Tag Archives: fringe

Ping Spong

The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love is Shelby Spong’s 2005 effort to deal with several problematic themes in the Bible. Divided into sections, each section contains several chapters dealing with:

  • The Bible and the Environment (Overpopulation and the Catholic imperative to procreate)
  • The Bible and Women (Misogyny in the Bible)
  • The Bible and Homosexuality
  • The Bible and Children
  • The Bible and Anti-Semitism
  • The Bible and Certainty
  • Reading Scripture as Epic History

Spong flip-flops on how to explain these problematic passages. Sometimes, he seems to say “We’ve been misinterpreting this all along”; with other passages, he seems to say, “Well, primitive times, backwards thinking.” But with certain core items, he simply disregards them as being unscientific and unable to teach us anything.

He deals with the major passages about homosexuality in the first manner. The command in Leviticus not to lie with another man as one would a woman has been misinterpreted throughout the millenia. What it means, Spong explains, is not to treat men in a subservient manner, not to treat a man like a woman. In explaining it this way, Spong is essentially saying, “This is not a homophobic text; it’s a misogynistic text!” Whew — what a relief. Apparently, the writer of Leviticus just meant “Don’t treat your lover as if he’s lower than you” or “Don’t treat him like a woman.”

The other method of dealing with troubling texts is to employ the “they didn’t know better; they were primitive people back then” argument. He does this with the misogynistic passages. He gives great detail about all the double standards in the Old and New Testament for women (women are ceremonially unclean longer when giving birth to girls; woman are not to hold positions of authority or even ask questions in church; when are to be sequestered when menstruating), and he seems simply to brush it aside by saying, “Well, we know God couldn’t be misogynistic, so these texts represent the times and culture they’re written in.”

Yet Spong occasionally dismisses whole episodes in the Bible because they simply can’t be true. For instance, the core of traditional Christianity is wrong:

Let me state this boldly and succinctly: Jesus did not die for your sins or my sins. That proclamation is theological nonsense. It only breeds more violence as we seek to justify the negativity that religious people dump on others because we can no longer carry its load. […]

We are not fallen, sinful people who deserve to be punished. We are frightened, insecure people who have achieved the enormous breakthrough into self-consciousness that marks no other creature that has yet emerged from the evolutionary cycle. (173, 4)

One reads this and thinks, “Well, what’s the point then.” The logical guess is that Spong will explain, “It’s not Jesus; it’s what he taught.” Yet many of the says of Jesus — particularly the “I am” statements in John — didn’t happen:

Of course, Jesus never literally said any of these things. For someone to wander around the Jewish state in the first century, announcing himself to be the bread of life, the resurrection or the light of the world would have brought out people in white coats with butterfly nets to take him away. (234)

There are so many problems with that that it’s difficult to know where to start. At the most basic level, this shows a profound ignorance of the nature of first century notions of mental health. We only have to look at other passages in the Bible to realize there were none. It was all attributable to demons and mystery. And there certainly wasn’t anything resembling a “funny farm,” even if we strip away the nineteenth century cliches of Spong’s metaphor. Unless Spong has some archeological evidence he’s keeping hidden, it just doesn’t have any credibility whatsoever.

If it almost seems like Spong rejects the existence of a personal God, it’s because he does.

Whoa! Spong doesn’t believe in a personal God, the kind of God that the monotheistic religions have been preaching for millenia? That’s fine — I don’t particularly believe in that God either, but what’s the point of rooting around in scripture to explain this or that when Spong doesn’t even believe in the God most theists hold to be, in one way or another, the author of that scripture?

That’s why reading this causes a certain sense of cognitive whiplash — and I’d assume it’s an experience common to most of his books. “We don’t have to throw out the Bible because of the homophobia that drips from its pages because those passages have been misunderstood for so long; but we do need to throw out the God who supposedly wrote the Bible because no one ever comes back from the dead.” Isn’t faith in that very thing the heart of Christianity?

Spong isn’t trying to revise Christianity as much as he’s attempting to create an entirely new religious system, one that puts all holy books on the same level as the Iliad or the Odyssey. I’m fine what that; that’s the level I put most holy books: instructive, but in no way more authoritative than any other book. But then to insist on calling oneself a Christian seems ridiculous.

And what’s the point of it all? No Christian who believes in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the actual existence of Adam and Eve, and the need to be saved from Original Sin is going to say, “Hey, Shelby — good point. I’m convinced.” The only people who will be convinced are fence-riders like Spong himself, people who want the cultural comforts of belonging to a religion without any of the bothersome necessities of believing in God, Jesus, etc.

