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Baptizing Baby: Deciding when — and if — to baptize a personal choice

October 26, 2009

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Plymouth Congregational Church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Peter Luckey holds Michael Perkins, son of Mike and Jesse Perkins, during a baptism ceremony.

Plymouth Congregational Church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Peter Luckey holds Michael Perkins, son of Mike and Jesse Perkins, during a baptism ceremony.

Plymouth Congregational Church associate pastor, the Rev. Josh Longbottom shows off Essie Funk, daughter of Greta and Tyson Funk, during a baptism ceremony on Oct. 18.

Plymouth Congregational Church associate pastor, the Rev. Josh Longbottom shows off Essie Funk, daughter of Greta and Tyson Funk, during a baptism ceremony on Oct. 18.

Having a baby can lead to the most agonizing decisions — medical, philosophical and familial. Heck, even coming up with a name can lead to months of psychological warfare.

But just as soon as Jessie and Mike Perkins had their name picked out — Michael, but not Mike Jr. — they also had made another decision very important to them: He would be baptized.

The Perkinses had both grown up going to church, Jessie off and on and Mike consistently, and, since their pregnancy began, they had become increasingly involved in their current house of worship, Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt. It soon became clear that not only should they become members, but that they wanted baby Michael to become a member, too.

So, just a few days apart, the Jessie and Mike Perkins became members of the church and brought baby Michael, now 5 months, into the Plymouth family as well, baptizing him.

“We want to baptize him because we think that religion is an important part of his upbringing, and we want him recognized as a member of the church as soon as possible, as a Christian,” Jessie Perkins said before the baptism. “And I guess we just kind of thought the sooner we do that the better.”

Depending on your religious point of view, baptism may be high, low or nowhere on your list. But for the parents who want to do it, when, where and how to do it are just more decisions to add to the pile.

Many church leaders stress that in this day and age, baptism can be done any time. There’s not really a set schedule, it’s more about when everyone is ready, says the Rev. John Schmeidler at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1234 Ky. He says he does everything from baptizing infants at the hospital, as had been common in the Catholic faith, to baptizing grade-school kids whose parents have returned to the church.

“It has changed. In the olden days, it used to be you were baptized immediately because baptism was our salvation into heaven,” he says. “And there still is a portion of that in one sense — we’re baptized into Christ ... but now really it’s also become an understanding that it’s an entrance into the church. So it depends on what theology you’re really pushing with baptism as far as how a person is going to hold an importance for it.”

Schmeidler also stresses that baptism shouldn’t be seen as an insurance policy. Though there may be familial stresses associated with baptism, just getting it done doesn’t mean a thing without the religious education to back it up, he says.

“Just because a child’s baptized ... they still have to be raised in that faith in some way or it will never become a part of them. It would be like giving them a gift which they don’t know what to do with,” Schmeidler says. “Baptism isn’t just like a salvation thing, which people think it is. It is salvation, but there’s also a responsibility for growing in that salvation that Christ brings to us.”

The Rev. Peter Luckey, the Plymouth senior pastor who baptized Michael Perkins, says in his congregation, religious education is on the congregation as much as the parents. He says that the 1,000-plus members at Plymouth also take an oath to make sure little Michael and the church’s other baptized infants are raised in a faith tradition.

“The community, the congregation also has a role to play. They stand up, the entire congregation, and say that by their example of living in the way of Jesus that they will be there to support the parents in the raising of that child,” Luckey says. “Baptism is just simply a way of naming and confirming and making visible what’s already happened in an invisible way — that every child is a child of God.”

Comments

Machiavelli_mania 4 years, 5 months ago

The creator god did the original sin, not man.

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Machiavelli_mania 4 years, 5 months ago

Why baptize at all? It does nothing for you.

We are all eternal anyway, no matter what religion you like.

Energy never dies. It just changes form.

There are beliefs in all sorts of stuff. Let's not use it or imply that the term is only for the religious. Have you read the latest on the placebo effect? I suggest you do.

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kansanbygrace 4 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for not laughing out loud.
If it's not yours, of course it can seem silly. From another perspective it's profound. Belief is not something that can be taught or coerced, and we're not all the same. Paternalistic seems about right for a relationship with a father figure. My favorite RC teacher, in recent times has been "Mother Angelica". No second-rater by any measure. Your daughters can't be priests but could be nuns or deacons. You, on the other hand, would not be an acceptable candidate for a nun. You probably couldn't be a mother, either, nor your daughters become fathers. Like some other organizations, the church can at times reflect life in the broader view.

