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Living in Sin?: A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality Paperback – February 2, 1990


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Living in Sin?: A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality + The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love + Eternal Life: A New Vision: Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (February 2, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060675071
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060675073
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

$15.95. rel Noted for his liberal stands on sexuality, Newark's Episcopal Bishop argues with "passion and provocation" that traditional Christian views on sex represent patriarchal prejudice rather than God's will and invites readers to "enter the uncertainty of not knowing" and to free the Bible from "literalistic imprisonment" as they entertain possibilities like services blessing divorce, "betrothal" ceremonies (celebrating exclusive but temporary unions), and rituals sanctifying gay and lesbian partnerships. Spong sees all this as supplementing traditional marriage (which he also celebrates), not supplanting it. Bound to be controversial. EC
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Probably the most radical pronouncement on sex ever issued by a bishop.” (Time magazine)

“John Shelby Spong…is a brave churchman. He has the guts to tell it like it is.” (National Catholic Reporter)

More About the Author

John Shelby Spong was the Episcopal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey for twenty-four years before his retirement in 2000. He is one of the leading spokespersons for liberal Christianity and has been featured on 60 Minutes, Good Morning America, FOX News Live, and Extra. This book is based on the William Belden Noble lectures Spong delivered at Harvard.

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Natasha S. on January 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
I grew up going to church and believing in God, but somewhere along the way, the anti-female and anti-sex attitude, along with the intolerance of anyone who is or thinks differently from the established doctrine, put me off. I quit going as soon as I was old enough to make the decision, and on my best days, might consider myself an agnostic primarily because you can't prove a negative.

However, if there were more religions or even pastors with attitude like Spong's, I might still be going to church. He takes the Bible and the church's attitudes towards sex and sexuality of all kinds (heterosexual, homosexual, pre-marital, post-marital) and puts it into a framework that someone with a working brain can tolerate. He points out the context in which the Bible was written and the attitudes towards sex and women were formed - and says why they are not applicable and ought to be re-thought today.

Particularly interesting to me were the ideas of reviving the idea of betrothal, and of a church ceremony for divorce. The latter chapter almost made me cry - having witnessed painful divorces of family members and been through very painful breakups myself, the idea of having a ceremony to mark the end of the relationship surrounded by friends, friends who are then given a chance to remain friends with both halves of the couple, was very moving and appealing.

However, if you are a traditionalist, for this book to make an impact, you have to be open looking at things from a different viewpoint for a little while. You have to be ready to let go of a little security and prejudice and get to the compassion that is supposed to be the heart of Christianity. This isn't a human sexuality textbook - it is about humanizing religion and bringing the old attitudes into line with modern knowledge and reality. It takes courage to look at beliefs you hold dear and evaluate them objectively, and not a lot of people have the strength to do it. Spong does - do you?
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful By peter d pipinis on August 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
A God that we can love today is a God that asks us to embrace and celebrate - not just tolerate - difference.

John Shelby Spong makes it clear that Christianity's ideas of morality must be brought up to date. In many ways the teachings of Jesus, and the portrayal of him in the gospels, have never (or rarely) been taken by modern orthodox believers to their logical, radical conclusion.

The early Christians took Jesus to heart and followed his precepts according to their own pre-scientific understanding of human nature. They celebrated 'difference' as long as it did not threaten their male-dominated, female-subordinated view of the world. We now know this is wrong. Today everyone is free to be who they really are, and all sexual behaviour is recognised as equally valid provided it is between consenting adults, no-one is exploited, and no harm is done.

The modern Christian, if he is truly following Jesus, as the early Christians did, is honour-bound to live in the radical life-affirming way exemplified by the founder of his faith. There is no excuse anymore. Either everyone is loved, and we do mean everyone - not just believers - or God is not truly loving. Everyone is a beloved child of God - no favourites - or God is not a good parent.

The Christian of today has to be leading the cause of sexual liberation for all. He has to be fighting for the sexually, socially, religiously, and economically marginalised. John Shelby Spong has taken to heart what Jesus meant when he said: "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." - Matthew 25:40.
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
I purchased this book as a 40 year old woman facing divorce. The book helped me wrestle with the most fundamental beliefs held for many Christians. The text allowed me to re-think my life adventure and begin with the freedom that the creator intended. Spong, in this book, delivers a magnificent apology of hope and unending possibilities in life and love.
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33 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Peter A. Kindle on May 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
In order to understand Spong, one must understand two things. First, the inertia of the Church, and secondly, Spong's chosen role as change agent. Mix these two liberally (no pun intended) and his life and work become explicable. Spong lives what many suspect - it takes quite a load of hyperbole to move the Church!
"Living in Sin" was among my first exposures to Spong, and I found him persuasive and entertaining. He clearly has a knack for seeing Scriptural truth through a lense that my fundamentalist-trained yes tend to neglect. For example, he opens with the story of Jonah. I have always seen Jonah as a story about call and obedience, but Spong sees a story about prejudice and inclusiveness. Read the other reviews posted and you'll find much reference to "sex." Spong considers "Living in Sin" to be about prejudice, not sex. It is about the prejudice of the Church against sexual minorities, that is, the divorced, the homosexual, and the unmarried.
In part two of the book Spong faces the Goliath of defenses for the Church's historical stance - the Bible itself. I remember the tinge of fear that swept through me the first time I said that "Paul wrote (that), but Paul was wrong." Spong has spent a long career squarely facing the over-literalized authority many ascribe to Scripture, and he does so again here, challenging the literal interpreters, the traditional anti-women teachings of the Bible, and the traditional anti-gay interpretations of the Church. One need not agree with every jot and tittle of Spong's text to agree that the foundations of the traditional positions are quite weak.
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