The Cultural Identity of Being “Born Again”

I actually come across as pretty normal on the surface.  But recently, I have realized that I’m not simply a religious guy, or even just a Christian… I am one of those evangelical fanatics- basically another version of Kirk Cameron.  So now, I take this opportunity to come out of the closet and accept my social label as an official Born Again Christian.


“Even though I see fundamentalist Christians as wild-eyed maniacs, I respect their verve.  They are probably the only people openly fighting against America’s insipid Oprah Culture- the pervasive belief system that insists everyone’s perspective is valid and that no one can be judged.”

-Chuck Klosterman, in his book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

It wasn’t until recently while finishing the final chapter of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs that I finally realized I am part of a subculture of Protestantism which outsiders label as “Born Again”, which from what I gather, was a pretty popular term back in the 1970’s.  This whole time I’ve been calling myself a Christian, but now I fully understand that just doesn’t cut it.  “Christian” has become such a generic term these days.  Jesus is officially a household name now. While Jesus may be Ashton Kutcher’s homeboy, it’s safe to say that the relationship I have with Jesus Christ is much different than someone just using Jesus as a funny pop culture reference on a t-shirt.

By reading about myself from an outsider’s perspective (Klosterman identifies himself as a mix between a “bad Catholic” and an agnostic), I am able to understand my cultural identity in a way I never have before.  I get it now: I am a fanatical Christian.  Every thought pattern in my head eventually comes back to Jesus being the savior of the world and my desire for people to know Him.

I find it extremely important and relevant to quote a paragraph from Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs:  “There are no other subjects, really; nothing else- besides being born again- is even marginally important.  Every moment of your life is a search-and-rescue mission: Everyone you meet needs to be converted… Life would become unspeakably important, and every conversation you’d have for the rest of your life (or until the Rapture- whichever comes first) would really, really, really matter.  If you ask me, that’s pretty glamorous.”  For me, calling myself a Christian doesn’t simply mean that at some point I came to the realization that I belief Jesus is the son of God, which would be the simplest definition of the word Christian.  Instead, I live a seemingly curious and quirky lifestyle as it relates to my relationship with Jesus Christ.

You’ve probably heard of “Catholic guilt” or maybe even “Jewish guilt”, but I need to introduce something called “Born Again guilt”.  Because we truly believe that Jesus literally meant it when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father but through Me,” we carry this burden of wanting every person we meet to “have a personal relationship with Jesus” like we do.  We sincerely believe that by trusting in Christ as the redemption for our naturally flawed nature and by loving serving others as ourselves, we will be part of the Heavenly Kingdom when Jesus returns as the King.  Sounds pretty sci-fi, yes.  But so does every religion, including atheism.

It’s no secret that I find reasons to insert random facts about the year 1983 or to tell which actors are Jewish or relate the Rubik’s Cube to everyday life.  That’s just me being me.  But I am also constantly looking for ways to write about or at least mention Jesus in ways that are subtle as well.  I realize that if Scenic Route Snapshots was simply me preaching, I wouldn’t be getting between 600 and 1,000 hits each day.  Instead, I write about whatever off-the-wall thing is going through my head that week.  And if it’s possible to show my faith as relevant to the subject as my faith is relevant to my life, I won’t shy away from mentioning it. I would love to sit down with people and discuss my relationship with Jesus on an everyday basis.  But I know that often, that isn’t practical, and therefore not possible.

Kirk Cameron is the official mascot of Born Again Christians. Just ask them about a movie called Fireproof or something called "the love dare"...

Everyone I know, it seems, already understands why Jesus died on the cross. That cultural familiarity with Him, in American, often can be the thing that keeps people from seeking Him in their lives beyond a basic understanding.  It’s hard to tell people what they already know.  So when I write and when I am involved in seemingly surface conversations with people, I try to find ways to point the thought process to my faith somehow- even it’s simply using the word “afterlife”.

How can you tell a Born Again Christian (also referred to as “saved” or “evangelical”) from other deists who use the term “Christian” to describe themselves?  Here are a few red flags to look out for:

They attend a “small group”. In addition to regularly attending their church on Sunday, many Born Again Christians meet once a week (in groups of around 6 to 10 people) at someone’s house for about two hours to study the Bible together and pray.

They strive to study the Bible and pray on a daily basis. In addition to their weekly small group meeting, they also study the Bible and pray privately as well.  Sometimes they refer to this as their “quiet time”.  Many of them can be seen doing this during their lunch breaks at work.

They avoid using profanity. This is often a way they recognize each other.  This means they also refrain from saying “oh my God” as well, as it profanes the name of God to matters that are not holy in any way.

They use the word “blessed” to describe their life. It’s a way of glorifying God in a non-churchy sounding kind of way.  Also, when you leave a message on their cell phone, they end their “sorry I’m not here right now…” spiel with “have a blessed day”.

