Here’s another question that occurs to me about Olasky’s column. Is he saying that John Kerry fibs about his war record because he’s a Catholic?
Here’s a passage from later in the column …
My point, having lived through the 1960s-1970s confusion, is that the era was not one of uncommon resolution, at least not of the patriotic variety. I relished my high draft lottery number. George W. Bush played it smart like John Kerry and found a soft gig. He and I took different rotten paths — he drank heavily, I became a communist — but both of us could say the same thing: “When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible.”
The other thing both of us can and do say is that we did not save ourselves: God alone saves sinners (and I can surely add, of whom I was the worst). Being born again, we don’t have to justify ourselves. Being saved, we don’t have to be saviors.
John Kerry, once-born, has no such spiritual support, nor do most of his top admirers in the heavily secularized Democratic Party. It would be great if he could say: “I was young and vainglorious and often self-absorbed. I exaggerated and lied at times, and since then have thought it necessary not to disavow the fantasies I wove. But I do deserve credit for being there and serving my country in a mixed-up era in which I at times was also mixed-up.”
Kerry can’t say that because he evidently does not believe that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. He and his handlers portray him as virtually perfect in the past and omniscient in the present. In and of itself, that’s also not unusual: it’s so hard for a presidential candidate not to get puffed up when laudatory remarks follow him as closely as Secret Service agents. But do we want a president who pretends that he can do no wrong and never has?
So George W. Bush and Olasky are “born again” and John Kerry is “once-born.”
Now, what precisely does he mean <$Ad$>by that?
I’m no theologian. But I do know a bit about these things. The phrase ‘born again’ has a variety of meanings in Christianity — but two principal ones that I think are in play here.
One is the very general meaning referred to in the New Testament. For instance, in John 3:1-4 when Jesus says (in the King James Version) “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” All Christians embrace this meaning, though they own it in very different ways — the Reformation being a key dividing point in contrary interpretations.
Then there’s a second, more restrictive meaning of the phrase — one specifically associated with post-Calvinist evangelical Protestantism. (Calvinists believe in something like this too. But if you read Olasky’s words, there’s little evidence of a belief in limited atonement there.) That’s much more what we mean in colloquial American English when we refer to someone as a “born again”, i.e., an evangelical.
Let’s also note that Olasky’s discussion of salvation by faith alone tracks heavily with evangelical polemics against non-evangelical Christianity.
So which is it? Is Olasky referring to meaning A or B?
Clearly, Kerry is a Christian in the outward sense. He was born a Catholic and continues to receive communion. That doesn’t tell us anything about the state of Kerry’s soul. But then Olasky doesn’t know anything about the state of Kerry’s soul either. Nor am I familiar with any place where Kerry has stated that he “does not believe that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
So, if Olasky is talking about possibility A, he’s either making stuff up or he’s gained some insight into the state of Kerry’s soul. The only part of what Olasky says that points in this direction is the part where he refers to Kerry’s spiritual fate is shared “most of his top admirers in the heavily secularized Democratic Party.”
The other possibility is that he’s not looking into Kerry’s soul but at his denominational status and noting that while he and President Bush have both had evengelical born-again experiences, Kerry is Catholic, and by this more restricted reasoning ‘once-born.’
I don’t think either of these possibilities puts him in a good light.