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More on Bishop Spong

Jonathan B. Wight

If you want to read someone shaking theology to its roots, try Bishop Jack Spong, whom I have previously mentioned here, here, here, here, and here. I don't think my emphasis on Spong is misplaced, when we consider how few monumental thinkers we have currently living.

Spong spoke again in Richmond today, visiting St. Paul's Episcopal Church, where he served as rector in the 1970s.

 Spong is working on a new book, due out in June, on the Gospel of John. His talk was very funny in places, but deadly serious in message. Here are some paraphrases:

"Moral and religious people are among my least favorite people in the world. Religions divide people and lead to war over theology. Fear has been the motivator of many religions.

"Moral and religious people know a lot about judgment, but little about love.

"John's Gospel is an antidote to this. It calls us to a new kind of humanity, one not built on the survival mentality.

"We are not called to be religious or moral but called to be free to live fully and love wastefully. Our mission is to offer that possibility to others, so that they also may love beyond their boundaries and fears."

Does this sound a bit Utopian, as if we can or should forget scarcity and hate? I don't think so. I've blogged a lot previously about "love" in the work of neuroeconomist Paul Zak (too many to link here). Love is real, and it is contagious. Our ability to use our moral imaginations to share sympathy with others is limited only by market size, time, and imagination. One of the great outcomes of capitalism has been the rise of leisure and technology that enhance our moral imaginations (yes, there are huge exceptions). Affection, according to Adam Smith, is habitual sympathy—and our capacity for that is growing.

So Spong, perhaps considered a visionary nutcase or heretic, may be onto the next big transformation of human consciousness. (Yes, I am a naïve sucker for positive thinking; the alternative is too depressing....)


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