They truly believe that sex is for only for people who are married to each other. Even if many of them largely contribute to the high viewership of the reality TV show The Bachelor, it’s understood between them all that they collectively do not approve of the “overnight date” episode with the “fantasy suite”.

They politically identify as Republican, or are part of the newer, cooler, independent version called the Libertarian Party. If nothing else, these two political parties typically support the Pro-Life movement whereas the Democratic Party is at best indifferent on the issue.  For Born Again Christians, abortion is not up for discussion or debate.

They take the Bible as literally as possible. Jesus was literally born from a virgin.  Jesus literally multiplied the fish and the bread.  Jesus literally came back to life after these days in the tomb, etc.

They do not believe in Evolution. In particular, the theory that humans evolved from apes. Intelligent Design is instead their theory of choice.  Here’s the 101 on how the dinosaurs fit into Noah’s Ark.

They often refer to Jesus as “Jesus Christ”. It’s almost like “Christ” is Jesus’ last name.  Really though, it’s a Born Again Christian’s subtle way of distinguishing Jesus as the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament, as opposed to just a historical rabbi who happened to be a “good teacher”.

I'm not Mormon, but I feel like I can relate somewhat to their cultural identity and displacement in society.

So if you know someone who contains at least two or three of these attributes, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a Born Again Christian. Like Kirk Cameron, Sarah Palin, and President Jimmy Carter, they are the ultra-conservative Protestants.  They seem to blend in with society at first glance, but once you get to know them, you’ll notice the underlying behaviors that set them apart from standard Christianity- like a Mormon, only without the added teachings to the Bible or the crazy mad dancing skills.  (Derek Hough, Julianne Hough, and Lacey Schwimmer of Dancing with the Stars as well as Heidi Groskreutz and Benji Schwimmer of So You Think You Can Dance are all Mormon.)   For some humorous characteristics of Born Again Christians, check out this blog by Jonathan Acuff, called Stuff Christians Like.

“You gave your life to Jesus Christ… and you were not the same after that.” – “Not the Same” by Ben Folds


The Perfect Haircut for a Guy: A Modern Day James Dean Hairstyle

For a guy to talk about his own hairstyle is equally as taboo as one man telling another man how much he liked watching The Notebook.  But here’s the problem.  There are a lot of guys with awful hairstyles out there.  Combed-back, fluffy domes.  Chicken butt-heads.  Preacher-do’s.  The Weatherman.

But now finally, I’m willing to put my manhood on the line to present a simple, easy, and quick-to-fix hairstyle that most men can pull off.  Even for men with receding hairlines, this works.

I have been a man of many hairstyles in my 28.9 years.  From buzz cut, to faux hawk, to “the Ashton Kutcher”, to “the Sawyer from LOST”.  Maybe it’s because I’m so black-and-white of a person that since I couldn’t find the exact perimeters of a “perfect haircut”, my hairstyle was ever-evolving.  Always roaming, like the Incredible Hulk (TV version).

But it’s been a few months now, and I find myself getting the same haircut every 6 weeks.  That’s a new concept for me.  With easy to follow instructions, and pictures featuring yours truly, in shades (which plays down the “look at me/I’m on Twitter” persona that I try to avoid with a passion) I will help you obtain the perfect haircut you’ve always been looking for.

Getting the Haircut:

If possible, go to a barber.  (It’s not a real barber shop unless it has one of those red and white barber shop poles out front.)  A barber is more likely to do a cleaner job.  And I can’t explain it, but it’s somehow less awkward.  It’s just the classic way to do it.

Tell the barber you want a “2 guard on the sides and back” and “leave it one inch long on top”.  The barber will know automatically to “blend” the differences in length between the sides and the top.

For your sideburns, they should come down to the bottom of your “ear hole”.  Having sideburns (of the appropriate length) is a way of saying “I’ve got an edge, but not an obvious one”.  If your sideburns come down lower than the bottom of your ear lobes, you risk saying, “I wish I was in a rock band.”

The barber may automatically “texturize” your hair.  That means they are slightly making the length on top a little inconsistent to give it a bit of a messy look.  Don’t ask for the barber to texturize your hair.  That shows you know too much.  If the barber doesn’t automatically do it or ask you your preference, don’t worry about it.  It’s not that big of a deal.

On a side note, here’s the deal with shaving your face.  Don’t worry about shaving everyday.  Having a “barely there beard” is expected of the modern American man.  The formula is this:  Shave your face every 5 to 7 days, but shave your neck every 2 to 3 days.

Fixing Your Hair:

After getting out of the shower, carelessly dry your hair with a towel.  Mess it up as your dry it.  Do this until you hair is no longer wet.  I mean it.  You’re not going for “the wet look”.  That’s for douchebags, Italians on reality TV shows, and guys stuck in 1993.

