Then on Sunday, I went to hear retired Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong, who was in town for a series of talks on Christianity. He acquainted us with the OT's "minor" prophets, talked about humanity's evolution away from (and return to) tribal gods, about spirituality without theism, and about a "nonpersonal" sense of God (beyond our family / power concepts of Father, Lord, Master,etc). God as source of life, of love, as the ground of being.
When he said that we can worship best by "loving wastefully," the audience erupted into applause and I felt a rush of air, my spiritual sinuses clearing.
After the lecture, a young man asked him how to persuade some fellow Christians to see beyond their legalisms.
"Tell them you disagree," he said. "And love them the best you can." He shared his experience of growing up among staunch Christian racists in the South. Many went to their graves with their racial hatred.
"Some people never change. But the world changes, and they die."
I recommend this recent interview with Spong at belief.net (the following is an excerpt):
What's the best verse in the Bible?
The text with which I close most of my lectures is from John 10. They are words attributed to Jesus that members of the Jesus Seminar don't think he ever spoke. I don't mind accepting that. But to me, they are so true to who he is. And that's the phrase, "I've come that they might have life and have it abundantly."
The way that I see Christianity is that its role is to enhance the life of every person. My basis of morality is this: does this action enhance life, or does it denigrate life? Does it build up or does it tear down? And if that's your basis, then you can't possibly be a sexist because sexism diminishes women. You can't possibly be homophobic because it diminishes homosexuals. You can't possibly be a racist because you can't tell people they are lesser because their skin is black. Or any of the other things that have discriminated against people.