Raised a Baptist, I was 'christened' as a child and baptized when I as an adult and accepted Jesus as my Saviour. In the Catholic, Anglican and other Christian traditions "baptism" occurs near birth and then "confirmation" is undertaken when the child or adult can make decisions of their own.
Laura, raised Catholic, said "I had to be baptized early. I think it's within 6 weeks. The Catholics are afraid you might die before being baptized. They get it done quick." Theologically, Catholics have tended to believe that unbaptised children don't make it directly to heaven. The Catholics however have a way station 'limbus infantium' somewhere in the vicinity of 'purgatory'. Part of the Christian break with Catholicism at the time of Martin Luther was that upward movement from this way station into heaven could be 'bought' through contribution to the church. Most Catholics and Christians get around these dicey theological bits by having their children baptized early anyway.
Catholics might well contend that Christian heaven isn't as high as Catholic heaven but that gets one into those inter denominations comparisons that ecumenical Christianity tries to avoid if only to make Monty Python's work more difficult.
Theologically this world is considered a place of "SIN" . Sin means that there is no 'perfection' in reality though 'perfection' can be imagined or thought. The individual is 'imperfect' in this regard or 'incomplete'. This world is 'imperfect' or 'incomplete' in this regard too. Sin was originally used as the verb 'to sin' which meant in olden times "to miss the mark". An archer "intends" for the arrow to hit the bull's eye of the target every time but even the best 'archer' can't do this in this world. Yet all of us can 'dream' and 'imagine' or 'think' of just such a scenario. The personification of the reasons for this imperfection are called 'satan' a force or individual that fights God's loving plan for all.
That said, Baptism is a Christian community's excuse for a party. Not that Christian's ever needed an excuse for a party. Imagine any party without drunkenness, drug abuse, and having unsafe sex with strangers and you get what is essentially the makings of a Christian party. The 'hoe down' and the 'fair' and the 'church picnic' and the 'town dances' were all predominantly Christian parties. The girls get dressed up and generally make the girls of sex in the city look like wallflowers. Not only are they dressed as well but they radiate a kind of beatific happiness probably because they've got the guys to clean up and the baby is the centre of attention. A lot of single men fall in love with single women at baptismal events.
Baptism's are a bit more reserved though than 'hoe downs', at least in the church itself, and especially in the Anglican church. We gather as Christians to welcome a new member to the church, which is just another word for 'Christian community'. We also in the baptism ceremony 're affirm' our own 'vows' as Christians.
The baby gets water on his head and the priest blesses him. Jesus was thoroughly 'dunked' by John the Baptist and it may well be a factor in baby baptism that 'total immersion' of the more passionate Baptist contingents was felt best left till the child could at least swim in case the minister got carried away with religious fervor.
Christian's don't believe in Genital Mutilation of children though some will do circumcision as a secular activity. The baptism is in fact the worst torture we collectively subject kids to, if we leave out the later 'plays' and 'public recitals' that have Christians showing up years later in therapists offices saying their parents abused them by making them 'act' or 'sing' or 'recite poetry'.
In Baptism a strange looking man or woman priest chants some things over you and splashes you with water while your parents looking on beatifically with a whole bunch of people congregate just outside your baby vision.
Inside gambling among teen age boys, unbeknownst to parents, is usually on whether the child will scream when the priest picks him up or not. The other more secular discussion is about the baptismal clothes. Increasingly there has been improvements in the white cotton fashion of babies at baptismal events.
Baptism to all is a sacrament that confirms the child in the Covenant of God. The covenant of God in the Christian faith is the promise of Grace. The baptized child is protected henceforward as part of the church. It is the sign of salvation.
It's also a really good time. Baptisms are spiritually uplifting times for all involved.
Thank God Matthias has come along to allow Karen and Tom and all of us to get together for this greatest of Christian celebrations!
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