If we we've hung around " church-ianity " for awhile we've heard the term " born again ". Jesus talked about it to Nicodemus during their roof-top meeting in the dark of night.
Jesus said, "You're not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the 'wind-hovering-over-the-water' creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it's not possible to enter God's kingdom. When you look at a baby, it's just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can't see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.
Somehow, this became another commodity of church dispensed only under the right conditions, by the " right " people. Some hands and some God manipulation, Abracadabra! It's interesting think about birth, the 9 months inside the " mother ship " floating around in this deep dark void, our life supported by the umbilical cord. Suddenly the contractions of birth start and we are literally squeezed and pushed out into the world. The doctor grabs the scissors and cuts the cord, and there is that brief anxious moment...when the baby inhales that first breath of the world outside.
I think if anything, I didn't understand " born again " until I left the church. Inside the womb of the church, faith-life is pretty much supported by the nutrients it provides...it can become very comfortable. But when you leave the church, and you grab the scissors and cut the cord yourself it's that same anxiety...can I survive, and breathe...can faith-life survive outside the womb of the church. Many, many people are finding, yes it can...abundantly.
Through religion people have absorbed a bunch of ideas and beliefs about themselves, God, others and life that govern their identity, relationships and way of being in the world. It’s as if we’re trapped inside a story that is rigged to never lead to the freedom, fulfillment and abundance that people want and Jesus promised.I devoted a year of my life to being Jesus in Nashville, where I live. What I thought that would mean and what actually happened were two totally different things. That year flipped the religious script in my head, and gave me a new courage to be a fully expressed human being in ways I never imagined possible. I started the year convinced I needed to live the life of Jesus and then discovered that the life I needed to live was my own. Free at last! My story almost never made it to print. Despite two near-death experiences and being branded a heretic by my Christian publisher, the book came to fruition as a result of the encouragement and support of my divine nobody friends.
You can read the full interview ( here ).
Diana Butler Bass says this in her new book, " Christianity After Religion: The End Of Church And The Birth Of A New Spiritual Awakening."
" Have we lived the majority of our lives in the context of this awakening, struggling towards a new understanding of God, how we should act ethically and politically, and who we are deep in our souls? What if this awakening is not exclusively a christian affair, but rather a certain form of christianity that is playing a significant role in forming the contours of a new kind of faith beyond conventional religious boundaries? Is America living in the wake of a revival gone awry or a spiritual awakening that is finally taking concrete...albeit...unexpected...shape?
Strange as it may seem in this time of cultural anxiety, economic near collapse, terrorist fear, political violence, environmental crisis, and partisan anger, I believe that the United States ( and not only the United States ) is caught up in the throws of a spiritual wakening, a period of sustained religious and political transformation during which our ways of seeing the world, understanding ourselves, and expressing our faith are being, to borrow the phrase, " born again." Indeed, the shifts around religion contribute to the anxiety, even as the anxiety gives rise to new sorts of understanding of God and spiritual life. Fear and confusion signal change. This transformation is what some hope will be a " Great Turning " toward a global based community on shared human connection, dedicated to the care of our planet, committed to justice and equality, that seeks to raise hundereds of millions from poverty, violence and oppression.
This awakening has been under way for sometime now and has reached a crucial stage, as a new " Age of the Spirit " has dawned. Theologian Harvey Cox points out that this turn toward spirituality as the new form of faith started in the previous century. The 1970's were a significant period in a long process of moving away from old-style religion towards new patterns of faith. In the last decade, this shift has accelerated exponentially, sweeping millions more into both discontent and the longing for change. " ( Chapter One )
Millions of people are leaving the church searching to find real faith, and it is in this sea of discontent and longing for change that Jim Palmer pastors. Through his two previous books, " Wide Open Spaces " and " Divine Nobodies " he has strummed a chord that resonates with many many people. Jim is doing alot of life coaching, counselling, talking...helping people navigate these unchartered waters. Jim commented in a recent e-mail, " I feel like my upcoming book has the kind of message that could effectively be taking a stand on something that really matters. A lot of folks have shared this journey with me the last several years. They are ordinary people, many from a Christian background, who have been shedding religion and no longer support the view of Jesus promoted by the institutional church – one that leads to condemning people of other faiths, forces Christians to adopt beliefs and practices they often cannot live up to or support in good conscience, and requires people to promote a message that divides human beings in the name of Jesus, in the name of God. Jesus stood for the worth and value of every human being. What if this was our starting premise and we courageously worked towards a world that works for everyone. I started the Occupy Religion effort because I believe that the 99% of those who follow Jesus want to embrace him as central to their relationship with God and spirituality without it creating division and hostility in the world. "
And again, from Bill Dahl's interview with Jim...
What I learned in my year of being Jesus is that Jesus was special, not because he was more divine then the rest of us, but because he was courageously more human than most. I wish I could convince people that they are born into this world as complete and whole human beings with equal worth to God as Jesus of Nazareth. In the eyes of the religious establishment we might be nobodies but we are divine nobodies, as much a child of God as that nobody Nazarene carpenter. This is the message I would like to get through to fellow survivors of childhood abuse. It’s the message I would have wanted to express to the 10-year-old girl sex slaves I encountered in brothels in Southeast Asia in my work as a human rights activist. As an ordained minister, it’s the message I wanted to deliver to a Christian friend who said, “I am a piece of shit to God, which is why I need Jesus.” It is very difficult to convince people that they are good and beautiful human beings when religion has sufficiently convinced them that they are “sinners” and despicable to God. It’s also difficult to deliver this message when institutional Christianity has convinced us that acknowledging the divine in every human is a betrayal of God.People have Jesus so wrapped up in layers of religion that he and his truth are virtually unrecognizable. The prostitutes and notoriously irreligious people of Jesus’ day got Jesus better than anyone else, and were the people Jesus preferred to associate with. I think I’m going to go into the streets of Nashville today and beg the tattoo artists, single moms, waitresses, artists, and all the nobodies who wouldn’t be caught dead inside a church and beg them to share with the world who they know and have experienced God and Jesus to be.
I have been blogging here for almost ten years now. I think most readers will have seen my journey evolve to exactly where Jim Palmer is. I have written 1,774 posts on this blog, I have had 2,211 comments and 185,947 page views...I have never asked for anything, nor should I expect to get anything. But here's the thing, I really really believe in what Jim Palmer is doing. There are very few pastors that are in Jim's place helping people find faith, retain faith and live faith in the " Wide Open Spaces." Jim also said this to me last night...
Hey; it's Jim. I wanted to touch base with a few folks about, Being Jesus in Nashville. So, suddenly it was up on Amazon! Wasn't expecting that. I haven't broadcasted it publicly that the book is technically available for purchase because I am still working out the details with the International Justice Mission and the Tourette Syndrome Associationabout donating a portion of each book purchase to their efforts. As you might remember, for a season I traveled abroad with the IJM, and I have TS. But in anticipation of the official book release, I wanted to give you a heads up.
You can help me, you help Jim, you can help International Justice Mission and the Tourette Syndrome Association by buying Jim Palmer's " Being Jesus in Nashville "...it will challenge you to live your faith to it's fullest in the midst of your Nashville...your neighborhood.