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Baptism of fire: were you pressured to christen your baby?

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#1 Kylie Orr

Posted 07 March 2013 - 08:26 PM

There was no chance I would have entered the State of Limbo should I have passed away as an infant. I was christened, for this reason, and this reason alone. Actually, my mother now describes it as superstition resulting from religious brainwashing. She was too scared not to have us baptised for fear we would be doomed should the unspeakable occur.

Seems preposterous now I’m an adult and best described as a lapsed Catholic. What kind of narcissistic God would deem a tiny baby ineligible for entry into Heaven because they were not cleansed of original sin before they died?

However, that’s a fight for another day.

Thankfully, my mother’s opinions on the topic matter had no bearing over our decision not to christen our own children. She would never dream of influencing such a personal decision. If you’ve read my article about CRE in Primary Schools, you will understand that I married a staunch atheist. For us, the question of christening was never raised; it was not relevant to our situation. Perhaps we are fortunate to freely follow our own beliefs and to be alleviated of the often divisive expectation of wider family values.

The pressure to christen your baby when you don’t believe in it seems like a non-issue to a non-believer. Unfortunately for some, it is not this straightforward. When parents (or grandparents) strongly believe in the symbolism behind it, the idea that you wouldn’t christen your child is unimaginable for them. So, what do you do when you don’t support the idea, but your family corners you into a decision? The dreaded confrontation could end in a showdown of mass proportions, which could make you question if the resistance is substantiated.

It will please (or appease) your parents or in-laws and you are neutral on the topic, so should you just do it? Or would that be hypocritical to enter into an agreement with the church about following a religious path that you have no intention of maintaining just to keep the peace?

I have friends who have found the family rivalry is not worth the pain. They’d rather go through the motions and keep everybody happy. One friend asserted, “is it symbolic if it has no meaning to you or your child?” She viewed it simply as a welcoming of the child, with a party afterwards. She and her husband essentially ignored the religious connotations – the very values that initially prompted the pressure from family.

For some of my friends who have experienced the unsolicited requests to have their child christened, it is a battle worth fighting. To engage in a ceremony that pledges a faith they do not possess is too much to adopt when the belief behind it is absent. Many parents have resisted the propaganda and strongly defended their stance: “our child, our decision”. Not easy when the topic matter is so charged, and emotionally driven by influential family members.

Another angle is the preferential treatment of christened children from schools of particular denominations. In certain institutions baptism is a prerequisite for eligible entry, leaving parents worried they are locking their children out of prospective educational options by not baptising their babies. I can’t say I comprehend this line of thinking. Surely if you wanted to send your child to a school of a particular faith, it would be for more than solely the education it offers but the religion it purports as well? Therefore baptism would be a natural step of faith as opposed to a strategic move. Families who baptise because they believe in the biblical or theological commitment can understandably read this “baptism for schooling decisions” as a mockery of their faith.

Some families are opting for “dedications” rather than baptisms, the theory behind this is an acknowledgement of the faith in front of family and friends, rather than baptism, which is viewed as a conscious choice the person makes (many argue this is impossible for an infant).

In modern day, there are other options available which seem to be middle ground solutions. Drawing attention away from religious rituals to other traditions, such as welcoming ceremonies and naming days, are increasingly common, potentially for their placation value. These can be spiritual guides but not specifically attached to a religion, leaving that decision for the child to make once they are older and more thoroughly conversant in commitments required of the specific religion.

I waded through some fairly hefty religious jargon and gospel passages to pinpoint a solid explanation for the purpose of infant christening. The language used is often emotive (“Mothers, baptize your babies now before it is too late” BibleProbe &  “Baptism is the introduction of a person into the Church community. He or she is dedicated to God and all that is good.” Catholic Australia) and there are varying viewpoints from it being a public commitment of faith, to the imperative washing away of original sin. As an outsider, I remain dazed and confused about it’s core purpose, completely bamboozled by the abundance of conflicting literature.

Ultimately in the murky pond of parenting, this is yet another discussion that generates ripples well beyond the parents themselves. It may be idealistic to think we live in a world of diversity and difference of beliefs, and respecting each other’s choices should be standard practise rather than an exercise of goodwill. Families are infinitely more complicated than that with their eclectic mix of values, traditions and experiences. I don’t know many people who want to deliberately upset or offend their own parents by ignoring their strong held views, but standing up for your offspring to cement your own personal beliefs is certainly something to be celebrated.

Were you pressured to christen your baby? Did you succumb or resist? What were your reasons?


#2 Guest_Sunnycat_*

Posted 07 March 2013 - 08:32 PM

My parents (mum in particular) desperately wanted DS baptized. I don't know why. She considers herself catholic but they don't pray or go to church or anything.

