The first time I ever heard of Born Again Christianity was on Oprah Winfrey. I think it was a show about marital difficulties or something, and there was this couple that were unburdening their personal issues before an interested audience. The woman said she was annoyed and hurt because her husband kept scoffing at her new-found faith. Every time he had to introduce her to someone, he would say, "Well, here's my Born Again Wife," or "Here's my Twice Born Wife". The husband, looking rather pleased to have his wit revealed, said something like, "Well, you are, aren't you? You keep going on and on and on about being Born Again. So where's the problem if I tell people that you are?"
The second time I encountered Born Again Christianity was in Art College. A close friend of mine joined the cult and it caused a lot of upsets with his traditional Hindu family. He ignored them all - with the solid support of his Born Again friends - and set about reorganizing his entire life. First of all he narrowed his scope. Usually we have multiple identities to fit our multiple interests. Henceforth he was going to be totally single-minded in his devotion to Christianity. He was only going to read Christian Tracts and Tomes and listen to only Gospel Music. Everything else was Satan's Creation and he would have nothing to do with Satan. And so outwent his entire collection of non-religious books and his entire collection of music CDs. By 'out' I mean OUT - like straight into the garbage bin. I was totally appalled. Throwing away BOOKS and MUSIC is, like, the ultimate sacrilege for me.
"You could have given them to me!" I said.
"No," he said, firmly. "Of course I couldn't - you think I would knowingly taint you with Satan?"
"You think I knowingly wouldn't want to be?" I retorted. "Jesus, I WANTED that biography of Lennon, not to mention the Led Zeppelin Albums - how could you NOT DO this to me?"
"Don't take the Lord's name in vain!" he snapped.
"It's not in vain - it's totally heartfelt!"
"You don't know anything. Not that I blame you. Nobody here does. My family doesn't understand. They don't even want to understand. They just resent it that I have found a point finally to my life."
"What point is that?"
He turned to me eagerly. "If you would just come with me to our church, you would see it too. You would understand what a difference it has made to my life. I was just existing previously. Now I'm alive. I have been saved, do you understand?"
"No. Saved from what?"
"Saved from everything that comes from Sin and Satan and Hell. I've been saved for eternity." He paused, taking a deep, dramatic breath. "Because I have received the Lord Jesus Christ into my heart as Lord and Savior. It is he who has saved me. Jesus Christ died to save me."
I looked at him closely to see if he was truly, madly, deeply serious. He was.
"How can Jesus save you?" I asked. "As I understand he couldn't even save himself."
That seriously annoyed him. "How would you like it," he demanded, "if I made rude comments about Hinduism?"
"Would that be particularly Christian of you?" I inquired. "Or, hold on, would it be? But anyway why should I mind? I'm not a Hindu fundamentalist. I'm not even religious - except when it suits me, I suppose, and then it's all a mish-mash of different ideas I picked up absolutely everywhere. Anyway, chum, you're perfectly free to have your own opinion. Go ahead, bash Hinduism all you want. There's enough in it too that could do with some good bashing. Go on. You have my blessing."
"Yeah? Well, I think you're a bunch of idol worshipers!"
"And you're not? Who makes such a big deal of crucifixes and Jesus statues?"
"That's different. And did I mention you lot being a bunch of class-ridden heathens!"
"Yes, you just did. And I suppose you lot are a one big happy united family?"
"Maybe one day we'll be. And, you know what, you're all going to hell - that is, if you don't repent your sins and start believing in Jesus Christ any time soon!"
"Is that where we all had gone, when Jesus Christ wasn't even around to be believed in? Christianity is only about 2000 years old, you know, and there were human beings around on earth a long time before that." I grinned at him. "And before that, I understand, there were evolutionary apes."
"That's a debatable point," he said coldly. "But I'm not going to get into pointless debates with you."
"Pointless because you don't have a point?"
"No, because you don't have any faith!"
"Actually, you'll begin to see the light if you put your faith in our Lord and Savior..."
"Oh, shut up," I interrupted. "Don't you start proselytizing next - I had this complete stranger hold me up in the street for that the other day and that was irksome enough. If Christianity works for you all, fine, why be so militant about everyone else embracing it as well?"
"If you were about to step off a cliff and fall to your death, you don't think I would stop you?"
"As an unbeliever in Jesus, you are going burn in hell eternally - and frankly, as your friend, that makes me uncomfortable."
"Makes you uncomfortable? Uncomfortable? If Isaw you engulfed in flames, let me tell you, I would be a slightly more moved. Anyhow, since you're sure about my destination, you know anything about the geographical features? Is there really a River Styx over there?"
"Uh-huh, and, believe me, you don't want to know about that river!"
"Believe me, I do - I read about it in Paradise Lost, and I fully intend to take a dip when I get there. Did you read that good book, by the way? I think Milton really wanted to make Satan the hero, but got side-tracked by Christianity."
He glared at me. "You think this is funny?" he snapped. "This isn't remotely funny, alright? I'm being very serious here!"
"Please don't be. It doesn't suit you for one thing, and for another, if I were a car, I would be an unconvertible. You can huff and you can puff and you will only blow religion twenty thousand leagues further away. Look, I'm not going to put blind faith in anything - and neither should you - why would you want to believe in something that requires you to give your reason a complete rest?"
"It does no such thing - my reason tells me to believe in Jesus Christ and the Bible."
"Well, better you than me, in that case. My reason tells me to keep a healthy distance from a God that threatens hell and retribution unless I believe in him utterly. Not to mention a God that always seems to be a 'him'. Why is it the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost? Why not the Mother, the Daughter, and the Holy Witch? Now, in that case I might have considered converting. There are enough religions that put down women, one that actually didn't would have been so refreshing."
"Are you done?"
"No. I SO dislike that part about Adam and Eve, don't you? Don't you ever wonder how man can be superior to woman when he can't use his own brains? It takes two to tango, you know. You can't tempt somebody with anything if they have it in them to resist - like myself here. Blaming her because he was such an easily led sort. Like yourself here."
He gave me a look capable of freezing an entire peninsula. "Understand one thing," he said, one word at a time. "Nobody's 'led' me into this - it was my own decision - I chose to believe - get that into your head once and for all."
I remained unfrozen, since I'm not a peninsula, but an island (No man is an island, so I infer all women must be).
"Chose to believe in all of it?"
"Seriously? C'mon, are you telling me you believe in absolutely everything? Even those fables about Noah and the Ark and Jonah and the Big Fish?"
"Yes, I do."
"You don't wonder how Noah could have gathered pairs of every single living creature from every continent into that one Ark - and with just eight people to look after them all - to feed them and, uhm, clean all the poop and everything?"
"No, I don't!"
"And Jonah? How come he didn't suffocate from a lack of oxygen or get digested by the stomach juices of that Fish?"
"Do you always have to be such bloody fool?"
"Better a bloody fool than a Born Again one, don't you think?"
He thought no such thing and that's why we are not in touch any more. I consoled myself - as I always do - with a book. A very enlightening and uplifting book. I went out and bought it, because shopping is good for the soul, Heathen or Christian. It's called 'The Gentle Art of Making Enemies'.