Item description for Born Again and Again: Surprising Gifts of a Fundamentalist Childhood by Jon M. Sweeney...
"When I was five, I kneeled with my father in the living room of our house to ask Jesus into my heart." So begins Jon Sweeney's spiritual memoir of his childhood experiences. Full of poignancy, humor, and surprise, Born Again and Again explores aspects of Christian fundamentalism not usually seen: the mysticism of God indwelling the body, religious certainty and its positive and negative effects, powerful experiences of worship, community, and trust, and most of all, the importance of struggling with matters of faith until they are truly one's own.
With a remarkable range of experiences---from Scofield Bibles to firsthand missionary work in Asia and from street witnessing to the tutelage of family and famous friends---Sweeney writes with warmth and affection for the faith he has left behind. And he offers wise reflections on those aspects of fundamentalism that all Christians might learn from.
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JON M. SWEENEY is an author, a book publisher, and a popular speaker. He is the editor of "The Road to Assisi: The Essential Biography of St. Francis" and the author of many books, including "Verily, Verily: The KJV 400 Years of Influence and Beauty." He lives in Vermont with his wife and three children."
Jon M. Sweeney currently resides in the state of Illinois. Jon M. Sweeney was born in 1967.
Jon M. Sweeney has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about Born Again and Again: Surprising Gifts of a Fundamentalist Childhood?
A thought-provoking memoir on growing up as a Fundamentalist Sep 30, 2005
Little Jon Sweeney was a most earnest boy, one might say a Baptist mystic, reenacting Gospel scenes with GI Joes. "My own imagination thrived in an environment where God was always watching....For me, there were angels in the trees. The birds sang me songs in my walks to and from school....Clouds followed me and God was in them."
Both of his grandfathers were independent Baptist preachers. His father was an executive at Moody Press in Chicago, the flagship publisher of fundamentalist books. Little Jon was a paid model, smiling for photographs that served to advertise church-family products. From childhood, he sensed he would walk in their footsteps, modeling a public and active faith. "God intended me to lead, I was told; that much was clear, and the world out there needs more leaders. Until I was about twenty years old there was nothing else in my life that I so clearly understood: there was a spiritual need and I would meet that need."
Yes, Little Jon was devout. And in this memoir Big Jon gives an excellent description of "the spiritual feelings and ideas" of such a boy "growing up in the American suburbs in the 1970s and 1980s in a distinctive brand of Christianity" that thought of itself as the only authentic brand. Sweeney progresses from reflections of childhood to teen and college years, where he, again earnestly, more formally learned the rational basis for Christian faith --- apologetics --- and techniques for witnessing.
Some of Sweeney's most interesting material is the juxtaposition of a fundamentalist faith that is both highly emotive and subjective even as it is very rational and carefully reasoned by stalwarts such as C. I. (Cyrus Ingerson!) Scofield, Charles Ryrie, and Josh McDowell.
In college, on an extended overseas mission trip with the goal of converting Catholics to Christianity, Sweeney came to grips with these two aspects of his faith. Even as he helped these Catholics "experience the God of the Bible for the first time," they introduced him to a love for God that was "lively, mutable, and intimate." They opened his eyes to what Carl Sandburg called a " 'fresh and beautiful' side of Jesus."
Sweeney ultimately was swayed by the relational and mystical aspects of his spiritual legacy. "The sensuous, more than the dogma, binds me, like a slip knot, loosely but decisively to my religious place." In his 20s he discovered the Catholic mystics and Benedictine monasticism, even seriously considering entering Thomas Merton's community in Gethsemani, Kentucky.
But instead he married, moved to New England, and...the particulars of his adult life are a bit vague. He works in the publishing field. He is an Episcopalian. He is not a fundamentalist, though it seems he can't quite identify who he would be if it hadn't been for the best of what he learned in that childhood environment.
Readers who consider themselves fundamentalists will gulp at Sweeney's conclusions. Midway through the book he writes, "We all need saving --- again and again --- from greed, hate, selfishness, and all of the other vices that consume us, keeping us far from experiencing and understanding the love of God. But, we also need wider hearts and wider experiences of new life, new birth, and the love of God. The formula was not as simple as I was led to believe."
For other readers who may be skeptical of fundamentalism, the book delivers what the subtitle promises: "surprising gifts of a fundamentalist childhood."
--- Reviewed by Evelyn Bence
Accentuate the positive Sep 12, 2005
This quick read provides an interesting glimpse into growing up in a fundamentalist household with all the expectations and experiences that involves. Sweeney journeys away from fundamentalism as he struggle to cement his own faith, but he is never bitter. He appreciates the values he was taught even as he wrestles with their meaning in his life.
Sweeney does a great job of explaining without judgeing. It is nice to read someone communicate his experience without attempting to score cheap points. I would love to have had a bit more on where exactly Sweeney landed theologically and why, but otherwise it is a tender and insightful look at an important cultural group and moment. If you are interested in what it is like to grow up in a fundamentalist community and to find our own place in the faith, this is a great place to start.