come-to-Jesus moment

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come-to-Jesus moment

Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon Nov 08, 2010 6:01 am

I came across the following in Newsweek:
<2010 “‘The Republicans could fracture,’ Carafano [[of the Heritage Foundation]] says—some in favor of staying the course, some in favor of getting out. ‘I don’t think the GOP has had its come-to-Jesus-moment on Afghanistan yet.’”—Newsweek, 1 November, page25>
COME-TO-JESUS MOMENT didn’t appear in any dictionaries that I checked and, as far as I can make out, very little has been written about it, although it is not all that rare. The related religious expression come-to-Jesus meeting was where one would have one's religious come-to-Jesus moment. When and where the religious expression became figurative (see below) is unknown.

Jesse Sheidlower (now editor-at-large for the Oxford English Dictionary) wrote the following on the expressions when he was the ‘Word Maven’ at Random House. Note near the end of the article his frustration that he was able to unearth so little on the origin of the figurative sense.

The Random House Maven’s Word of the Day had this to say:
<2000 “Numerous charismatic preachers traveled the country, ‘saving’ people as they went . . . These evangelists exhorted people at camp meetings to ‘come to Jesus’ in language that was charged with emotion, vividly evoking the damnation that would come if a sinner did not repent. Coming to the altar—coming to Jesus—involved walking through the crowd to the front, thus admitting your unworthiness and need for salvation publicly. The first come-to-Jesus meetings were camp meetings where you met your Redeemer face to face--with no priest to cushion the blow of the realization that your sins were making Him go on suffering, no saints to intercede on your behalf. . . . So, if anyone is so inclined, I'd welcome any more information on this expression. Did some late-night comedian resurrect it? A politician use it? . . . Meantime, here are some recent citations, to prove that Kim [[the person who asked the Word Maven the question]] and I are not imagining this. There seem to be two meanings: 'a meeting in which one faces an unpleasant truth'; and one using ‘moment’ rather than ‘meeting’: ‘an epiphany in which one realizes the truth of a matter.' (see here for the full article)
Noted etymologist Barry Popik wrote the following:
<2010 “‘Come to Jesus’ (and the ‘come to Jesus meeting’) was an early 20th century Christian message, often spread by traveling preachers who held tent meetings. A different and later sense of ‘come to Jesus’ (also called a ‘come to Jesus moment’) means getting back to core values, coming clean and admitting failures. This sense of ‘come to Jesus’ dates to at least 1983 and has been frequently used in political contexts.”—, 29 February> (see here for the full article)

COME-TO-JESUS (religious sense): Relating to a Christian conversion (accepting Jesus as Savior), recommitment, or associated ritual, especially public confession of one’s sins, shortcomings, . . .

Here are some COME-TO-JESUS (religious sense) examples (not necessarily used at a come-to-Jesus meeting) dating back to the 17th century. And try as I did I was unable to find any examples in the religious sense of a come-to-Jesus moment.
<1659 “In this our pilgrimage we must still be coming to this Church, but never separating from it, because in coming hither we come to Jesus the author of the New Covenant.”—Golden Apples, page 51>

<1755 “Have you been thus enabled to come to Jesus? You have then a Right to all the Ordinances of the Lord. Come humbly, under a Sense of your Unworthiness of the Divine Favour.”—Some Important Cases of Conscience Answered by S. Pike & S. Hayward page 97>

<1848 “Many poor sinners who have accepted the call join their voices in the appeal, and say, ‘Come to Jesus.”—The Friendly Visitor. Published by W. C. Wilson, page 100>

<1883 “‘You are pretty rough on the old man . . . after he has . . . given you nice presents.’ ‘Nice presents nothin. All I got was a ‘Come to Jesus’ Christmas card.’”—Mirth for Millions by G. W. Peck, page 325>

<1885 “He then noticed the case of another minister, who had recently experienced a similar change at a Revival meeting, . . . That minister asked if he would come to Jesus; and they prayed together . . .”—The Reaper and the Harvest by P.C. Headley, page 123>

