On life, and the afterlife: The late Bishop John Shelby Spong, on the Morristown Green Podcast

Bishop John Shelby Spong reflects on the Gospel of Matthew on Good Friday 2016 at St. Peter's in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Bishop John Shelby Spong reflects on the Gospel of Matthew on Good Friday 2016 at St. Peter's in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Bishop John Shelby Spong will be remembered at a funeral service at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown on Friday.

Bishop John Shelby Spong speaks on Good Friday 2016 at St. Peter's. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Bishop John Shelby Spong speaks on Good Friday 2016 at St. Peter’s. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Bishop Spong spoke with me about this moment–and beyond–in 2010.  A prolific author and commentator, he had just published Eternal Life, A New Vision.

Ever provocative, he was not afraid to question faith and religion. He cited Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, Charles Darwin and Galileo as freely as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The Morristown Green Podcast: Bishop Spong’s vision of Eternal Life:

Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, in 2006. Photo by Scott Griessel

“The biggest problem with the Bible,” he told me, “is that we closed it. We acted as if God hadn’t thought any thoughts since 135.”

Spong, who died last month at age 90, pushed his church toward the 21st century, ordaining the first English woman and the first openly gay man.

In Eternal Life, he challenged traditional notions of God as “the old man up in the sky.”

Human self-consciousness comes at a price, he acknowledged.

“We know that life is a one-way street, and we know it ends in our own deaths, and we have to anticipate it. No other animal buys life insurance or draws wills. It’s only human beings that do that. And it’s very difficult to be human.”

Living fully and “loving wastefully” may be paths to a re-imagined hereafter, Spong suggested, in a conversation that ranged from origins of biblical stories and church doctrines to beliefs espoused by Jerry Falwell Sr. and Pat Robertson.

Hope you enjoy this special episode of The Morristown Green Podcast.

The funeral service for Bishop Spong is scheduled for 11 am this Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at St. Peter’s, Morristown.

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