There is only one product on the market that I currently fully recommend.  It’s American Crew (Matte).  Costs around $13.  It’s not sticky and it smells manly.  Like a cedar tree.

Dip your middle or pointer finger in the stuff, only getting enough to match the same size as a nickel.  Rub in the pomade (that American Crew stuff) all throughout your hair.  Make sure you don’t concentrate it into any particular area of your hair.  This should take less than 5 seconds.

Next, using your right hand, run your fingers back across the top of your head, while keeping your fingers close enough together that it causes your hair to stand straight up, but not straight back.

Now, run your hands down the sides of your head and down the back.  You don’t want the side or back to stick straight out, causing your hair to form a diamond shape.  That’s a bad thing.

Almost there.

Reach back to the top of your head, and make sure that it’s not stick straight out.  You don’t want a chicken butt.

Last step.  Barely dip your finger back in the pomade.  Touch up the very front.  This part needs to be going straight up, not straight out.

Success.  You now have modern/classic hair that doesn’t move.  An updated James Dean.  Or a pre faux hawk.

While at first, this process may appear to be time consuming, I easily do it in less than a minute every morning.  You’ll master this thing within a week.

Most importantly, don’t tell anyone I told you this.  Men do not talk about their hairstyles.  I’m only doing this to help you.  Be cool.

Just walk away, like we weren’t even talking.  “Hey, what’s that over there?”  You get the idea.

The Standard


Manspeak Table of Contents 

Volume -1: Boyspeak: http://wp.me/pxqBU-9d
Volume 0: Introduction http://wp.me/pxqBU-8G
Volume 1: Humor http://wp.me/pxqBU-1i
Volume 2: Heroism http://wp.me/pxqBU-1m
Volume 3: Filtration http://wp.me/pxqBU-1p
Volume 4: Stance http://wp.me/pxqBU-1s
Volume 5: Movement http://wp.me/pxqBU-1v
Volume 6: Law http://wp.me/pxqBU-3h
Volume 7: Bromance http://wp.me/pxqBU-3W
Volume 8: Relaxation http://wp.me/pxqBU-6a
Volume 9: Appearance http://wp.me/pxqBU-6f
Volume 10: Exploration http://wp.me/pxqBU-6O
Volume 11: Responsibility http://wp.me/pxqBU-8v
Volume 12: Transparency http://wp.me/pxqBU-8J
Volume 13: Composure http://wp.me/pxqBU-8N
Special Episode: The Bachelor Party http://wp.me/pxqBU-uY
Special Episode: The Perfect Haircut http://wp.me/pxqBU-xN


Stuck in Back in Time Like Ned Flanders, Dwight Schrute, and Austin Powers

 

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt…

Like a good bottle of Pepsi Clear or a box of Pop-Tart Minis, every person has an expiration date. Of culture, that is. There comes a certain year in a person’s life where they no longer continue moving forward concerning the way they dress, wear their hair, speak, and use technology. I’m not talking about a 16 year old kid who buys all his clothes at Goodwill, proudly showing off his 1985 Huey Lewis & the News t-shirt, and fashions his hairstyle after Ashton Kutcher in “Dude, Where’s My Car?”. Being retro on purpose doesn’t count.

For me it’s most obvious when I’m at Wal-Mart and the cashier lady’s hairdo consists of teased bangs brushed back into a permed Brillo pad of a mullet: 1984.

Or the retired farmer who is still wearing his Dwight Schrute style glasses and refuses to use a cell phone or the Internet: 1979.

Sometimes it’s less obvious- maybe that co-worker with a thick goatee, wearing a cell phone belt clip, still saying quotes from Austin Powers like “Yeah, baby, yeah!”, and whose cell phone ringtone is “With Arms Wide Open” by Creed: 2000.

This concept became obvious to me when I was accompanying my wife as she shopped for clothes on a Saturday afternoon. I walked into a Van Heusen outlet and realized that while they did have some good deals, if I actually attempted to buy anything from the store, my wife probably wouldn’t let me wear it. Why? Because everything available in a Van Heusen store is designed for men who are stuck in 1994.

It amazed me that a whole company would purposely make outdated clothes. But the executives at that company know their audience. If these outdated clothing stores suddenly stopped making pleated light khaki pants, their abandoned customers would just pledge their allegiance to another outdated store instead. Customers who still say “been there, done that, got the t-shirt”. And the t-shirt they are referring to is a Big Dogs shirt with the quote “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay off the porch!” Yes, because that’s still cool.

Even though I am well aware that every person at some point in their lifetime freezes in the culture of a certain year, my awareness does not exclude me from the inevitable. I admit that whether it’s when I start having kids, or maybe not until I retire, still I will definitely get stuck one year, not even realizing it until it’s too late and I’m either too stubborn or apathetic to change.