<1888 (book title) “Come to Jesus” by N. Hall>

<1942 “. . . I had the joy of seeing lost sinners . . . come to Jesus . . . .”—History of the Michigan Conference of the Evangelical Church by W. H. Watson, page 13>

<1988 “One of the most frequent ways for a camp-meeting chorus or hymn to begin was with a hearty ‘Come’: ‘Come to Jesus, . . . Come ye sinners . . .”—Encyclopedia of the Religious Experience by C. Lippy and P. Williams, page 888>

<2010 “Hurry up, hurry up, brethren! I can’t keep the people coming to Jesus all night!”—Sunlight and Shadow - Or - Gleanings from My Life Work by J. B. Bartholomew, page 261>
The following definitions seem to cover the various situations encountered in the quotes below:

COME-TO-JESUS MOMENT (figurative/nonreligious sense): An epiphany in which one realizes the truth of a matter – a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something; an aha moment; coming clean and admitting failures; moment of realization; moment of decision; moment of truth; turning point; critical moment; moment of reassessment of priorities; moment of realization that one must get back to core values; life-changing moment (see Harry Sargent posting below)

In my search, the earliest figurative/nonreligious example I was able to come up with was from 1994:
<1994 “‘We had a real scare, a real come-to-Jesus moment. It was a time to figure out what we were about, where our priorities were. And there was no question. What we didn’t realize is how we’d let our work overwhelm our family . . .”— Peer Marriage: How Love Between Equals Really Works by P. Schwartz, page 143>

<1997 “It was an Aha Moment, the Come to Jesus Moment.”—South Texas Studies 1997, Volumes 8-11, page 69>

<1999 “Some of the older staffers called it the ‘come-to-jesus’ moment. ‘It happens to everyone,’ Joe Morgan once muttered . . . He had spent twelve years on the Hill . . . ‘You come here, thinking you are going to change the world. Then something happens that makes you realize the best you can do is go along with everything. And then you either accept this and stay, or you don’t and leave.’”—A New Kind of Party Animal: How the Young Are Redefining ‘Politics as Usual’ by M. Mitchell, page 55>

<2000 “This gentle minister [[an ex-convict]] was once so out of control he spent an entire year in maximum security, 23-hour lockdown. He once stabbed a guy two inches below the heart. . . . But he was born again when he was 35. His new life started in a come-to-Jesus moment that sounds like a cliche. . . . Today his life is guided by a Bible so tattered from use it broke into three pieces. He wants to help carefully chosen parolees learn how to live again.”—The Gazette (Colorado Springs), 25 December>

<2005 “After the 2004 election, the Democratic Party had a ‘come to Jesus’ moment. Party leaders realized that they had been ignoring religious voters, allowing Republicans to corner the market. They resolved to change this, and in the past year have hired a religious outreach coordinator for the Democratic National Committee, placed religion consultants on campaign staffs, held caucus meetings on the topic, and tried to inject religious rhetoric into their messages.”—The Boston Globe (Boston), 13 November>

<2006 ”When I hear someone refer to a come-to-Jesus encounter/talk/experience, they're usually referring to a moment of truth that is difficult and harrowing for all who experience it.”—Telegraph-Herald (Dubuque, Iowa), 18 February>

<2007 “My feeling is at a certain point we're going to have a 'come-to-Jesus' moment in the caucus and talk about whether you fund (the war) or not," said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash.”—AP Online, 17 April>

<2008 “Koonce got into teaching after he was in a severe car accident about five years ago. The wreck caused him to reassess his priorities. ‘It was kind of a come-to-Jesus moment,’ he says. ‘I started thinking about what was really important to me and a way for me to give back.’”— The Greater Baton Rouge Business Report (Louisiana), 18 November>

<2009 “Karen Marie Livingston, 49, who commutes between Woodbridge and Capitol Hill, got six tickets during years of cheating, the last one a whopper. ‘I decided to stop when I had to tell my husband I got a $1,000 ticket,’ she said. ‘I cried for a week. But I couldn't blame anyone but myself. When you get a $1,000 ticket, it's a come-to-Jesus moment.’”—Washington Post, 15 February> [[illegally driving in HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) highway lanes]]

<2010 “As important as the Massachusetts special election was to the health-care debate, it also represents a come-to-Jesus moment for the GOP. What kind of party will it be?”—Washington Post, 20 January>
(quotes from archived sources)

Ken G – November 7, 2010

Re: come-to-Jesus moment

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Nov 08, 2010 7:28 am

In politics, it appears to me that the difference between a come-to-Jesus moment and a go-to-hell moment is largely in the eye of the beholder.