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mrjcg2 4 years, 5 months ago

My wife baptized (or is it christ-ening) our two daughters in a catholic ceremony, to make her parents happy - it was harmless, and to no effect in my opinion, but I found it totally silly, and had a very hard time not laughing out loud. The one thing that bothers me is how totally and completely paternalistic the catholic and most Christian religions are. My daughters can never be priests or be pope (of course, who would want to be pope - you have to be white, male, old, and totally creepy, but I hear you get great health insurance).

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Ray Parker 4 years, 5 months ago

Baptists hold 'em under til they bubble. Better wait til at least 5 years of age.

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Satirical 4 years, 5 months ago

roger_gilchrist… “So is believing in an imaginary being”

You mean like believing in your brother. ; )

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Satirical 4 years, 5 months ago

Cletus26… “what is the purpose of baptising a baby”

Some people/religions believe in the concept of original sin; whereupon because of Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, all mankind is born into sin. In addition to the belief that one cannot enter Heaven with sin, individuals are baptized early so premature death doesn’t prevent entry therein.

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Satirical 4 years, 5 months ago

BlessedSap… “Don’t the Mormons baptize everyone alive or dead, in absentee?”

Mormons (aka members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) allow baptism as early as the age of 8. They also practice proxy baptisms for the dead; whereby someone (living) volunteers to be baptized vicariously for someone who has died.

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kmat 4 years, 5 months ago

jrlii (Anonymous) says…

Actually, most protestant denominations I'm aware of baptize infants: Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and I'm pretty sure UCC does to.


Presbyterians Christan (sprinkling with water). That's not the same as a baptismal dunking.

The FSM baptism is still much better.

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Paul R Getto 4 years, 5 months ago

"If they want to get . . .baptized, than they can when they understand what they are getting into..." === I agree; religion yes/no, then if yes, which religion, should be a choice made by educated, enlightened adults.

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9070811 4 years, 5 months ago

He's Catholic, so he is Father John.

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RogueThrill 4 years, 5 months ago

The idea of being born guilty is seriously insane.

========

It's a good recruitment tool though.

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kansanbygrace 4 years, 5 months ago

"Baptism" of infants used to be called "christening", or sometimes "dedication". The nuance is that the family and the congregation vow to assist and instruct the child in the principles of the faith, standing in for them until they are mature, and then in early adulthood, "Confirmation" is just that, the grown-up baby's confirmation of that which was claimed for him. An adult can be baptized when they have made a confession of faith. Some bishops or priests add extra requirements, imagining that their "job description" allows them to add more hoops to jump.
The Bible is not nearly as hide-bound as the extra steps and special cases that administrators of organizations fabricate. Any Christian can baptize. ("Ordination" is another administrative process that God doesn't require but vocational "priests" insist upon.)
"Reverend" is the title. The dude's my "brother in Christ", not my dad.

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9070811 4 years, 5 months ago

He is Father John Schmeilder

I forgot the verb!

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9070811 4 years, 5 months ago

Rev. John Schmeidler at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1234 Ky

He FATHER John Schmeidler not Reverend

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jrlii 4 years, 5 months ago

Actually, most protestant denominations I'm aware of baptize infants: Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and I'm pretty sure UCC does to.

The exception (a very large exception) of course, are the Baptists and their kith and kin.

And Quakers, of course, who don't baptize anyone, leaving the job to the Holy Spirit.

Infant baptism came about as a result of the belief that you can't go to heaven if you aren't baptized. Therefore, with the very high rate of infant mortality, people started bringing their children younger and younger 'till it got to where they were bringing 'em for a dunking (or sprinkling) about as quick after the birth as they could arrange it.

I once knew a physician who routinely baptized at-risk infants in the delivery or operating room, sprinkling 'em with a bit of saline solution and a quick mutter of "I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." A ritually valid baptism, even though it was never recorded anywhere. A fair number of distraught parents were much relieved when he revealed that their late infant had, in fact been baptized.

