Last month, Allison and I had Eli baptized at the church we’ve been going to.
It was a big step for the family, and so far one of the biggest parenting decision we’ve made. Neither Allie or I were baptized as infants, nor were we raised in faith traditions that do that sort of thing. For me, baptism was taught as something that had to be a conscious, fully-rational choice to be a christian forever and ever and ever and therefore was an impossible sacrament for babies. Fourth graders; however, are assumed to have the rational/spiritual capacity to make this lifetime election.
That way of doing things just doesn’t make sense to us.
But, as Eli is our first child, we had to discuss the precedent we were setting for ourselves and our future children if we did choose to baptize him. Our current church is affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (a denomination that believes in / practices the baptism of infants), but we’re not by any means devoted to this one particular brand of faith and have no plans to only attend EPC communities for the rest of our lives. Honestly, I am just barely comfortable with going to any church at all. What if we move to Austin and join a community that we feel ok with theologically but they are picky about the whole kid-baptism thing? How do we explain denominational/theological distinctions to a 6 year old who wonders why his older brother got baptized but he didn’t? Do we have to make infant baptism a non-negotiable in future church hunts, which is already the most depressing and horrible experience associated with attending church?
We still don’t have remarkably good answers to those questions and are going to have to deal with those issues as they come up. It all turns out to be much bigger than how old a kid ought to be before you dump water on his head. I struggle with the fact that I even go to a brick-and-mortar church with a budget and staff and debt and denominational BS and politics and stereotypes and precedents and the like. I believe that most of those things present theological and practical problems that I’d rather not have to deal with. Regardless, this is where we find ourselves.
Here’s what it came down to: we believe that there is a God and that He loves our son. We believe that a spiritual life involves a duel movement– God towards man and man towards God. The tradition of baptism that I was raised with celebrates that second movement, marking an individual’s choice to live life with God. Infant baptism celebrates the first movement, that God loves this cute little sack of bones and instincts and already has a plan for his life to be meaningful. Mostly, it marks our intentions as parents to raise Eli to know that love is better than hate, peace is better than violence, and humility is better than power.
It was a special moment. Lots of family and friends came out and we felt very well supported.
Thanks to those who came out.