For the ones having the moment, of course, it's all Jesus, especially here in America, where almost everyone in public life (politician and non-politician alike) has their moments. ;-)

Re: come-to-Jesus moment

Post by Wizard of Oz » Tue Nov 09, 2010 3:34 am

.. it appears that our taffy ranga Prime Minister, who is an avowed atheist, must have had a Come to nobody moment which in her case fairly says it all !! ..

WoZ who prefers "Come up and see me moments"
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: come-to-Jesus moment

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Nov 09, 2010 6:03 am

Wiz, And, as an added boneus, ‘those come up and see me moments’ are sure to increase your angular momentum!

Ken – November 8, 2010

Re: come-to-Jesus moment

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Nov 09, 2010 6:24 am

But in Julia Gillard's case, not her Anglican momentum.
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Re: come-to-Jesus moment

Post by hsargent » Tue Nov 09, 2010 3:49 pm

I was brought up in the South and a Baptist. We had many revivals with Evangelists coming to our church with fire in their messages.

We would have an alter call at the end of the service and the walls would be lined with folks experiencing a "come to Jesus" moment. This was personal life changing at least in their minds at that moment.

In general, a secular use of the expression would mean life changing.

A current political example, I read this morning in the paper a successful business man who got fed up with the direction of the current US Congress. He had a "come to Jesus" moment and decided to run for Congress even though he had no experience in politics. He won but the example was when he changed his life to attempt to make a difference.

Reality may sit in eventually which was also the case with some of those folks who lined my church walls on Sunday night.
Signature: Harry Sargent

Re: come-to-Jesus moment

Post by Wizard of Oz » Wed Nov 10, 2010 4:05 am

.. but just think there are a whole plethora of alternative Chritian moments that may have greater meaning for some people .. for example ..

.. a boat builder may have a Come to Noah moment.
.. a small World Championship Wrestler may have a Come to David moment.
.. a lion tamer would obviously have a Come to Daniel moment.
.. a Japanese whale murderer may have a Come to Jonah moment.
.. a trumpet player may have a Come to Joshua moment.

.. the list goes on and on ..

WoZ wishing for a water into wine moment
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: come-to-Jesus moment

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Nov 10, 2010 10:09 am

The Khmer Rouge had their come-to-Golgotha moment.
Billionaires have their come-to-Mammon moment.

Re: come-to-Jesus moment

Post by PhilHunt » Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:23 am

Does the Pope make come-to-jesus eyes to his followers? :D
Signature: That which we cannot speak of, must be passed over in silence...or else tweeted.

Re: come-to-Jesus moment

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:47 am

Following on from the post above in which I mentioned Julia Gillard, this morning I heard a story on the radio about the dolls representing world leaders that have been created by Seoul's city authorities in connection with the G20 summit. The doll depicting Australia's Prime Minister looks marvellous wearing her Austrian alpine costume, black hair and robustly wholesome scowl, as can be seen at the linked-to story.
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Re: come-to-Jesus moment

Post by Bobinwales » Thu Nov 11, 2010 12:48 pm

Given her roots, perhaps they should just have bought one of THESE
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: come-to-Jesus moment

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sat Nov 13, 2010 9:48 am

.. Bob you have nailed it !!! .. we could have her dressed like that and the Premier of NSW dressed as Uncle Sam or Abe Lincoln .. with all the PC local plans for "boat people refugees" I wonder how long before our national leader will be an Osama bin look-a-like ..

WoZ worried for his grandchildren
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

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