Amen, son, amen,
I have some thoughts on the subject of your baptism, brought on by the information meeting we went to last night, and I want to tell them to you while they are still fresh in my mind.
My dear friend J asked me a few months ago, why did we want to baptise you, and I’ve been thinking about my answer ever since. It’s true that it seems unlikely that me and your papa, two of the most non-religious folks you will ever meet, both agreed that we wanted to baptise you. This was something we were both completely on the same page about, even before you were born. We want to have you baptised, and then set you on your merry way to decide which path you want to take. We absolutely did not want to send you to any of those Catholic schools, or follow up on any of the other sacraments, but baptism, yes. Why ?
Well, I guess there are a few reasons for it. I’ll start with the weaker one, which is, I feel like there may or may not be a social stigma attached to being baptised or christened or other infant welcoming ceremonies. I may not be right about this, but it just feels to me like it’s good to have some sort of initiation into religion, and then have the freedom to decide if you want to continue.
That weak argument leads me to my next reason, which I’ve been pondering, which is the idea that, baptism is one of the few rituals that is decided on by the parents for the child, after which, it is up to the child to decide his own path. I agree with this idea, the only consternation being that last night those wild-eyed catholics were expounding upon that same point, and I felt the room was positively dripping in hypocrisy. Having grown up in Southern California feeling sorry for the poor kids who had to sacrifice their Saturday mornings for bible study or Hebrew school, all I could think about was, do those kids really have a choice ? Could they really say, I don’t believe this and I don’t want to go ? Um, son, I seriously doubt the parents of those kids would listen to a word their children said. Certes, I don’t think you can really talk about a seven year old not wanting to go to Saturday school because he wants to watch Saturday morning cartoons, as that is maybe not necessarily a rejection of the faith, but still. Also, there are other sacraments, Communion and Catechism, that children do without necessarily having made the choice to do it. I think that so many people are forced into religious education without having made the choice, and not only do I think that can be a sure-fire way to turn someone off religion, I also think that for those people it’s not necessarily a true devotion to the faith.
That said, I am weary of people who have absolutely no experience of religion whatsoever, and who get to be twenty years old and suddenly discover it, and it hits them with a huge bang and they go off and join some weird cult. I think it is important to know what religion is, so as to have a healthy sceptism of it. Granted, one would argue, how much does a one year old baby who is being baptised really retain of the experience ? Those crazy Catholics we saw last night would probably argue a lot. But maybe it’s at least a base, and who knows, maybe we will be twice a year Catholics. It is kind of fun to go to midnight mass on Christmas sometimes.
Last but not least, there is an idea that came out of the meeting last night, that I hadn’t thought of before and that I like. They were talking about how, baptism is a declaration of God’s love, but that God loves all His children whether or not they are baptised. The guy said that a priest once told him that, when two people marry in the church, they love each other before that, but the declaration of love, in theory, adds something that wasn’t there before. Which I think is a nice idea, if marriage is something you want (and even available to you, as we know there are many people for whom marriage is not « permitted »). Baptism can be thought of along those lines, as a declaration of love.
So I guess that is what it really boils down to for me. I want to have you baptised because it is fundamentally a celebration of the birth of a child. The Catholic community considers baptism as a welcoming into the community and into Christian life. Son, I could care less if you end up a part of the Christian community, but if I could just shorten that last sentence and say that I consider baptism as, simply, a « welcoming ». It could have been any kind of ceremony, really, it could have been a Buddhist naming ceremony, or any number of other infant welcoming ceremonies from the religions of the world, but it so happens that both me and your papa were baptised in the Catholic church as babies, and so that just seemed the logical choice.
Tradition. Another word associated with baptism.
Son, I think faith is a beautiful thing, and I hope that you will have it but I also hope you will approach the idea of religion with an open mind. That you will ask questions and challenge established ideas. That you will be tolerant and accepting of other people’s beliefs, even if they don’t mesh with your own. That you will find your own path, but not get stuck in it, and continue to evolve as your faith sees fit.
I’m not really sure why but I’m looking forward to your baptism, even if it means having to sit through another one of those dull meetings next week….