Born agains — save us from the saved

Over ten years ago when I was a wild eyed and bushy haired young spiritualist (I was a member of a religious group called Sahaja Yoga), I was confronted outside a shop at Knox City by a ‘born again’ Christian who wanted to talk about how he was saved. What proceeded was thirty minutes of verbal bullshit spouting from both our mouths, one ego tripping over the other as we each raised voices in anger over the ignorance of the others beliefs. My insistence for example that the “Holy Spirit in the Trinity was in fact Mother Mary and it was the oppressive male dominated church that suppressed this knowledge to keep women subjugated” (intake of breath) was countered with “(at this point I request the reader just pick up a bible, randomly pick a page and read it)”. By the time the conversation was over we were both more sure of our standpoints than ever before. I would hazard that most of you have had similar conversations.

One of the stories he told me was how he came to find Jesus and overcome his alcoholism. This is a common theme amongst the newborns; finding Jesus and being saved from whatever addiction or affliction they possessed. The common catalyst you hear from ‘born agains’ was some kind of spiritual experience. I found here an account by Steve Rawlins, a man in prison for drug dealing and is described in the article as being anti-​​christian (don’t they love making that claim) who was admittedly seeking some kind of spiritual path. He attended bible studies satirically, spending most of the time being an annoyance. That is until he was offered (wait for it) “some scriptures from the Bible that would give him answers to ‘impossible’ questions.” On the third such offering he was then said to have had his born again moment, the spiritual money shot as it were. “He was suddenly filled with guilt that he had wandered so far away from God and at the same time he knew he had been totally forgiven. Steve fell to his knees and wept copiously as he was flooded with the Holy Spirit. He says he felt his heart had been opened to the truth”. And no they didn’t happen to mention which scriptures did the trick.

At this point im hoping that you have picked up on a common theme. These ‘awakenings’ always appear to occur when the person is neither rational nor responsible. This is the guy in Aliens who freaks out and screams they are all going to die — “game over man, game over”. Why would a god require the person to be in an unfit state before they can be saved? Both Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan had born again experiences themselves, both during times of heightened emotion and extreme exhaustion. In Johnny’s case he crawled into a cave to commit suicide when he saw an angel. And like them, Steve Rawlins says he was immediately transformed in that moment. Let me stress this again — immediately transformed.

Cut now to an episode of Oprah, in which we see interviews with men who have brutally beaten their wives. When Oprah asks one husband what happened that stopped him, we are treated to another cookie cutter moment of Jesus’ personal intervention and conversion. You could say an immediate transformation took place. The interview continues and we discover that the wife had actually given the husband an ultimatum; find Jesus or find the door. Im assuming the transformation occurred not long after this. Oprah then asks him if he still ever feels rage towards his wife. He immediately answers an emphatic Yes. But the hand of Jesus always keeps him from acting out on his rage (queue in the sounds of a record needle scratching across a record). Hang on a minute! Did he just admit that in his heart he still wants to beat his wife if it weren’t for his belief in Jesus? That he still had room in his heart for rage despite it being filled with the love of Christs forgiveness?

This is the problem isn’t it. For all the talk of experiences, transformations, awakenings and of being saved; when it boils down to it nothing has actually changed. Just like the experience itself, the redemptive powers are purely subjective. They are still alcoholics, wife beaters, drug sellers, child abusers….. just non-​​practicing. Or even worse they completely disassociate themselves from their actions to claim it was actually Satan who buggered the child, teabagged the gay hooker (im looking at your Ted Haggard), faked the cancer or drank the vodka. I don’t know about you but I find both preventative measures highly tenuous. I would like to see the statistics for re-​​offending by born agains.

But in the end it matters little to the faithful, for salvation is only a prayer away, there is always redemption before then end. In fact it is really only sustained unrepentant sin that is considered cause for concern. We have seen the levels of forgiveness handed out to the likes of Ted and Pastor Michael Guglielmucci. Why? Because they repented. Indeed the bible says there is only one unforgivable sin, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28: “Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men …”). The offender need only be reminded that Jesus gave his life to atone for all sins he might have performed now or will commit in the future. In other words, no physical action could lead to a born again being denied eternity; that sort of punishment is only for thought crimes against God himself.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you the third ape.

Note: my wife rightly pointed out that another husband on Oprah was told by his church leader that he needed to work on his issues, which he was. I should stress again my point that how we deal with these things is different for each person. My point is that no religion can truly save any individual from taking some responsibility for their actions and making a real change for the better.