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roger_gilchrist 4 years, 5 months ago

So is believing in an imaginary being.

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jimmyjms 4 years, 5 months ago

The idea of being born guilty is seriously insane.

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tony88 4 years, 5 months ago

to go along with the discussion of the myth: different christian sects have different interpretations of baptism, and they have evolved over time. my understanding was always that baptism signified the "washing away of original sin" (i think alot of people think it actually does wash away this mythical condition of "original sin"). i never thought it had anything to do with being "saved" and making adult decisions (similar in that regard i guess to ritualistic circumcision). granted, born agains probably get rebaptized when they get overcome with the psychological phenomenon they call being "saved".

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cletus26 4 years, 5 months ago

what is the purpose of baptising a baby, he/she doesn't even know what is going on and more afraid then anything. the article speaks of being ready for such a thing which translates to me, knowing what you are doing and why you are doing it. this isn't a ticket to heaven, but a crucial part of going. significant of dying and rising a new. repentance must take place, which will lead to being saved, and when all that is got and done you still have to live the life; saving saved!! this is a task, but not a hard one if you truly mean it. baptizing a baby sounds so spiritual and meaningful, but is it really? what does he/she know and what does it really gain them. they still do things like lie, cheat, steal, rebellion, jealousy, envy, fight for no reason, and the list can go on and on. sin because they don't know. i ain't against it, but i sho' ain't rooting for it.

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woodenfleaeater 4 years, 5 months ago

I have been touched by his noodly appendage as well. I was baptized in Alfredo. Beer filled volcanoes and strippers. What more could you ask for?

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tony88 4 years, 5 months ago

I too have been touched by His noodly appendage and beheldeth his glory... and chose a tasty pesto baptism

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Tom Shewmon 4 years, 5 months ago

BlessedSap per your 9:18----me too, cynical as it may sound. So. Baptists and Pentecostals did more cheatin' than a 19th century riverboat gambler.

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kmat 4 years, 5 months ago

Being a devote pastafarian and worshipping The Flying Spaghetti Monster is so much more fun. You can chose if you want to be baptised in pesto, alfredo, marinara, or just plain tomato sauce. The ceremony is very tasty and you can hold it at The Olive Garden. Christian baptisms are just so plain and boring.

May the Flying Spaghetti Monster bring peace to your heart, soul, and stomach. RAMEN!!!

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BlessedSap 4 years, 5 months ago

Don’t the Mormons baptize everyone alive or dead, in absentee?

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hillbilly_jim 4 years, 5 months ago

My parents didn't baptize me, and I did not baptize either of my daughters. If they want to get brainwashed, I mean baptized, than they can when they understand what they are getting into. If they want to belive in a make believe person, I would rather it be Santa Claus. But once they get older, they can get baptized if they so choose. I want my daughters to be able to make their own decisions and not force anything on them. Christians operate by installing fear on their believers.

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cheeseburger 4 years, 5 months ago

Mark 16:16 - 'He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.'

Some denominations baptize at birth and confirm later; others dedicate at birth and baptize later, when the individual can make the decision on their own.

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BlessedSap 4 years, 5 months ago

I receive eternal life from Odin my creator no strings attached.

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BlessedSap 4 years, 5 months ago

You must first accept Jesus as your savoir in a teary eyed mystical experience then you can sin as much as you want. I learned that from southern Baptists.

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anneht 4 years, 5 months ago

Infant baptism is not Scriptural. Baptism is the act of a person of reason (not an infant) who has made a conscious decision to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord of life, after confession of sins. Every one of us must make that decision in order to receive salvation and eternal life.

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fan4kufootball 4 years, 5 months ago

craigers has it correct. baptism is an outward expression of what has already happened on the inside.

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craigers 4 years, 5 months ago

Keith, there is no biblical backup for the baptizing of babies. It isn't salvation. The ministers could at least crack a Bible once in a while. This is why most Protestant churches don't baptize babies. Baptism is done as an outward act after salvation occurs. Romans 10:9 - "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Jesus also said He was the way, the truth, and the life. Pretty clear it isn't baptism. It is through salvation that we are given the privilege of being children of God. This is another doctrine Luckey is not getting from the Bible. Not every person is a child of God.

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Keith 4 years, 5 months ago

What about the Protestant churches that don't baptize babies?

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