

But even glancing a casual eye over the accusations fired at the Templars [as mentioned above] shows these had nothing to do with imagined 'revelations' that could bring down the Roman Church! In fact, they were accusations that would bring down the Templars, not the Church. So it would seem, for Plantard at least, that this terrible secret was/is to do with Jesus himself and of his birth. And if it is an infamy as LULL contends, & this secret was that which the Templars knew, then this means that whatever it is - it is something to be considered bad: perhaps in terms of the time Jesus lived and his Jewish background - this surely can only mean the scandal of who his father was? This was hinted at by Plantard by the statement: One can also understand why Joseph, who knew the father, accepted the situation and the fury of King Herod the Great at the birth of Jesus.

So for Plantard the biblical Joseph knew the physical father of the historical Jesus. And of course we all know the legends and parodies surrounding Jesus' birth in ancient Jewish texts, basically saying that Jesus was of Roman extraction! 

Of course, if so, it is interesting to ask why Jesus used the 'Son of God' term during the time of the Roman Empire when the Roman Emperor used this exact same title alone? Jesus was reported to have used other titles which were reserved for Augustus only, so it was tantamount to treason for Jesus to lay claim to them! 

However, this may not be 'treason' if the historical Jesus was from the family of the ruling Roman elite or another part of a Jewish family who had married in to the Roman aristocracy? 

This has actually been suggested before, albeit only in novel form. This association is especially with the Hasmonean Jewish house  .... Romanised & Greek - powerful and in place due to the Roman Emperors at the time of Jesus. Why did Herod the Great go all out to kill Jesus when he was born? Why was Herod a King of the Jews as well as Jesus claimed? Why was the entourage of Jesus full of Hasmonean family names and those who were employed, or close to the Roman rulers? 

The novelist Robert Graves wrote a book called King Jesus. Graves' book supposedly looked fictionally at the life of Jesus. The shocking idea in King Jesus was that '... Jesus [was] not ... the Son of God, but rather ... a philosopher with a legitimate claim to the Judaean throne through Herod the Great. It [the story] begins with the reign of Herod before Jesus is born and explains the dynastical, quasi-secular roots of Jesus both from his mother's and his father's side, establishing a temporal and historical right to the throne of Israel'.

Also having the Hasmonean/Herod the Great connections was picked up by archaeologist and biblical writer Eisenman;

..... in his paper ‘Paul as Herodian’, which he wrote 11 years ago, and which is available in his book, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians: Essays and Translations, and also online here, proposes that Paulus aka Saulus is the same person as the Saulus found in Josephus.....Eisenman provides a genealogical chart of the Herodians at the end of his James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea ScrollsHere is the important part that shows the ancestry of Saulus. Salome was the sister of Herod called the ‘Great’. With one of her husbands, Costobarus, she had a son Antipater (there are other Antipaters in the Herodian clan so we must be careful), and the second son to this Antipator was Saulus. So Saulus is a great-nephew to Herod called the ‘Great’. The Herodians were Roman citizens, and Saulus being one of them, the mystery of his Roman citizenship as used in Acts 22:25-29 is cleared up".

Josephus Flavius, the famous Roman historian of the Jews was also from the Hasmonean dynasty so probably had access to many records and traditions. He was born into one of Jerusalem's elite families, and he introduces himself in Greek as Iōsēpos (Ιώσηπος), son of Matthias, an ethnic Jewish priest. He was the second-born son of Matthias (Mattiyah or Mattityahu in Hebrew). His older full-blooded brother was also called Matthias. Their mother was an aristocratic woman who descended from the royal and formerly ruling Hasmonean dynasty.

I recently found this website - a BLOG SITE about the various Mary's in the New Testament and their Hasmonean connections. The author uses Josephus and his history to identify the female Jewish Hasmonean family in the biblical texts.  She takes a rather different perhaps feminist view of the women in the Bible [and what their interests would have been] and some of her theories are as follows;

  • There were queens and princesses in Judea in the time of Jesus. They were of the Jewish royal house, the House of the Hasmoneans, the Maccabees who had ruled since about 160’s B.C.
  • Mariamne I, the Great (Hasmonean) Queen, was married in a political alliance to Herod so the Roman-backed procurator could carry the title of King of the Jews.
  • Mariamne was a dynastic name of royal women in Judea during Jesus lifetime.
  • Herod had Mariamne I killed but built for her a grand tower on his new palace wall and called it Mariamne Tower...the word for “tower” is “magadan” or “magdal”.
  • One of the granddaughters of Mariamne I was Mariamne III…She may well have been called the Magdalene. Mariamne Magdalene meaning she was of the “tower” lineage of the Great Queen. Another meaning for “magdal” is “great.”  So…Mariamne I the “great queen” could also have been called Mariamne the Magdalene.

