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‘God wants spiritual fruits, not religious nuts’: Baptist sign raises laughs … and eyebrows

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.

nuts

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.

She explained:

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.

Susan Sparks

Susan Sparks

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’.

Another complained:

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.

19 Responses to “‘God wants spiritual fruits, not religious nuts’: Baptist sign raises laughs … and eyebrows”

  1. barriejohn says:

    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 …

    Why? Does she worship another god then?

  2. Daz says:

    Well, if we have to have churches, I’d rather have liberal ones. Still, it’s all a bit…

    http://tinyurl.com/bkpqrfn

  3. barriejohn says:

    That’s a very nice little god, Barry, but what the bloody hell do they mean by “an environmentally friendly artificial pond”?

  4. Matt Westwood says:

    I say: all power to her elbow.

    If we have to have religion (and it seems that at the moment humanity is not sufficiently socially evolved to completely discard it immediately), then at least let’s have a humanism-friendly version. It’s not too great a step from there to the why-do-we-bother-with-the-god-concept-anyway? one – but the step that Sparks *is* making is truly significant.

    IMO she deserves more support than derision. I expect to be in a minority on this forum with that position, but I think it’s worth stating.

  5. Daz says:

    Matt, “Buddy Jesus” jokes aside, I agree. I have a, call it philosophical, objection to faith-based belief in general, but if we’re going to have it, I’d much rather see people reaching humanistic conclusions through it. Even if it does mean they’re cherry-picking the Bible for the nice bits.

  6. Trevor Blake says:

    Funny how all (all) Christians say ‘we’re not like those other Christians.’ Which Christians are like those other Christians?

    Jesus hated fruit (Mark 11:12-1, 11:20-25, Matthew 21:18-22) and was luke-warm to nuts (Genesis 43:11).

  7. Matt Westwood says:

    If crosses are going to cause this furore, I recommend that anyone insisting on wearing one should have it ripped from their neck (or wherever) and rammed up their arses sideways.

  8. Stonyground says:

    There used to be a Baptist church close to where I live that used to have a billboard with attempts at humour on it. The message usually involved a pun of some kind, “Read the Bible and prevent truth decay” was one such slogan. Anyway, it is closed now and the building is up for sale.

    Regarding Susan Sparks, I think that it is good that she promotes a less harmful brand of religion, but her beliefs are just as baseless as those of the nuts.

  9. barriejohn says:

    They invent a god in their own likeness and then say: “Ooh, look; God thinks just the way that I do!”

  10. Broga says:

    I now seem to be a liberal secularist which I assume is regarded as more respectable than a militant or aggressive athest. Whatever, panic has spread to the ranks of Lord Scary and his cohorts. Things have got to a sad state for them when the Mail and Telegraph write their usual knee jerk supportive articles only to be slagged off by their own readers.

    Even the dire TfTD seems to have lost its nerve and the Christian “truth” – after a couple of minutes of the banal – is tucked into a sentence and often without a mention of God. Reason, common sense and education must win. The churches now rely on the hordes of the ignorant, ill educated, semi literate and church leaders and politicians who benefit from sticking to religion.

    Lots of clergy present and retired have as much faith as myself i.e. zilch but with a lifetime commitment and nowhere else to go decide they have to stick with it. The “I’m a secret atheist but because of career, family and friends I am now pretending” group is growing via the internet.

  11. Stonyground says:

    “Even the dire TfTD seems to have lost its nerve and the Christian “truth””

    I have commented on this over at the ‘Platitude of the Day’ blog. It has become more difficult to make fun of TftD because the contributions are becoming increasingly vacuous and bland, not saying anything at all really. Incidently, the Platitude of the year award has just been posted over there.

  12. Har Davids says:

    I’m with Matt in this one; spiritual fruits, not religious nuts is a nice one and even an atheist should appreciate it.

  13. David Anderson says:

    Some years ago there was a sign outside a church in Liverpool which stated “JESUS SAVES”. Some wag had written underneath, “but Keegan scores on the rebound”. Ah those Liverpudlian comedians.

  14. barriejohn says:

    She’s as nutty as a fruit cake herself!

    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.

    This is very similar to the rebranding of a product.

    Paul said : “Didn’t find Original YHWH suitable for your busy lifestyle? Try New Improved YHWH instead.” Now they’re saying: “Finding Original YHWH too harsh? Try New YHWH Lite!”

    They’re making it up as they go along!

  15. tony e says:

    A pastor with a sense of humour? No doubt there will be already be a segment of her congregation trying to get her ousted from her post.

  16. JohnMWhite says:

    Here I was thinking that religious bigots had no self awareness but at least one homophobic misogynist clearly realised that ‘religious nuts’ was a shot straight at himself. Too bad he wasn’t smart enough to think “maybe I should try to be less nutty”.

    Must be a dream come true for the persecution fetishists to be persecuted by their own church. And all because they are meek, humble Christians just trying to persecute the right people.