Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nicodemus was an important person, so his freedom of action was constrained.

He couldn't easily and visibly do things that people who thought he was important thought he shouldn't do. He might become less important.

He was a recognized, inside-the-system values and religion guy, Nicodemus. He wanted to hear in person a man who preached outside to whoever showed up.

Nicodemus went to see Jesus at night. He didn't follow the crowds in the daytime.

He asked Jesus how he could be saved. Jesus recommended that he follow the rules that folks like him usually followed.

Nicodemus said he already did that and implied that he still felt hollow.

Jesus said, "You must be born again."

Nicodemus said, "You mean I must enter again my mother's womb. Not possible."

But I bet the image of being born again reminded him of a few radical life-improvement activities, and they are what he thought wasn't possible. He went away, it says in the New Testament, sad. Still in the dark.

That is the born again story in the Bible. Saying that someone needs to be born again or has been born again is, in itself ambiguous.

Protestant Christians to whom the idea is important tend to treat it as non-ambiguous. You might be expected to be saved, be born again in a certain kind of room, with a certain kind of people, with certain visible emotional reactions, depending on what that group expects of a member of your demographic who is born again.

And it is expected you will start living and feeling the best values of the group of people in that room where you were born again.

But born again could be something else entirely. It could call you away from the group right there into a search for other people, other places. The good that you try for after you are born again might be different than the good of people around you who frequently use the words "born again."

Nicodemus seems something like Jung's clients who he wrote of who were, many of them, successful, older, had solid lives and felt empty. If people like that have the guts to be open to what born again means for them, we may all get someplace else that is good.