Baptism? Christening? Help!

I find myself in a position that I didn’t ever really think about – that of “hey I’m going to have a kid and I know people do these things but I don’t know why or how or who”. We aren’t involved in a church, mostly because we’re too lazy to get up and go and partly because we have a harder time finding one that fits both of us – Baptist being the closest.  DH says that the hospital has clergy of every denomination on staff and that they can do both of those things as soon as the baby is born. But…

Is that the right time? Do we wait a few week/months for the christening? Years for the baptism? I know I’ve seen christenings done in the churches I’ve been to, and the baby is still very small and new, so that would seem to imply weeks. Like…at least 6, since I refuse to take my child out into a place with a lot of germs (a store, theater, church) until that point. But what do I do then? And why am I doing it – aside from “because that’s what you do”?

And baptizing them into a certain religion – I’m not sure what I think about that. Shouldn’t the child be able to choose what religion to be? Does baptizing them at an early age negate that option, or is it more so that if said child dies before being able to MAKE that decision for themselves, they’re “covered”? Does anyone ever resent being baptized at birth? I mean, what if my child decides (god forbid and no offense meant to anyone) to be an atheist or agnostic – wouldn’t baptizing them upset them later, since they didn’t exactly give consent? I know, I know, I’m the parent…but I don’t know how to be one of those and I can’t ask my mom what she did when I was born, seeings how she’s not a ghost and doesn’t answer me. I could ask my dad, but chances are he won’t remember – and probably won’t admit to that either.

Help! Someone explain all this to me, pretty please!

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9 Comments

  1. Jess

     /  November 23, 2010

    Do you have a baby book? Most of the time a baptism certificate is in one of those. Or, if you know the church your parents attended/were members of, they would have record. Additionally, someone ELSE in your family might know…an aunt or cousin, maybe?

    That said, I think it's up to you. Catholicism to my knowledge (I'm protestant-Methodist) baptize ASAP and as early as when I was born (almost 27 years) I know that many Lutherans (my dad) felt the same way…so that the baby is “covered” as you said.

    Many protestant denominations now do an infant dedication where you promise to raise baby to love God, teach them Christianity, etc….”dedicate” your child to the Lord. Then those denominations usually do a baptism in conjunction with confirmation or sometimes (I think?) a first-communion deal (Methodists practice communion as early as you want to take your child up so there's no “first” communion).

    We baptized both our children at around 3-5 months. There was no urgency for us…I don't care to believe that God would sentence a child to Hell or Purgatory because they hadn't been baptized…after all, it's a human ritual, SYMBOLIZING a greater purpose and dedication, under the non-Catholic viewpoint. However, I do not feel the need to wait and “dedicate” as opposed to “baptize” because one can always renounce their baptism, which is what you'd do effectively (not formally, I don't know that that exists) by turning away from Christianity. I don't know that someone would resent it later on….it doesn't change your heart, it's more that your parents are promising the Lord that they're going to raise you to be a Christian.

    That said, I also strongly disagree with people baptizing/dedicating out of “tradition” and not with the intent to raise a child as a Christian. So I'd also say it's not NEEDED…..per se. I think that you CAN wait until a child is old enough and just let them decide (though most of the time these parents have kids who are indifferent because if you're raised with nothing, you often don't see the need).

    Good luck!!!

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  2. I did a baby dedication/naming ceremony at a Unitarian Universalist church and it was spiritual but not really tied to one religion. It was personalized and very moving. My very very catholic grandmother and aunts had tears in their eyes during the ceremony.

    Reply
  3. A lot depends on your faith. For Catholics, of which I practice, we baptize babies in infancy, typically in the first 6 months of life. As a teenager, they are Confirmed into the Church.

    Reply
  4. IMHO….depends on how you plan to raise the child. If you plan to raise him/her in a specific religion, by all means, you should baptize him/her according to the practices of that faith. If you don't intend to raise him/her in a religion, even in a general sense, you should skip the baptism.

    Reply
  5. I agree with Michele. If you do choose to baptize your child (assuming it is a Christian church) you aren't choosing their denomination, just baptizing them as a Christian. But the child could always change their minds later. I thought protestants baptize when you're an adult though (at least Baptists)?

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  6. I'm a Lutheran pastor, so I'm going to answer from that perspective.

    Many mainline (Lutheran, Episcopal, Catholic) denominations baptize infants. Which can be at 1 day, or six weeks, or 1 year…whenever. It's not about “being covered,” as in, “make sure the baby doesn't go to hell if something happens.” (Although many people have thought of it that way, which is probably the fault of pastors like me who haven't done a good job teaching about baptism.)

    For Lutherans, baptizing infants is about God's promise to love that child forever. God already does that, of course, but it's a sign we can look to and remember that our primary identity is as a beloved child of God. It's also about the parents and godparents – because a baby can't answer for him/herself, you are making the promises on their behalf. You are agreeing to make faith a part of their lives and keep them actively involved in church. If that's not your intent, then baptism doesn't really make a lot of sense. Again, for Lutherans (and others), that child will be given an opportunity to claim those promises for him/herself later in life, usually around junior high, through a Confirmation program.

    Of course, your child could always change their mind about being any denomination, or about being Christian at all. Baptism does not make your child a Lutheran, or Presbyterian, or any specific denomination. All Christian churches recognize one baptism – you would never need to be re-baptized. So your child could definitely make their own choice. I've taught kids in Confirmation who get to the end of the 2-year program and say, “I'm not ready for this – I don't know what I believe yet,” and that's okay.

    Other denominations – Baptists among them – do dedications, which puts more emphasis on the person needing to be old enough to “choose” baptism later on. I have some disagreement with that, but it would be a WAY long comment if I explained myself, so if you want more from me on that one, email me at babyinterrupted@gmail.com. (I respect people who make that choice! Just have some alternate opinions, that's all.)

    From my perspective, if you're baptizing just to satisfy other family members, or you have no idea what church you might be involved in, it makes more sense to wait for the baptism until you find a church community that fits for you. Either baptism or dedication involves promises that you will be part of a church with your child, so it doesn't really make sense if you're not at that point. I know families can put pressure on people to get kids baptized, but you can simply say that you're looking for the right church and you'll discuss it later.

    Best wishes to you. I hope this helps a bit. Just my two cents. 😉

    Reply
  7. HOLY crap, I'm sorry about the deleted posts…blogger kept telling me my comment was too long, and then apparently posted it numerous times. Aargh! Apologies.

    Reply
  8. I personally do not believe in god, but was baptized as a 6 month old and raised catholic. At about 16-17 years old I decided that I do not believe in god. b
    But I still don't resent my parents for baptising me because I have the option to drop out of church and I plan to do so soon (I am now 21). So even from an “atheistic” view, you won't be condemning your child. Christianity provides morals which are important and which I believe in too…. because I view them as “natural morals” everyone should have. So I don't see why you shouldn't do it if you feel like it is a good idea (provided you can decide in which church to do it)

    Sorry for any grammar mistakes, I'm from Germany and my English is not flawless…

    Reply
  9. I was raised Catholic and was baptized at one month old. It's typical for Catholics to baptize early in infancy, just as Michele said. It's the first sacrament of many that welcome you to the church community at birth, and follow you until your death.

    That said, as someone who does not consider herself to be a Christian (I practice Buddhist meditation, and am in the “don't know” category when it comes to an omnipotent being), it doesn't bother me one whit that I was baptized. My parents didn't choose to do so to harm me, though I have rejected their religious views as an adult.

    If you are not a particular faith, you can still have a small ceremony to welcome your child into your family and community of friends. It is very common in cultures around the world.

    Reply

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