The phrase “to be born again” holds a lot of religious power for some folks. It’s an English translation of a line in John’s gospel (written in Greek) which is probably better translated “to be born from above.” In the context of John’s gospel, it’s a call to examine your life in the larger scheme of things and open yourself to God’s vision of things..
What it has come to mean is having an emotionally charged religious experience during which you “accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior” (a phrase, by the way, that does not appear anywhere in the biblical witness) so that when you die you are promised eternal life in paradise.
And it seems to me that this more recent, very capitalist interpretation misses the point entirely. Why call it a capitalist interpretation? Seeing one’s primary relationship to the Divine as a means of securing your place in heaven, in so many words, is about buying property and making sure your spot is reserved. It’s “the deal of the century” and if you stick with me, I can get you in on it, too. Sad to say, those who don’t get in on the deal will all go to hell. They won’t get to live in the good neighborhood forever. So sad.
You don’t have to scratch the surface of this outlook on faith and religion to see the parallels that individualism has painted over the gospel message.
The fact is, none of us has any real knowledge of what happens beyond this life. What we do know is that we are alive, today. We know that today we are living this one life. We know that today we have choices to make, and choices always have outcomes. We know that today we will do things, say things, hear things, choose to read things that will deepen our attitudes for or against the other human beings in our world.
If we wake up today to a new day of life, we have been given our return, again. We have, if we open our eyes today, been born again into another sunrise, another set of relationships, another series of opportunities for practicing trust, practicing compassion, practicing asking really good and deep questions about life and our engagement with it.
At some point, each of us will arrive at that moment when we draw our last breath. Then, we will know if there is anything else beyond this life to know. Here’s how my faith as Unitarian Universalist helps me with that. I trust that the Divine connects all things into One, and I trust that nothing and no one is lost in that process. I trust in the eternal and boundless compassion of the Divine, and I am convinced more every day that if I cannot at least try to live into God’s love today that I probably wouldn’t make good use of eternity. I often wonder: what if I arrived at the end of my life and discovered that this life is all that there is. Could I take that last breath and smile knowing that I’d done fairly well with my days here? Because, as I said above, if I get to that moment and find that there is more beyond this life–I trust. I trust that all will be well with my soul.
This is our return. Today we are born again. If being born again means anything, it’s about what we do with today.