The original Christians were Jews and they celebrated a mostly Jewish service, Spong says. One of the readings would be about Jesus. Eventually, more and more of the Jesus readings took place within the confines of the Jewish year. Eventually, the Jesus story was made to fit the Jewish year for liturgical — not historical — reasons. The details are too complex to explain here, but essentially every part of Jesus' life has a reading appropriate for some point of the Jewish year. Holy Week takes place during Passover; Easter has no Jewish equivalent, of course, but then Pentecost comes right about the time of Yom Kippur, when Jews make atonement for their sins. Christians say, "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us." The parallels are everywhere. It's to Spong's credit that he makes the the theory stick.
But the best part comes last, when Spong says Christianity will die unless it breaks out of the old tribal mentality upon which most religions are based. "Our God is better than yours." "We have better laws." "Our women are more dignified." You get the picture.
This was never Jesus' teaching. He spoke of the Good Samaritan — and Samaritans were hated and considered unclean by Jews. "Good" Samaritans? You must be kidding! Jesus spoke with women. He touched lepers. He healed the sick, at a time when the sick were considered to be possessed by demons. Jesus' message was that God is for everyone. Christians didn't hold onto that very long. Pretty soon they were oppressing blacks (while forcing them to become Christians), killing Jews, hating Muslims. What happened?
It's time to get back to that wholly human Christ, Spong says. That's what made Jesus divine; the fact that he was totally human. So human he could give his life away willingly.
Vacillating Christian, still bouncing nervously at that church doorway? It's tough. No fairy tales. (Although I still hold with some of the miracles.) No phony sayings. No scriptural errors. No flying down from heaven. Only truth. Only love. Can you live with that? Bishop Spong can.