The born-again controversy: De Mel denies religious cult within team

By Jatila Karawita | Published: 2:10 AM Feb 5 2021

By Jatila Karawita

‘Born again’ is a new phenomenon among religious fanatics in the world, and it has come under the microscope overnight due to allegations that players of the National cricket team are being forced to embrace this radical but novel movement against their wishes.

When asked for his opinion on the allegation during a TV political discussion on 1 February, former Sri Lanka fast bowler Asantha de Mel flatly denied that the aforesaid movement was being forcibly practiced in the National team changing room with his blessings.

For the benefit of our readers, we would prefer to explain the meaning of this concept ‘born-again’ as put forth in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, as well as in the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English, respectively.

In the Concise Oxford English Dictionary born-again has been described as: ‘Relating to or denoting a person who has converted to a personal faith in Jesus Christ.’ Further it states, ‘Newly converted to and very enthusiastic about (an idea, cause, etc).’

In the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English, ‘born-again’ has been elucidated as: ‘Having come to have a strong belief in a particular religion (especially Evangelical Christianity) or idea, and wanting other people to have the same belief.’

It is pertinent to note here that de Mel clearly explained there was no such cult or a religion called ‘born-again’ as alleged by certain quarters, and he stressed it was only a charismatic movement.

It has to be remarked here that there is no denying the fact that this new phenomenon called ‘born-again’ has come to stay in this world, and it is being practiced by those who have converted to a personal faith in Christ or by those who have come to possess a strong belief in Evangelical Christianity.

For those who are ignorant of what Evangelical means, let us elucidate it as well.In the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, it goes as: ‘Of or according to the teaching of the gospel or the Christian religion. Of or denoting a tradition within Protestant Christianity emphasizing the authority of the Bible, personal conversion and the doctrine of salvation by faith in the Atonement.’

In the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English, the meaning of Evangelical has been described as thus: ‘Of belonging to a Christian group that emphasizes the authority of the Bible and the importance of people being saved through faith, or as a member of the Evangelical branch of the Christian Church.’

The former Chairman of the Selection Committee cum Manager of the Sri Lanka team admitted he is a member of the Assemblies of God (AOG).

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English has explained the meaning of Assemblies of God thus: ‘The largest Pentecostal Church in the US (one that emphasizes the gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as the power to heal people who are either ill or sick.’       

A closer look at the present Sri Lanka team shows majority of players hail from either Anglican or Catholic schools, and hence, they practice those two faiths as opposed to a lesser number of players who are presently hailing from Buddhist schools.

As enshrined in the Constitution, every citizen here is entitled to follow any faith of their choice and nobody has the God-given all-encompassing right to force others to follow their faith against their better judgment.

If by any chance there is a truth to this allegation, then it is incumbent on the sport’s local ruling body Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) to probe the charges and sort out the issue for the good of cricket in this country.

This is because any unwarranted headlines could be disadvantageous to the team’s bid to return to winning ways, after being whitewashed by both South Africa and England in their two most recent Test series.

The principle each individual of this country has the right to embrace any faith of their choice would be applicable to the National team as well.

And we wonder whether the allegation of forcing players to become ‘born-again’ is only a cleverly orchestrated sideshow, to distract the public from getting to know the root cause of most of the ills plaguing the cricket team.

By Jatila Karawita | Published: 2:10 AM Feb 5 2021

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