The point being that perhaps the revelations around the birth of Jesus was that he was both a Roman & Jewish citizen? This is why he could get an undience with Pilate, and that the Jews had to acquiesce to the Romans regarding his punishment or perhaps that he was in opposition to the Romans because of his Hasmonean background, & this is why rich followers of Jesus originated from Herod 'camp' etc. 

Anyway all this talk of the scandalous birth of Jesus [let us recall in the eyes of the church only, hence the 'cover-up] led me to the following interview of which all the answers make imminent sense to me;

John Shelby Spong: Rescuing Jesus From Religion | Interview

by Rev. Candace Chellew

You write, “I insist that there must be a way to be both a believer and a citizen of the 21st century.” What do you mean by that?

The Christian faith was born in the first century, when people didn’t know anything about germs or viruses or tumours. It was born in a world that people assumed was the center of a three-tiered universe [where] God lived just above the sky. God was understood quite anthropomorphically. None of those concepts make a lot of sense today, so when we in the 21st century read our biblical story, we read about a virgin birth. They didn’t know there was such a thing as an egg cell in a woman.You read about Jesus thinking epilepsy is caused by demon possession. None of those make any sense. You either literalize it like the fundamentalists or you punt it, which the secular humanist world has done, or you try to find what the experience is that lies behind that first-century explanation and see if you can translate that experience into 21st century words. That’s what I think the ultimate task of the Christian faith is today.

In the first part of your book you take on such topics as the virgin birth, miracle stories, crucifixion and resurrection — even whether the disciples actually existed — and you take them out of their literal context. Why can we not take them at face value?

I don’t think the authors intended them to be taken literally. When St. Matthew writes his story of the birth narrative of Jesus, he quotes Micah to demonstrate why Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem. He quotes Isaiah to determine why Jesus was born of a virgin. He quotes Hosea to determine that the flight of Jesus, Mary and Joseph into Egypt was the fulfillment of scripture. He quotes Jeremiah about Rachel weeping for her children who have been slaughtered by Herod, and he quotes an unnamed source about why Jesus should wind up living in Nazareth. Not one of those texts was written for that purpose. When Hosea wrote, “out of Egypt have I called my son,” he’s talking about the life of the people of the nation Israel. He’s not talking about Jesus.When Isaiah said “a woman is with child” …even Matthew knew those texts didn’t fit. He was also writing that book in the context of a Jewish synagogue, where he could lean on these stories from the Hebrew scriptures, and people knew what he would talking about. He didn’t plan to take those things literally. He knows that Herod going down to Bethlehem to kill all the Jewish babies is a Moses story, and he’s paralleling Jesus with Moses. He knows that Jesus didn’t preach the Sermon on the Mount. He’s paralleling Jesus with Moses at that point. He models the Sermon on the Mount after Psalm 119.The authors knew they were creating interpretations of the power of a man named Jesus of Nazareth. The same is true within the New Testament. The Abraham and Sarah story reappears in the Zechariah and Elizabeth story. The babies that leap in the womb of Rebekah, Isaac’s wife… reappears as the story of the baby leaping in Elizabeth’s womb to salute the baby in Mary’s womb to prove that Jesus was superior to John the Baptist even before they were born.Those authors weren’t incompetent, ignorant people. They knew they were writing in this particular style. It’s only when Christianity left the Jewish world and became a Gentile religion that we began to read these stories without any Jewish background and we began to literalize them, and they are nonsensical. If I had not been able to escape my biblical fundamentalism of Charlotte, North Carolina, I would have left the Christian faith a long time ago because I cannot bend my mind into a first-century pretzel in order to be a Christian. But if there is a way that I can be a Christian with full intellectual competence and study the scriptures as the scriptures were intended to be read and understood, then it opens a whole new arena for me that I love.The Bible has been used throughout history for so many evil purposes: To uphold fundamentalism, to denigrate women, to encourage hostility to gay and lesbian people, to justify war, and to support slavery. How can anybody take that book at face value and treat it with seriousness when you know that’s been its history? If you read it literally, you can justify every one of those prejudices. I grew up justifying each of those prejudices with literal quotations.

Your book argues that we have to go back to our Jewish roots since the Gospel writers, as Jews, were writing in a form familiar to them, and the idea of “history” really was foreign to them.

