Jesus has been taking it on the chin lately in the literary world. After author and scholar Bart Ehrman shredded the New Testament in his hit books Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why and Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them), edgy Christians have been hovering halfway out of the the church door. Ehrman was so thorough in his work that he not only is no longer Christian, he considers himself an atheist. Now there's a man who overdoes his research.
So, it takes a book like Bishop John Shelby Spong's Jesus for the Non-Religious to set things straight. Only it doesn't. Bishop Spong, an Episcopalian, grew up in the Deep South seeing the worst of backwards "Christianity": the kind that supported racism, antisemitism, and sexism. It's a wonder he stayed with the church, much less became one its most eloquent gadflies.
The Very Rev. Spong does not believe in unprovable historical stories, fairy tales, gospels written by Nazarene fishermen who didn't know Greek much less write it, and he most definitely does not think that if Jesus were to come back today, he would recognize anything the fundamentalists have been saying about him. This is because after a lifetime of studying the Bible, Spong refuses to take it as a literal document and thinks the authors of the texts, whoever they may have been, didn't expect a literal understanding. That means no star over Bethlehem (no Bethlehem!), no Magi, no virgin birth, no loaves and fishes, no walking on water, and on and on right on up to the rock-hewn grave at the Resurrection. (As he pointedly asks, when did Roman felons get the luxury of their own grave?)
Readers, especially ones already worked over by author Ehrman, can hardly argue with Spong's logic. The exponential numbers of people in David's city of Bethlehem, if one is to believe the story of Joseph and Mary returning there for a census, is really a laugh. That's just the point, Spong says. You aren't supposed to think about it. This was all an overlay over something much grander.