Additionally, no atheist is going to be convinced. To non-theists, Shelby seems to be taking a Trans-Am, gutting it, moving the engine to the back, and turning it into a boat and yet insisting on calling it a Trans-Am. It’s not a Trans-Am, and Spong’s creation is not Christianity.

Spong hints at what he’s after:

Creation must now be seen as an unfinished process. God cannot accurately be portrayed as resting from divine labors which are unending. There was no original perfection from which human life could fall into sin. Life has always been evolving. The Psalmist was wrong: we were not created “a little lower than the angels” (Ps. 8:5, KJV). Rather, we have evolved into a status that we judge to be only a little higher than the ape’s.

This is a very different perspective. There is a vast contrast between the definition of being fallen creatures and that of being incomplete creatures. […] We do not need some divine rescue accomplished by an invasive deity to lift us from a fall that never happened and to restore us to a status we never possessed. The idea that Jesus had to pay the price of our sinfulness is an idea that is bankrupt. When that idea collapses, so do all of those violent, controlling and guilt-producing tactics that are so deeply part of traditional Christianity.

It is like an unstoppable waterfall. Baptism, understood as the sacramental act designed to wash from the newborn baby the stain of that original fall into sin, becomes inoperative. The Eucharist, developed as a liturgical attempt to reenact the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross that paid the price of our sinfulness, becomes empty of meaning. […]

The first step is found, I believe, in acknowledging our evolutionary origins and dispensing with any suggestion that sin, inadequacy and guilt are the definitions into which we are born. […] We might be a dead end in the evolutionary process, a creature like the dinosaur, destined for extinction. We might instead be the bridge to a brilliant future that none of us can yet imagine. (177-9)

Basically, Spong is talking more Arthur C. Clarke/2001: A Space Odyssey than anything else. Yet recall that the sequel, 2010, ends with a very Garden of Eden-esque situation:


Or maybe Spong has something else in mind. Maybe Spong doesn’t really know what he has in mind. Except that he’s a Christian, but only insofar as he reads the Bible and thinks Jesus was damn fine man (in as much as we can tell from his sayings, after we scrape away everything he obviously never said).

Spong calls himself a Christian, but it leaves me wondering what kind? It’s seems that, having been an Episcopal priest and bishop for so long, he simply can’t let go.

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Want some tragic amusement?

Listen to David Duke on the Obama election.

stormfront_radio-dr_david_duke-11-04-08-obama_response.mp3 (audio/mpeg Object)

Obama is really going to advance radically the Zionist neocon agenda.

You probably won’t make it through more than the first six, seven minutes — I couldn’t, anyway.

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Mark of the Beast

What’s going on here?

West Virginia started Friday keeping driver’s license photos out of a computer database for members of a small religious group who believe digital storage is a “mark of the beast” that evokes biblical prophecy.

State Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Joseph Cicchirillo said the group of about 50 or 60 Christians, who are not affiliated with a particular church, contacted the agency two or three years ago to object to their pictures “being on a database that can be exchanged throughout the world or hacked into.” […]

Without this accommodation, group members wouldn’t get their driver’s licenses, which the commissioner said would hamper their ability to get everyday services from insurance coverage to check cashing.

I’m all for religious accommodation, but this is a bit ridiculous. This “Mark of the Beast” nonsense is not a theological point, like the Sabbath. Its appearance in the Bible is so vague that it could be interpreted many ways. “I don’t want to clock in — it’s the mark of the beast.”

Indeed, the story includes something just that bizarre:

One of the group members is Phil Hudok, who made headlines in 1999 when he was fired as a Randolph County school teacher for refusing to require his students to wear bar-coded identification badges. Hudok was later reinstated after a circuit judge said the school board had made no attempt to accommodate his religious beliefs.

How exactly was the school to accommodate these beliefs?

And just how insane do religious beliefs have to be in order for some one to say, “That’s too much.”

Can a racist who bases his racism on twisting passages of the Bible refuse to work with a black man because it offends his beliefs? Can a Muslim refuse to work with a woman because it offends his religious beliefs?

The State should accommodate religious beliefs when it doesn’t include re-inventing a whole data management system for a few individuals (as is the case with the article above) and when the belief is not some fringe belief held by a handful of paranoid idiots.


