A slight change of direction. Let me give some background only to make sense of what I’m going to say at the end…which has everything to do with those personal experiences attributed to Christianity.
I come from a background where baptism is chosen by the baptized as an initiation into Christianity.
Now I’m in the Episcopal church, which baptizes infants.
I have a strong appreciation of catholic theology regarding the baptism of infants, but other theological hang-ups leave me unwilling to baptize my kids without their own desire. These stem from a stubborn belief that grace is big enough to not worry about their discipleship and a strong belief that baptism is an act of political allegiance…which can only be taken willingly.
I don’t want this to become a referendum on baptism and hijack this excellent post…all this was preface for this part:
My son Kyler just turned 12 and was telling me that he wanted to be baptized. I asked him if he understood what baptism is and talked to him about death, burial and resurrection. To be fair, I gave him as many reasons not to get baptized as reasons to get baptized. Counting the cost.
In particular, I told him this:
One day you will wonder why you got baptized. You will look out at the world and think to yourself: “I’m not sure God exists. I’m not sure that I’m willing to follow Jesus past this point.”
And that is when I and the rest of the Church will say to you, “It doesn’t matter. You are no longer your own. You made a promise and you are bound to keep it no matter how you feel. That’s the faith you signed up for…to die to yourself and to live by things unseen (or in this case, unfelt).”
This attitude of mine is probably a reaction (overreaction?) to the emotionalism of my youth…which never served me well in times of depression or serious paradigm shifts.
It’s time to see Christianity as something more like adoption or marriage or citizenship (metaphors that are scriptural). To break an adoption or a marriage or citizenship, it takes more than a vague feeling that you made a commitment that you no longer want to keep, or that you’re not sure you fit in.
No, it takes an act of will that says: “I’m not going to keep my promises anymore.”
Of course, there are reasons that certain promises can be broken. However, the very nature of all these promises (especially, in my experience, getting married or having children), are that you have NO idea what you’re getting into when you make them.
It is no small thing to break a promise. Especially in a Jewish religion such as Christianity. YHWH is a promise-making God.
He also added this:
Writing that out made me realize something funny…
Before someone is baptized, I see their feelings as fairly important in the equation. They are an individual, so to speak.
After someone is baptized, I see their feelings as secondary or tertiary. They are interdependent, so to speak.
It appears I believe that crucifying yourself high individualism might be a significant political meaning of baptism in this age.