This is a reflexive question to myself, not a question for you. And I feel that I should share my answer. Please see this as a meditation on a question that every Christian eventually asks him or herself and NOT as proselytizing, or an attempt to shift the conversation in a particular left/right direction.
This morning, on my drive into work, I listened to two different talk radio programs. The first was a Christian oriented program, and the other was a news program from a left leaning organization. Both of these had some discussion regarding “Born Again” Christians. As you might imagine, the Christian program held the term in high esteem, as something worth celebrating – a momentous occasion that needed to be recognized. And as I’m sure you might also imagine, the news program was less flattering as it discussed socio-political activity of Born Agains. As I considered the different perspectives, I felt as though God were asking me, “how would you answer the question?”
My response, which is very typical of me, was “that would depend on who was asking.”
The problem with the question “are you born again” is that it is a loaded question and different people will ask it meaning entirely different things. Even within the Christian community, where you might expect some degree of consensus on what this question means, you will have a variety of questions that are actually being asked.
- Do you believe that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and that no one comes the Father except through him?
- Do you believe in the inerrancy of Scripture?
- Have you been baptized?
- Do you believe in the ministry of the Holy Spirit/Have you been baptized by the Holy Spirit?
- Are you engaged with implementing Christian values as law in the United States?
- Are you pro-life?
- Are you pro Traditional Marriage?
I suppose the list continues far longer than I care to imagine but these are the big ones that I generally encounter. Now strictly speaking, the term “born again” comes from John 3 where Jesus says “I tell you truth no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born from above.” To which Nicodemus asks “how can anyone be born after having grown old?” The implication here is that there is a literal birth and a second spiritual birth. So someone who has been “born again” is someone who has experienced this second spiritual birth.
But that is strictly speaking.
What has happened in America, in reality, is that you have people who have had a deep, and meaningful spiritual experience that has changed them (or at a very bare minimum left them with the perception that they have been changed). The change is so profound that the believer is energized by it and wants everyone to feel what he or she feels. The believer wants everyone to know the joy that comes with this change. So they latch on to just about anything they think they can do to help other experience it.
So it is with the best of intentions that someone who has been born again ends up picketing an abortion clinic. Protesting a same-sex marriage. Spreading all kinds of poisonous vitriol against people who have no idea what they did to deserve such cutting remarks.
It would be like my three old, excited to get a tricycle and experiencing such joy from it, that he decides he MUST share this joy with his baby brother. Who is just over a year old. Who still falls over when trying to walk. When that 1 year old sits on a bike for a three year old, I can guarantee that pain and tears will ensue and the older boy will be very confused about why his baby brother isn’t enjoying himself.
Let me also be clear that my own politics are entirely beside the point here. Regardless of my opinion on abortion, same sex marriage, immigration, Human Rights, Guantanamo Bay, Government over-reach and regulation of the financial sector none of those dictate anything about my relationship with God. And really, if you are talking about being “born again” you are talking about a relationship with God. If you mean anything else, then you need to turn the question back around to yourself.
And if you are Christian the question should not be “are you born again?” but rather “are you walking with Jesus today?”