The Gospels are liturgical documents. They’re not historical or biographical documents. They were designed to enable the Christian community, who were still Jews, to tell Jesus’ stories against the background of the scripture lessons read in the synagogue, and that happened over and over again for about 40 years before the first of the Gospels was finally written.There’s a great gap that most people don’t seem to understand. Jesus died in 30 [C.E.] according to our best estimates. The first Gospel is not written any earlier than 70 [C.E.]. You’ve got 40 years where the story of Jesus has to be traveling through oral transmission, and that could have only happened in the synagogue. By the time the Gospels appear, Jesus is deeply wrapped in the Jewish scriptures. The synagogue was the only place for them to hear this. They didn’t have a Gideon society that would put a Bible in your motel room — it was the community’s property. I was on Tom Snyder’s television program some years ago and was telling him the dates of the Gospels: 70 C.E. for Mark, maybe 82 C.E. for Matthew, maybe 90 C.E. or so for Luke, and close to 100 C.E. for John. Snyder, who was a Roman Catholic, interrupted me and said, “Wait a minute, Bishop, I just got out my short pencil and did some figuring and that means they weren’t written by eyewitnesses.” I told him of course they weren’t — they’re the product of second- and third-generation Christians and were written in Greek, a language that neither Jesus nor his disciples spoke. He said, “That’s not what the nuns taught me.” I asked what they taught him and he said, “They taught me that the nuns followed Jesus around and wrote down everything he said and that’s where we get the Gospels.” I asked Tom if the nuns used spiral notebooks and ball point pens, because that’s the assumption. Ink was terribly expensive, quills were hard to find, very few people wrote — yet we don’t factor those things in when we’re reading the scriptures.

Well, we can’t even fathom a world without the Internet, much less imagine a world where ink is expensive.

That’s another illustration of the fact that we have to read the biblical stories in the context in which they were written. That means the Earth was the center of a three-tiered universe, God lived just above the sky, and his primary job was to keep books up to date and intervene periodically. Folks today don’t really believe that God can intervene to stop hurricanes. People prayed before the planes went into the World Trade Center on 9/11, but that didn’t stop them. Prayers don’t seem to stop the tsunami. It’s caused by tectonic collision and not because God wanted to punish the people of the Indian Ocean because they were sinful. That’s the way we used to interpret that stuff. Jerry Falwell went on Pat Robertson’s program and said 9/11 was caused because the United States now treated gays fairly and women equal, and because of the American Civil Liberties Union, and God was punishing us. Pat Robertson suggested the hurricane might have been caused because Ellen DeGeneres is from New Orleans. He denied he said that but then said God would send an earthquake to Hollywood because that’s where she is now. That’s the mentality that no educated person can pay much attention to.

Why is it so hard for Christianity to let go of creeds and doctrines? What is at the root of their fear?

I think religion primarily is an attempt to help people find security, not to help people find truth. So they’ve rooted their security in these symbols. Until somebody can present them with another view of God in which they might invest their lives, they’ll cling to this because they don’t know any other. They think that if the fundamentalist point of view disappears they’ll fall into a bottomless pit. God is a part of the human security system and always has been.

You say this is first-year seminary stuff — and it is — but why are preachers so reluctant to share what they know?

It’s a tough profession. It’s a volunteer association and they’re not well paid, with little or no job security. I think they try when they come out of seminary, and I think they give up in about a year or so because they’ve disturbed so [many] people. Usually people preach their seminary notes for the first three or four years — but by the time they make it their own they’ve been so brainwashed by the culture.

What do you say to those people who claim that you can’t be a Christian because you don’t believe in the Bible literally?

I’d say that’s a strange definition of Christianity. Fundamentalism is not that old. It’s really a response to Charles Darwin. It’s an early 20th century movement, when the five fundamentals were published. That’s when they began to say that you can only be a Christian if you believe in literal virgin birth, the blood atonement, the physical resurrection, every word of the Bible is the inerrant word of God, and that the second coming is real and historical. Those are the five fundamentals. They produced these and Unical — American oil companies are deeply involved in fundamentalist religion — I find that interesting.

So the fossil fuel industry is sponsoring an anti-evolution movement? How ironic!

Unical funded the fundamentalists in the early 1900s, and they would mail out these pamphlets — about 350,000 of them every week — to every “Christian worker” in America.

The second part of your book focuses on a new Christology. Tell us about that.

