Born Again

“The Na-vi say that every person is born twice. The second time is when you earn your place among the people, forever.”

In Avatar, Jake says the above as he takes the final stage in becoming one of the Omtaicaya clan. As he takes it, all the Omaticaya place their hands on him – or one another – in a chain connection of welcome.

It has reminded me of my first Church service in 2009, where all members of the congregation stood in a circle, holding hands, as the Vicar said “We are the family of this Church”.

I’ve never been overly keen of the phrase “born-again Christian”, because it’s used so very often in unloving circumstances. To be a born-again Christian is to too many to be someone dipped into a blood bath in order to be accepted for the dirty disease filled person they are and will always be.

That kind of Christianity doesn’t have Gospel – Good News – in it.

A man in my Church came up to me at coffee time today and complimented my smile. No idea who he was… but smiled a little wider back and said thanks. He then told me of friends who did not believe there was a God, and at first had criticized him for his faith. But as he talked to them and showed them rather than the unfortunate stereotype that religious people have come to be associated with (believe what I believe or else),  he was in fact someone who believed in a God who was all things of Love, they came to a respectful position. They’ve continued to discuss with one another since, and have become closer because of it.

That in turn reminded me of conversations with fellow students at college, who had no idea it was possible to be Christian and have no problem with homosexuality, or to not believe in a literal word-for-word reading of the Bible, to be Liberal. To be open.

A Christianity exists that does not condemn. That accepts the beauty of a soul and helps to nurture it in love and exploration, rather than with a “furious devout drench” (as Philip Larkin described it) and a congratulatory pat-on-the-back: well done now you’re still a dirty bad human being, but at least you won’t burn for it.

When are we born again? Avatar tells us it is when you earn your place among the people. Earn – not a reward or a job, but a standing up to be counted, an I want to be one with you, and you want to be one with me. We’ve learnt from another, and will continue to.

When was the moment I was born again? Is there more than one we can describe with that term? Well there’s an Avatar sequel coming up, so maybe he’ll be born for a third time!

My baptism service was lovely, and that amidst many other points in my Christian life both inside and outside of Church itself have been “milestones” if you like in my journey.

But if I had to pick a moment, it would be that first day in Church. That holding of hands, that “we are the family”, that God of Love within and around us. That was where my journey started, when I was born a new Christian, and started growing.

That Holding Hands post I wrote nearly a year ago now became viewed so many times by so many people that I myself have been brought back to it over and over again.

I was holding hands with the people of my Church on my first day there, I was holding my nervous hands with my friends before being baptised, I was holding hands with my confirmation buddies… physical connections like these and the spiritual connections that our eyes share as we look at one another, that our hearts share as we stand together or in distance, are so incredibly important in this life. Something that James Cameron, director of Avatar, beautifully portrays in his film.

“The Na-vi say that every person is born twice. The second time is when you earn your place among the people, forever.”

Forever. The people you find yourselves being “born-again” with really do become the sort of “family” my Vicar talked about on my first day in the Church. Being “born-again” is a coming home. It’s a finding who you are, and where you were always meant to be. A realisation. A revelation. An (quite suitably today is the) Epiphany…

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