Sunday, October 17, 2010

I need my kids baptized...just in case

I wish I could say that the vast majority of the reading I do of material on the internet is somehow useful, inspiring and educational. Sadly, probably the vast majority of things that come up in my daily course of readings from various news media are useless, depressing and vapid. And my commenting on such vapid, depressing and useless things only exposes more people to them rather than letting them be ignored. Exposing faulty and ignorant things in our society is a two edged sword. On the one hand, you can refute such ridiculousness but, on the other hand, you make such farces known given more exposure than if you had just let it perish among all of the internet hogwash out there.

I came across this story today in my readings. I'll give you the short version. A person calls his pastor at the church he irregularly attends (denomination doesn't matter) and asks the pastor if he would be available to baptize his two young children (I think they were both under 10) before they go out of town on a trip to Disney World. The man's rationale was that though this looked to be like a safe trip with little chance of anything happening to his children, it was his choice of words that really pinched a nerve with me. He said he wanted his kids baptized "...just in case."

As I said, this man was an irregular attender of his local church. I don't know what is in his heart though you can plainly see that he does have concern for his children's well-being. I don't know what the pastors decision would be after hearing this and I leave it to his judgment. But I'm troubled by this rationalization for baptizing his children.

It is true that we could die at any moment. That is why, as St. Andrew of Crete, tells us in his Great Canon which is chanted through Great Lent, our soul must not be asleep but watchful for the great day of the Lord is coming. Our journey towards theosis must be at the front of our "things to do" list every day. Repentance must not be a mere lingering thought.

But if we do these things for the "just in case" scenario then we are cheapening our Lord's call to repentance. We are even cheapening the very essence of our faith in Christ. Our Lord, before his Ascension into heaven said to His disciples to go forth and preach the Gospel to all nations baptizing them in the name of the +Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are also told that he who believes and is baptized shall be saved. Notice the juxtaposition there of belief and baptism. If there is no faith, then there can be no baptism.

Though we baptize infants who are expected to grow in the faith, they have sponsors or "godparents" who make the professions of faith for them. We hope that they then grow in the faith and generate the fruits of the Word implanted in them at their baptism. But if a parent wants to have his kids baptized because he is merely fearful of what could happen to them rather than trusting in the compassion of God, then this is profaning baptism.

Our Lord gave us the mysteries (i.e. sacraments) for us so that we can be regenerated. But there must also be faith present in the person who receives. If a person has no faith in God, how can absolution be granted him? If he has no faith, how can he be renewed in soul and in body by the power of the Eucharist? Such is why the mysteries are given only to the faithful and not to everyone.

If there is no faith present here either in the father or in his two children, baptizing them jay be a waste of time. But, for too many in our culture, the sacraments are seen more as "insurance policies" rather than as means for us to become true communicants with God and grow in theosis. There are those who baptize their children because it is part of their "culture" or "tradition" or what have you. As long as such attitudes persist in modern Christianity, then how long will it be until people don't even think they ever need baptism or the Eucharist for themselves or their kids?

If these kids are baptized, I must also say that God's mercy and compassion are beyond whatever faith we can muster in the first place so perhaps what I wrote is a moot point. Double-edged sword indeed.

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