There’s something powerful about the life of this Jesus, but his power is not in being a divine figure masquerading as a human being and walking on this earth. His power is that his humanity is so full and complete that God can live in him and through him. That’s a really powerful story. I think that’s what the church was trying to say 2,000 years ago: He’s fully human, and yet we experience the divine God in him and through him. So they ended up saying he’s fully human and he’s fully God.We literalize that, and that doesn’t make sense today. He can’t be fully human if you literalize the virgin birth story. There’s no way he can be fully human and have the Holy Spirit be his father. The ultimate affirmation of the Christian church was that in and through his full humanity the fullness of God had been met and engaged, and I think that’s still a pretty powerful story. I think we can tell that in a modern way.

You talk about the root of Christian anger in your book. What is at the root of that anger?

The way we tell the Jesus story, we denigrate human life everyday. “Jesus died for my sins.” What does that say? It says I’m one wretched, miserable creature who caused the death of Jesus. How do you live with that? You live with it by passing that anger on to somebody else. That’s why Christianity has always had a victim. Homosexuals are just the latest victim of the Christian church, but in the past it’s been women, blacks, heretics, scientists and Jews. They’ve always had a victim because if you are told constantly how fallen, depraved and hopeless you are, the only way you can stand up is to pass that negativity on to someone else.We have preachers getting their jollies talking about how people are burning in hell. Why does that make anybody feel good? If you took that literally, it would break your heart. But, that’s the idea that God is this punishing parent in the sky. Until we heal this very deep fissure within the Christian community, I think Christianity will always be dumping its prejudices upon the victim of choice. Right now, gay people are a popular victim. The church is torn up trying to condemn gay people and excommunicate those who don’t condemn gay people. The Jesus I know says no matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, no matter what you’ve been, you are the object of my love. That’s very different from what I hear from pulpits.

You say an argued prejudice is a dying prejudice.

We wouldn’t be debating homosexuality if it weren’t a dying issue. What happens is that every prejudice depends upon a definition that justifies it. The definition that justifies prejudice toward gay people is that homosexuality is a moral choice that they make because they are mentally sick or morally depraved. Nobody in medicine or science believes that today. So, the definition is dying and that’s why we’re having a debate about it. That definition will die.The reason women couldn’t vote until 1920 was because we defined women as intellectually incapable of making that decision. The reason blacks were able to be enslaved is that we defined them as sub-human. Even in wartime, we can’t kill Iraqi human beings — we have to kill “terrorists.” You have to dehumanize your victims before you can kill them.

Who is this God that we meet in Jesus if it’s not this superhero God?

The word God is a human word and the definition we ascribe to that word is a human definition. We have created God in our image because we can’t get outside what it means to be a human being. We think we can tell folks what it means to be God. So all of our God talk is human talk about human projections onto the Divine. We can’t do that.I don’t think God can ever be explained or defined. God can only be experienced, and then you never quite know what you’re experiencing — but you have a sense of transcendence, of otherness, of a surging power of life, of the meaning of love. You can experience those things. Then you have to wonder if you’re delusional, or is there a reality out there that we as human beings have the ability to tap into and commune with. I think there is; that’s why I’m a Christian. But it’s not going to be an old man in the sky who is going to do a miracle. So I’ve got to find a whole new way to talk about the God experience.The God experience in Jesus is seen in the fullness of his life and his infinite capacity to love and give his life away. There’s something about him that brings God to us, and that makes a lot of sense to me.

"John Shelby Spong on Whosoever"  has been called a heretic and worse. The former Episcopal Bishop of Newark (N.J.) has been writing for years for those he calls “believers in exile,” people who feel like modern versions of Christianity demand blind faith and require adherents to check their brains at the door. In his new book, Jesus for the Non-Religious, Spong condenses his last few books into one, giving a convincing and inspiring argument against blind acceptance of traditional theology and doctrine.Spong carefully breaks down traditional doctrines like the virgin birth, the miracle stories, the crucifixion, the resurrection — even the literal existence of the disciples — and shows that their true power lies not in literal interpretations, but in understanding them as purely Jewish liturgies. Spong urges us to remember the Jewish context of Jesus and the limits of the language we possess as we attempt to describe and understand what made Jesus so extraordinary that he has endured through the millennia. Instead of accepting Jesus as a theological construct of God in human flesh, Spong uses his book to reconstruct Jesus as a radical breaker of tribal boundaries, prejudices and religious dogma. For many, Spong’s ideas may be the pinnacle of heresy, but for those who find the old theistic ideas of God and Jesus untenable, Spong rescues Jesus from irrelevancy and helps us once again meet God in the person of Jesus.I had the chance to talk with Bishop Spong recently about his new book.

Rev. Candace Chellew founder and Editor -  Emeritus Rev. Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians. She earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She serves as the spiritual director of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C.

Reproduced from HERE

A book on the issues discussed in this post is found HERE

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