I write a blog that few people read with a message most people don’t want to hear. I don’t white-wash it, sugar coat it, and I ain’t overly nice about it either. I’m offensive. I embrace being offensive. Not because I want to keep you at arm’s length or run you off, not because I want to get in a good lick in the fight. None of that.
No. I want to be REAL with you. And whenever you get to where you can actually HANDLE THE TRUTH, you will see what I mean, and we will get along fine!
You see, I am offensive because I was Born Again This Way.
What WAY was I born again?
Well, if you follow me to the white, middle-class, Protestant, American, Evangelical church I am most likely to attend and look and listen very carefully, you would be pardoned for thinking the way I was born again was to have a life of privilege buttressed by conservative politics and the salvation I find there, conservative financial stewardship and the salvation that offers, occasional blanketly judgmental speech all manifest in my owning at least one fine home, at least two fine cars, several of the latest electronic gadgets all with my sins kept private and unexposed. I get to live this way here on earth (or at least strive for it), a life of “faith” in Jesus made possible by American might and superiority (thank you vets) all with the hope that when I safely die I get to “go to heaven” where I will enjoy eternal bliss. Ideally, there won’t hardly be a speed bump between this life and the next. Now, if I can just get those stupid liberals and all the minorities they brainwash with their lies to wake up and support this, then Jesus’s Kingdom will finally Come (or they can burn in Hell – either way is okay, actually).
There is precious little or no challenge to any of this where I go to church. Even our charity and care for the poor is carefully constructed to insulate this privileged mindset and life I enjoy. I volunteer four times a year to help feed the homeless. I took the Premier Homeless Pseudo Church 101 class where professional social workers (the kind who love Jesus) taught me not to give my name and number to the homeless, not to be manipulated by them, and rather than giving food, clothing, and especially money directly to the poor, rather to give these things to them – the professionals – who know how to manage the poor and really help them without being manipulated into “enabling” them. It just keeps everything more honest and simple, and with a million dollar budget, THEY can really do the Lord’s work! It’s actually best if I not even shake the hand of those suffering from homelessness (we try not to belittle THEM by calling THEM “homeless” or “bums” or even “those people” because that can be so damaging).
My kids join a “service project” in Mexico or LA once a year where they build a house for the homeless and get sweaty one day, but spend the next three days on the beach, at the theme park, and visit the local mall where they hopefully don’t overspend my credit card. But our church has built the youth group a gymnasium with a private coffee bar which makes Starbucks look like they don’t know how to market coffee, where the kids have a theater for movies and parties year round, and to top it all off they get the annual ski trip in the winter and summer camp in the mountains every summer. God bless ’em, I want my kids to have all the very best Jesus has to offer.
This is the way I was born again, it seems, if you follow me to church. This is the way my children are born again too, and hopefully we are ensuring this bliss for generations to come. We are born again this way.
However, most of my spiritual ancestors from Bible times, the first, second, and third centuries, were all born again and arrested, thrown in dungeons, flogged, stoned (with rocks), crucified, thrown to lions, and burned at the stake. They were born again THAT WAY. Every last one of them was born again only to die, or risk death for having been born again THAT WAY. (Too bad they didn’t live in God-blessed America!)
There is very little in common, aside from lip service, between my spiritual ancestors and myself. They gave up their lives to belong to Jesus; I give up Jesus at the mere glance at a naughty picture. They sold all their property and church leaders divided it up so that none of the poor lived in any need; I write a check and make the problem go away. They were noted for their sexual purity, even though they too struggled with it, and sometimes failed miserably. I try harder not to be a legalist than being true to my wife. My ancestors gave up their rights (which they were never granted by Rome or anyone else anyway), and I claim my American “rights” are “God-given” and complain if there is even the slightest hint that some liberal agenda might make it so I don’t get to enjoy them.
On Jesus’s birthday, the astrologers brought him gifts fit for a king. I, on his birthday, get something for myself while shopping for my wife and kids. (What DO you get for the person that has EVERYTHING? That is hard to do!)
Lady Gaga tells me I was born THIS WAY, and I think Jesus died so I could be born again this way too, but my spiritual ancestors were born again cruciformed, and I have no idea what that means. I grasp for the red pill and swallow the blue one, and as no one notices, I can pretend I stand for something. Jesus did not grasp at deity, but humbled himself to the point of death on a cross. I refuse to humble myself, but I grasp at greatness every chance I get, and I promote our church that way too! I have a thousand dollars to the new stained glass fund!
As you can see, there is no confusion here. If my faith causes you offense, so be it. We have this all figured out. Come to church where I go, listen to Pastor Bates explain it. He says it all better than I do.
Cruciform. I was born again this way.