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Exposing a Fantasy

The Illuminati. Who would be better to expose this fantasy than the one and only Bill Schnoebelen? Bill

was a Satanic and Voodoo High Priest, 2nd degree Church of Satan, New Age guru, occultist, channeler, 90th degree Mason, Knight Templar, and a member of the Illuminati.

A lot of titles. Sounds like someone who’s been searching.

Bill’s got a great story. He was born a Catholic, but like all good Catholics, he eventually became a Satanist. A Wiccan. A Mason. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Bill got interested in the occult because some professor in his seminary — oh, he was going to be a priest — said that, in order to become more like Christ, seminarians should study what Christ studied: the occult, because Jesus was really nothing more than a magician. Rather, someone who practiced Magick.

Odd seminary professor, that.

Eventually Bill fell into the Wicca movement and then progressed on to Satanism, and his career in the Church of Satan was going quite well until it came time for him to become a Satanic priest. Why? Bill explains for us that, before he could become a satanic priest, he had to become a Catholic priest.

That’s news.

So he found a priest willing to ordain him in return for an ordination as a witch something-or-other.

A priest can simply ordain someone else a priest? I thought that’s something a bishop would have to do. Maybe I’m just getting too hung up on the details.

At some point in his walk down the dark road, crosses over the abyss or some similar formulation. What that means, Schnoebelen explains, is that he stands above good and evil. He is a god, and all other humans are like little more than cattle.

At this point, he was told that “to move through what is called eight degree” one has to make choice: either study Lycanthropy or vampirism. He says, “I knew a couple of werewolves and I learned from them, and it’s rather a painful process.”

Not being one who likes pain, he chose vampirism.

How’d that go?

I was made to drink the blood of what I now believe to be a fallen angel, and he in turn drank my blood, and by doing that, something happened to my blood and I was actually physiologically transformed in may subtle ways. My blood type changed. It became impossible for me to eat[ …] except blood. The only solid food I consumed was the Catholic communion host.

Next time I’m at Mass with my wife, I guess I’ll have a hard time suppressing the knowledge that a good many of the parishioners could simply be vampires looking for — what? I’m not sure.

Where did Bill get the blood? By this time he had around 160 witches under them, and many of them more more than willing to let him bite into their jugular — literally. At least that’s what he says.

It got so bad, he says, that he literally had urges to jump on prostitutes, rip their throats out, and drain their bodies. What kept him from doing that? He really loved his wife, and he knew getting caught doing something like this could shatter their marriage.

But didn’t he view all other humans as beneath him — little more than animals? Why would he care about his wife anymore?

The story continues that Bill got back from the bank one of the checks he’d sent to the Church of Satan, and a bank teller had written on the check that she would be praying for Bill.

Within a day or two, I lost all my magical power. I lost all my vampiric power. I lost my job. I got sick as a dog. My wife even got sick.

Bill did what any self-respecting vampire would do. He cried out to Lucifer for a sign.

Who showed up?

Mormon missionaries!

I’d been told many years earlier by this grand druid fellow down in Arkansas, that if I ever got in really deep spiritual trouble, what I needed to do was join the Mormon church, because the Mormon church had been started by witches, for witches, for the express purpose of giving people a place for people like me [sic] to hide out and appear to be nice, conservative, white-bread, Republican Christians.

So the Catholic host is all the solid food a vampire needs and Joseph Smith was a witch.

Who knew?

I couldn’t make it any further. Half an hour had yielded so much, well, crap:Wicca, Mormonism, Catholicism, Satanism, and Masonry, all united in an unholy conspiracy to rule the world. It’s all within the first half hour of “Exposing the Illuminati from Within.”

Bill has other videos available, including a nine-hour special Interview with an Ex-Vampire (Google Video). A few minutes of this reveals stories of battles with demons that leave physical marks, a Wicca ceremony to call up a demon that results in the conjurer being whisked immediately to hell before Bill’s very eyes (at the very least, the guy disappears), of casting spells that result in people’s deaths, and numerous other fantastic (as in “fantasy”) stories.

One has to ask, though, what’s going on here. Is this guy delusional? Did he simply spend a lot of his youth searching for a spiritual home and now that he’s a born-again Christian, he embellishes his life’s story — for the greater good? Is he simply lying? He has to be, because look at what he’s saying: All your childhood fears of beasts under the bed, of werewolves and vampires, of withes casting death-spells, combined with all the urban legends you’ve ever heard, are true — and Wicca, Mormonism, Catholicism, Satanism, and Masonry (one and the same, really) are all behind it.

Who can take this stuff seriously?

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