Why I Don't Want To Baptize My Kids
My religious background is Mennonite and my husband’s is Catholic. This makes for very different takes on baptism, as Catholics baptize babies in the belief that they must be washed of original sin and Mennonites are “anabaptist,” meaning that baptism should only be administered to consenting adults and never to babies. While neither of us adheres strongly to either faith, the deep-rooted traditions of our families have led to some heated discussions about the matter. (Funny how having kids makes one return to one’s roots!) I am uncomfortable with baptizing our two sons in the Catholic Church for the following reasons:
1) Hearkening back to my Anabaptist beliefs, I cannot force a particular religion on my child. It's my job to educate him about faith, but not to make his decisions. Baptism is a powerful moment in one's spiritual journey, and it's best for him to make that decision when he's ready for it. I’ve never been baptized because I’ve never had that moment of ‘connection’ with God.
2) I would feel hypocritical showing support for the Catholic Church when I disagree with so many tenets of that institution. These would be the Vatican’s stance on birth control, abortion, and its refusal to ordain women as priest. I could not, in good conscience, baptize my children into a church that doesn’t treat women as truly equal to men and refuses to give them the exact same positions of power in the church.
3) I learned that infant baptism is merely a construct of the early Church. The disciple Paul was the first to formulate the idea of original sin and baptism being a necessary liberating force to wash away the stain of that sin. A raging debate ensued in the fourth and fifth centuries and St. Augustine won, hence the ubiquity of infant baptism ever since.
4) Widespread disillusionment with the Catholic Church means that change is needed. The Church needs to reassess its approach. Change is not bad; it can be transformative, liberating, and healthy, and obviously is necessary to appeal to a better-educated world. Reforms must be demanded by congregations and that's why open discussions about issues such as baptism are crucial.
5) Baptism needs to mean something really big. I went to school with lots of Catholic-baptized kids who never went to church. I was the only kid in my tiny, rural school that went to church every week, and I wasn’t even baptized. I used to wonder, with all the curiosity of a second-grader, why bother with baptism if clearly no other aspect of church matters?
In conclusion, there’s no clear-cut solution. Family tradition plays an important role from my husband’s perspective, while I maintain that serious faith decisions need to be made consciously, rather than “just because we do it.” That’s why we’ll continue to think, analyze, and discuss until we both feel comfortable with whatever decision we make.
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