It’s one of those questions. Some people are so keen to ask and most of us not keen to answer. It’s a dividing line between those who are ‘in’ and those who are ‘out’. People are keen to draw that line. Remember, Jesus didn’t draw lines, he crossed them. The ‘born again’ shall be last and the first will be those you never thought were ‘born again’. All of Christianity summed up in ‘are you born again?’ Harsh? Perhaps. But, someone, an insecure sectarian, decided that to be a ‘real’ Christian you must be a Born Again Christian.
It was already worked out of course, you must be a Protestant and then Protestant isn’t enough, you have to be Evangelical, then Conservative Evangelical, an inerrantist, ‘Reformed’. Some of this is in that question – ‘are you born again?’ It can cover the whole sequence up the pyramid of what a real Christian is – ‘Oh no, you’re not in’; ‘If you believe that then you can’t be a proper Christian.’ Jesus had no rules, no creed, no specifically Christian scripture, hell, he wasn’t even a Christian, he certainly wasn’t ‘Conservative’! He was a radical like me.
And yet, there is a whole host of these test areas: taking the Bible literally (Jesus showed the dangers of taking it too ‘literally’), arguing against contradictions in the Bible (it’s not the most consistent book in the world, duh!, multiple writers, even in the same books, hundreds of years apart, even the Gospel writers tell different stories ). And we want to reduce it all to a single question. And if we are ‘born again’, surely only God really knows and it’s between you and God. Did you know that ‘born again’ only appears three times in the Bible, two of those when Jesus opens up a conversation about it. It wasn’t a test question, but we’ve made it into one. Yes, I was there once. Am I still ‘born again’? Well, I don’t believe all that ‘born again’ stuff, reading the Bible made it pretty difficult, studying it more difficult still. I know so many people who started out as ‘Evangelical’ and ‘born again’, well they aren’t any more, still Christians though. What was one of the biggest difficulties we all faced? The ‘born again Christian’ worldview, great for those for whom it works, but it doesn’t work for everybody. And why should it? Jesus wasn’t a ‘born again Christian’, even St Paul didn’t take the Bible literally, he has some interesting ideas. Infallible? A much later idea.
My partner still cheerfully says, ‘Yes, I’m “born again”’, if asked. Pretty liberal though, not going to go along with the rest of it. It’s an exercise in not listening, perhaps I could get a bigger audience if I said ‘I’m born again’. I might get asked to speak at Evangelical events. But who wants to be in those places where you are constantly being checked out, be on the receiving end of ‘we’ll pray for you brother’? Why aren’t the ‘born again’ offering to pray for us without knowing whether we fit the mould. Do pray for the spiritual wellbeing of your Hindu or Jewish neighbour. Don’t fret about whether they’re ‘born again’. And remember that your liberal Christian friend may be just as ‘born again’ as you. But you should spare everyone this kind of spiritual measuring and ask yourself, ‘Am I born again? Or am I just following the old ways of looking down on, writing off and not listening?’ Who says all Christians have to be the same? No one. Certainly not Jesus. Was Jesus European? Protestant? Against women Bishops or same sex marriage? Nope. Time to avoid being divisive and ask some better questions, or better yet, keep quiet and listen.