SUSAN Sparks is the senior pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York. She’s also an established stand up comic, ex-lawyer and biker chick.
But she can’t count many fans among humourphobic Christian fundies because of the controversial signs that appear periodically outside her church.
That, and her unorthodox approach to theology, which she thinks shouldn’t be scary.
Many stories in the Hebrew Bible that we heard when we were growing up presented a powerful figure who is judging, destructive, punishing. I’m encouraging people to look past the fearful images of God we’ve encountered …
According to this report, Sparks, who has performed on stage with Muslim and Jewish comics, said she draws inspiration from other religions.
I had frankly been very disconnected from my own Christian tradition from an early age. And I hadn’t turned to the church in any substantive way for about 25 years. The irony is that my path led back to Christianity through the teachings of the world’s other great religions.
Hinduism has many wonderful teachings about the many faces of God. That broke open a lot of new ways of relating to my own faith. Zen Buddhism opened up a lot for me, including the potential of laughter as a part of religious practice.
Sparks, whose church motto is “Not your average Baptist church,” told the Huffington Post that she created the sign to make a statement about inclusivity.
Our church is a place that welcomes all people; a place that is safe from the shame and judgment of religious ‘nuts’ and therefore a rich ground to bear spiritual fruit.
In an interview with Read the Spirit, Sparks stated that her theology is different from other Baptists.
We put a face on the church that’s very different than what many of them have experienced. We’re inviting them back to a tradition they has alienated many of them. We offer a theology that’s more compassionate and opening.
While some have found Spark’s recent “religious nuts” sign to be humorous, others have voiced concern. One commenter stated:
I believe that homosexuality is a sin. I also believe that abortion is murder because life begins at conception, not at birth. I could go on and on. For these beliefs I will be considered a ‘religious nut’.
While Jesus took all comers, he also taught repentance of sin — not affirmation and acceptance of it.
Other signs posted at Madison Avenue Baptist include Hipster Jesus loved you before you were cool, What would Jesus Tweet?, Blessed are the flexible, for they shalt not be bent out of shape, and Honk if you love Jesus. Text while driving if you want to meet him.