My Born Again Experience, Part 5
In Part 4 of my born again experience, I shared how the acknowledgement of Jesus as my True North, in effect, compelled me to stand with my old friend J. A. For me, it was a matter of spiritual integrity, based on what I had come to know of Jesus, as reading scripture through his eyes.
However, for all practical matters, that event marked the beginning of my journey. For when attempts to follow a map that doesn’t have its true north properly aligned, one can’t truly say that they’ve been on a journey at all, but rather, simply wandering. So there I was, embarking on a journey, a trip with a specific destination in mind, but I’d spent years with a wanderer’s mentality. And what’s worse, I was a theological wanderer.
It is with this in mind that I now quote James Alison’s word in Essay 5, page 223, first paragraph:
What you would expect to happen as the Other other [Most High God of Jesus] nudges you into daring to become something rather more than you thought you were, is that you will have a crises of self, times when you would undergo a ‘loss of the world.’ Things will not appear as they were, you won’t quite know how you’re oriented.
I gotta tell you, I found myself thrown into this scenario as an immediate result of my decision. We are told by Jesus that we shall know the truth and the truth will make us free. At the same time, I wonder if most of us know how deeply we are bound. The “BEFORE” and “AFTER” brought about in my life was indeed a contrasted display of what it means to be in captivity, and what it means to be free.
The Bible study group I was a part of had provided me with a sense of community, and make no mistake about it, it was a fundamental community. So when J. A. revealed that he was gay, even in asking the community to pray his gay away, he found himself targeted because being that kind of sinner is an abomination. The moment I defended him, I became the guy who was not defending – not the person – but an “abomination”.
I came to realize this in the weeks and months that followed, when people would approach me and strike up “random” conversations, or question me on the topic of same-sex marriage. (All of this being before the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality.) After having defended J.A. when they tried to make a victim out of him, I’d come to recognize the victimization mental machine at work on a larger scale – and the same integrity that made me stand with J. A. made me stand with those fighting for equality. Consequently, I found my social circle shrink to the point of virtually disappearing.
The biggest turning point was during a class that took place right after an exceptionally violent weekend in Chicago. A guy asked me, “If my son and I are walking through a park, and we come across two guys kissing each other on a bench, how am I supposed to explain that to him, he’s only 7?”
I responded by saying that it ought to be much easier to simply say that “they’re obviously very fond of each other” as an explanation of their conduct; as opposed to whatever explanation he’d give his son for two guys shooting at each other in the very same park. I went on to ask, why one activity is an abomination, but the other one isn’t?
It’s strange: the violence that results from the mimetic rivalry mechanism is more acceptable than any deconstruction and elimination of the mechanism itself, especially when dealing with a religion that counts on that mechanism for its existence.
There is no religion higher than truth. The quote I referred to from James Alison’s work (p. 223) goes on to say:
You will lose certain feelings which you have become accustomed to thinking of as ‘religious’ feelings. However, and this is very important, faith is not a feeling. Faith is a disposition that keeps on stably even when you no longer have any feelings. Feelings are part of what assures us of the familiarity of things. But the gift of faith is what enables you to be stretched beyond the familiarity of things, when our feelings don’t give us their customary reports.
All of us experience feelings of comfort, security, and familiarity within the framework of a community. Those very feelings, however, are what makes it so easy for those in the community to lose objectivity in regard to the community’s direction and focus.
A few months ago during the college graduation season of 2017, Donald Trump gave the commencement speech at Liberty University at the invitation of one of his top Evangelical supporters, Reverend Jerry Falwell, Jr. The crowd, by virtue of their cheers and applause, let it be known that Trump was indeed in the warm embrace of community as he spoke his typical rhetoric which would have drawn boos and hisses had he been speaking at a school like U. C. Berkley. However, one thing he said really caught my attention. To thunderous applause, Trump said, “We here today at Liberty, we are true believers!” The overall at this point was, again, typical Trump rhetoric, but those words stuck out as I noticed he did not say, “We here today at Liberty, we are believers of truth!” or “We believe what is true!” something to that effect.
This is a perfect example of how religion as usual functions as a community – as true believers. This it NOT what Jesus has called his followers to. Jesus called those who follow him to believe what is true, and he demonstrated that very truth. And by this relationship we have with truth, we were given a gift. A gift called faith.
This is also the difference between what I described earlier as being a – Theological Wanderer, a religious person, and an Anthropological Traveler, a person of Faith.
I found myself in a position where I was a man without a community, as did my True North, Jesus. And I had to then consider and compare what I had lost, in the form of religion, to what I stood to gain, as a result of faith. The very first thing was indeed – RESULTS. None with religion vs. immediate with faith; a rivalry of a different sort based on right identification with the victim instead of mimetic identification with the Social Other who created the victim. This is not a triumphant victory; I was in no way, “more than a conqueror.” For such an achievement would have indeed needed a rival, and a victim.
In this case, Faith has given me something that religion never could; advancement beyond the constraints of my former self. I was free to love and embrace all, without any of the preconceived notions and labels we tend to slap on people in order to make them easier to deal with. For the first time, I understood what it meant to leave the house with the 120, as took place on the Day of Pentecost, and carry the commission to go to the four corners of the earth. A thing that can’t be done by a person who is seeing rivals. I breath deeply in that understanding.
It was in this freedom that I continue to walk by faith and follow the map, confident that a new community was to be formed in my life. That map has indeed led me here, to this moment in which you are reading these words, seeing them, and me, through the eyes of Jesus.
By this truth, my life continues to be transformed by the life, death, and post-resurrection accounts of the historical person named Jesus. I hope my story, my born-again experience, continues to resonate with you, and you find inspiration to take in the challenges presented in James Alison’s collection of essays, as I have. Share your own story. Until next time, and always, be in peace.
Dr. Chezeray M. Moore
Dr. Chezeray M. Moore discovered mimetic theory through studying James Alison’s “Jesus the Forgiving Victim: Listening for the Unheard Voice.” The truths expounded by Girard so profoundly effected Moore’s life that he declares Girard his guru. While Dr. Moore can only be reached by post, he would greatly welcome your correspondence. His address is Dr. Chezeray M. Moore, #B-54755, P.O. Box 1700, Galesburg, IL 61402.
Jesus the Forgiving Victim: Listening for the Unheard Voice with James Alison is a product of the Raven Foundation with financial support from Imitatio. The essays are published by DOERS Publishing, LLC and are available in print, as e-books, and a video course at most booksellers.
Editor’s Note: Would you like to submit an article for consideration to The Raven Foundation? Find out how in the guidelines of our new section, “Your Voice.” Articles published do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the staff at the Raven Foundation, but are selected primarily because of the way they enhance the conversation around mimetic theory.