“Born Again Pagan” and Other Bumper Stickers Christians Consider Antagonistic
A friend directed me to a controversial article about “antagonistic bumper stickers” a few days ago. Honestly, I had a hard time taking the article seriously because the author was so far off base about modern Paganism, what Pagans believe, and what Pagans intend by expressing their faith (the intent is apparently to piss off people of the Christian faith). The article was poorly researched, and I’d hazard a guess that the author had never held a two-sided dialogue with a Pagan prior to deciding the intent of anyone with a bumper sticker that says “Born Again Pagan.”
My Christian friend thought I might be interested because I had a T-shirt 15 years ago that said “Born Again Pagan,” and a similar bumper sticker a few years ago. He’d suggested I was “in his face” about my religion.
Huh? He and the author of that article had similar viewpoints–that my sole intent was to antagonize Christians. This was another source of amusement for me as I read the article–1. “knowing” my intent without ever asking why I chose that bumper sticker and 2. the idea that Christians “own” the term born again.
As for the latter, Are only Christians born again? I suppose that was my own viewpoint when I was growing up Southern Baptist and the church doors never opened without me. Back then, I’d never read anything at all outside of my religion and didn’t know about all the other versions of Gods who had died and been resurrected…or my favorite Resurrection Story about a Goddess, Inanna, who was resurrected after being hung naked and dead on a wall for three days. I won’t get offended that so many Christians have never read outside their religion because I was once gleefully uninformed myself. This is why I am now gleefully informed–I love studying different religions and seeing their similarities whereas before I saw only differences.
As for the former, What was my intent (as intended by ME, not what anyone else might THINK my intent was, based on their own world view) in wearing a T-shirt or sticking Born Again Pagan on my car? What I liked about it was the reference (in my interpretation, anyway) to reincarnation and the cycle of life/death/rebirth, but in Nature and in the human race. I’d lost a few people close to me around that time, and I found the never ending cycles of life and seasons of my world to be rather comforting. Whereas the Christian interpretation of Born Again is more metaphorical, my mind instantly went to both the physical rebirthing into new life as well as the spiritual immortality. Wow, the idea that I meant only to piss someone off seems rather…silly.
But I wore that T-shirt to shreds around the house and I sold that car, trading for a new one. The new bumper sticker, according to the previously mentioned article, is just as offensive, maybe more so, since my intent is so obvious. My new “antagonistic” bumper sticker says “Born OK the First Time.” Once again, my Christian friend shook his head. How dare I! So horrible of me to put something so offensive on my car that he might have to read when encountering me in traffic…you know, while I’m letting someone cut in front of me to get across the street in wall-to-wall traffic or slamming on brakes to avoid the child who just ran into the busy street or stopping to offer jumper cables to a stranger in the rain…. Yeah. No, he never asked my intent either, but after I told him my intent, he’s never mentioned it again.
When I was at a small booth at a festival in early November 2010, I first saw the Born OK the First Time bumper sticker and was completely delighted by it. I bought it on the spot. I knew my car wouldn’t make another long trip and I’d have to trade it soon, as it was hovering at 100,000 miles, so I bought it on the spot for the unknown car that I bought within the month. My intention wasn’t to wave it in the faces of Christians and tell them that I didn’t like their religion. My intention was the pure delight I get from what it means to me. Here’s the story:
My mother begged God for a daughter for years before I was born. Through a series of medical issues, it became doubtful that she’d ever have another child. She kept praying, though, for a daughter. Desperate, heart-wrenching prayers. She promised God that if He would only give her a daughter, she’d take raise the girl to do God’s work. I was her last chance for a daughter, and after a very difficult pregnancy, I was born into a very Christian home where I seldom missed a church service except on the one or two occasions where I had the flu and couldn’t keep breakfast down long enough to sit through Sunday School. So I was, by my mom’s intent, born to do God’s work…though the “God’s work” that I do surely doesn’t fit what she had in mind at the time. I think she had in mind that I might play the piano for church services, marry a local minister, and teach music lessons and Sunday School. Though I did play the pipe organ and piano in church in my late teens, my spiritual world expanded far beyond that. So to me, someone “born to do God’s work,” I really do feel that I was born right the first time.
To my Christian friends, that’s the story behind my bumper sticker. Like most things in my life, there is definitely a reason or an intent behind everything I do. I can’t think of anything that doesn’t have a reason or intent, even though many people won’t understand unless I tell them, and even then, they often don’t understand how my mind works. You may not either. That’s okay–you don’t have to understand or approve of me, and I don’t have to understand or approve of you. And next time you tell me your intent is to change me, remember that your God made me this way, and did it right the first time.