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23 February 2005

“Born Again”

This week’s lectionary reading from the Gospel was the famous passage
containing the phrase “born again” and John 3.16 (which is the verse
that guy at sporting events is always holding up a sign for).

The phrase comes, of
course, from a scene in John’s Gospel where Jesus tells a Pharisee named
Nicodemus that he will never see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again. 
Somewhat testily prodded by Nicodemus to make himself clearer, Jesus says, “That
which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is
spirit.”? In other words, spiritual rebirth by the power of the Holy Spirit is
what Jesus is talking about.

He then goes one step
further, playing on the word pneuma, which means both “spirit” and “wind” in Greek.  “The wind blows where it will, and you hear the sound of it, but you
do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is
born of the Spirit,”? he says (John 3:1-8).  The implication seems to be that the
kind of rebirth he has in mind is (a) elusive and mysterious and (b) entirely
God’s doing.  There’s no telling when it will happen or to whom.

Presumably those to whom it does happen feel themselves
filled, as a sheer gift, with that love, joy, peace which Saint Paul singles out
as the principal fruits of the experience.  In some measure, however fleetingly,
it is to be hoped that most Christians have had at least a taste of them.

Some of those who specifically refer to themselves as “Born Again
Christians,”? however, seem to use the term in a different sense. 
You get the feeling that to them it means Super Christians.  They
are apt to have the relentless cheerfulness of car salesmen.  They
tend to be a little too friendly a little too soon and the women to
wear more make-up than they need.  You can’t imagine any of them
ever having had a bad moment or a lascivious thought or used a nasty
word when they bumped their head getting out of the car.  They
speak a great deal about “the Lord”? as if they have him in their hip
pocket and seem to feel that it’s no harder to figure out what he wants
them to do in any given situation than to look up in Fanny Farmer how to make
brownies.  The whole shadow side of human existence– the suffering, the doubt,
the frustration, the ambiguity– appears as absent from their view of things as
litter from the streets of Disneyland.  To hear them speak of God, he seems
about as elusive and mysterious as a Billy Graham rally at Madison Square
Garden, and on their lips the Born Again experience often sounds like something
we can all make happen any time we want to, like fudge, if only we follow their

It is not for anybody to judge the authenticity
of the Born Again’s spiritual rebirth or anybody else’s, but my guess is that by
the style and substance of their witnessing to it, the souls they turn on to
Christ are apt to be fewer in number than the ones they turn off.

meditation is taken from Frederick Buechner’s Whistling in the Dark:  A
Doubter’s Dictionary
, p. 23-24]

I’m not willing to judge the authenticity of the “born again”
experience–I’d even hesitantly say that I have had this experience
myself–but I think that Buechner may be right, in one sense.  For
too many people, religion is a comfort, a palliative, an “opiate” as
Marx described it.  True religion tries one’s soul, and while it
may offer a bulwark in life, it is probably more unsettling than it is

Buechner’s criticism can apply equally to born-agains, Buddhists, or
liturgical people.  But we probably see it and hear it and have it
offered as justification most often from those who claim to be
“born-again.”  They are, after all, numerous, influential, and “loud” in our society.

Posted in Rayleejun on 23 February 2005 at 7:58 am by Nate

“Just in case you wondered why I had disappeared”

Now there’s Raptureletters, a
service to send an e-mail to your friends and family to tell them what
happened when the Rapture occurs and you are caught up in the clouds.

The rapture: When all the believers in Jesus Christ, who have been born again, are
taken up to heaven.

After the rapture, there will be a lot of speculation as to why millions of people have
just disappeared. Unfortunately, after the rapture, only non believers
will be left to come up with answers. You probably have family and
friends that you have witnessed to and they just won’t listen. After
the rapture they probably will, but who will tell them?

We have written a computer program to do just that. It will send an
Electronic Message (e-mail) to whomever you want after the rapture has
taken place, and you and I have been taken to heaven.

Posted in Rayleejun on 23 February 2005 at 7:51 am by Nate