John Spong: "Catholicism is in danger of disappearing in 50 years"
Bishop John Shelby Spong was present in Paris at the beginning of June for the release of his book, Jesus for the XNUMXst century*. A man who gave his life goodbye and to the Church, but who constantly questions the functioning of the latter.
"The apostle Paul was probably a homosexual repressed. The journalists, taken aback, look at the American preacher. The bishop Episcopal Anglican emeritus, 83 years, quietly continues his monologue and supports his remarks by referring very precisely to the Bible. John Shelby Spong is a regular at statements or shock acts. In December 1989, against the advice of his diocese, he had been the first bishop to ordain a priest openly homosexual man. He is also one of those who advocate for a more open discussion on contraception. Author of more than twenty-four books, Bishop Spong is also a strong advocate of gender and race equality.
Yet, the octogenarian is far back. He admits himself to have been sexist or somewhat racist in his youth. Today, father of three girls and married since a few decades, his opinion on the fair sex has completely changed. He was one of the most ardent advocates of giving women a more prominent place in the episcopal clergy. Racial discrimination has become one of his biggest fights. Self-styled enemy number 1 of Ku Klux Klan, he describes Desmond Tutu, the South African archbishop, as one of the most important figures of his life. At the request of the latter, the American was present at the time of his episcopal ordination.
The Catholic religion can die
Today, Bishop Spong's fight is simple. He wants to redefine the Christian faith and make it credible. Legitimate. For him, as it appears today, it can not attract more believers, nor strengthen the faith of those who already believe. "There is a great risk that the Catholic religion, as it exists today and in the way it operates, no longer exists in fifty years." Terrible words that it explains as as it goes. The main defect of the Church, according to him, is his inability to adapt Biblical language to his time.
One of his most controversial theories remains that Mary, mother of God's son, was not a virgin when she gave birth. Jesus Christ, and that it is impossible for a woman to become pregnant by the action of the Holy Spirit. A theory which, according to him, makes the message of the Church difficult to accept for non-believers and those who reject Christian doctrines. The bishop emeritus also wonders why the Church strives to maintain the illusion that Jesus did miracles. Whether Lazarus rose from his tomb three days after his death or whether the sick were healed by the hand of Jesus are, according to him, events that never took place. He explains, again in a very precise and biblically documented way, that for him, people possessed by spirits were in fact people suffering from epilepsy. A logical answer but which shakes the beliefs of a Catholic Church which has more than a billion believers.
John Spong travels frequently, from conferences to conferences, around the world. His many travels gave him a vision of the world, more precisely of the Christian world, which is very broad. Does this give him an unassailable credibility? His detractors remain numerous. One of the most famous remains the former primate of the Anglican Church, Rowan Williams. He considers some of Spong's theories to be confused and a succession of misinterpretations of the biblical word.
When asked if he is aware that his words could shake the faith of several hundred million people, he replies: "Their faith must be very fragile if they doubt so easily..." That of John Spong is however undeniable . An avid Bible reader, he says today that it is the message of Jesus Christ who must be understood and that his "paranormal" exploits should no longer be used to express the divine character of the son of God. A man of God, precursor of his Episcopalian Church, who does not hesitate to hustle and disturb. A subversive. A real.
(*) Jesus for the 336st century, John S. Spong, Karthala, Paris, 19 p. 7 euros. Published 150 years ago in the United States, sold more than 000 copies, this book is intended for those who do not believe in God and who question Christian doctrines. John Spong also wants us to read the life of Jesus Christ with the eyes of a Jew of the time. We can thus, according to the author, better understand the reactions and acts of Jesus, himself a Jew and raised according to Jewish customs. A work that goes off the beaten track and attempts to outline the face of Christianity for the XNUMXst century.
Author: JPO. François