She kept saying that my uncle in Italy (dads brother) kept asking when DS was going to get baptized as its a family tradition.

Tbh it means sweet FA to me, so I wouldn't have given a sh*t if we had to do it to please the family but DH was dead against it so I said no.

As far as I know DS hasn't been baptized, unless my parents have secretly taken him when they look after him.

#3 Lucrezia Bauble

Posted 07 March 2013 - 08:35 PM

Yes we were pressured. And we resisted. I cannot for the life of me understand why any educated person would have ever EVER believed in limbo? What an utterly ridiculous concept....is there anything MORE innocent than a baby!?

#4 Domestic Goddess

Posted 07 March 2013 - 08:43 PM

Ehm, I am pretty sure it says in the bible that children and infants can not be held responsible for their sins until their coming of age.
Some people think it's around the 18yo mark and some think it's around the 21yo mark.
So as they can not be held responsible of their sins (too young to fully understand the difference between good and bad), they will automatically go to heaven.

Though I am ofcourse referring to the new King James bible that we use at our pentecostal church. I believe the Catholics have a slightly different bible. I was once told that the Catholics have chapters that the NKJ doesn't have......

So no, DS is not baptized nor is he Christened. We don't do any of this until the child/adult has decided for themselves that this is what they want.

Edited by Domestic Goddess, 07 March 2013 - 08:46 PM.

#5 cinnabubble

Posted 07 March 2013 - 08:49 PM

Just like everything elsethey wanted and we didn't (ear piercing of babies, christening, grandparent care over daycare) I just looked 'em in the eye and said "No, we won't be doing that". Works a treat.

#6 ComradeBob

Posted 07 March 2013 - 08:49 PM

No pressure at all given that the whole family are atheists,with the exception of DHs parents who are cynical Catholics.

I would have faced a lot of pressure against the idea had I wanted to get DD christened, which I didn't, since I'm an atheist and not a hypocrite.

#7 twirling

Posted 07 March 2013 - 08:54 PM

I was christened as a baby as my mum says it was 'the done thing' back then. My parents arent religious, it was not at all a part of my life, and i'm now an atheist. Having said that, my childrens father was raised catholic and his family are very much practising catholics (though he isnt). We didnt feel pressure from them to baptise our girls (there was never any conversation with them about it) but DP did say whilst pregnant with DD1 that he would like them baptised catholic. For me, whilst i was a little nervous, I didnt feel so strongly against it to say no. It meant absolutely nothing to me so i didnt/dont really care if its done or not, whilst i feel 'fake' at the actual ceremony (is ceremony even the word?) and i have had to stiffle a giggle or two, it just has never really felt like a big deal. My children know i dont believe in god, that daddy does and that neither of us mind what they choose or if they even want to choose but its not something that comes up very often in their lives either, i dont imagine they will choose a christian path even though they are baptised... to be honested i dont even know if they know they are! Guess i'm a hypocrite?

Edited by adelaidehazel, 07 March 2013 - 08:56 PM.

#8 *Ker*

Posted 07 March 2013 - 09:04 PM

My nan harassed me about it when DS was born. I kept saying "no, I'm not having him baptised, I'm an atheist", but she kept on and on about it. Eventually I said "Right, I'm having him baptised Buddhist". she said "but you're not buddhist!" I said "Well, I'll convert. It's a much more sensible religion to me than Catholicism". She stopped. When DD was born, she didn't even try.

#9 luke's mummu

Posted 07 March 2013 - 09:07 PM

QUOTE (Domestic Goddess @ 07/03/2013, 09:43 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I believe the Catholics have a slightly different bible. I was once told that the Catholics have chapters that the NKJ doesn't have......

Yes Catholics have the "Apocrypha" (sorry I'm not sure on the spelling) which is another few chapters in the bible. Most non- Catholic churches chose not to include the books in their bible, as they don't have the same evidence that is was written at the original time i.e. they may be fake. But this is only considered maybe, not definite.

At least that's my understanding of the situation.

#10 RocktonResident

Posted 07 March 2013 - 09:11 PM

DH is a catholic, although I wouldn't exactly call him a practicing one. He goes to mass for Easter and Christmas. Yet to him, it was important our children be baptised catholic.
My sister was baptised Russian Orthodox, however my mum was quite upset by how it was performed back then and so didn't get me or my brother done.
As I had no religious affiliations and DH did, the baptisms were important to him, so it happened. I would have preferred to have left them not done, and given them the freedom to choose their own religion later in life. I just figured it was one of those things that meant more to him than it did to me.
My kids aren't practicing Catholics. They go to mass with DH when he attends, but I don't go with them. They attend an Anglican school which has religious lessons as part of it.
Later DH admitted to me the main reason he wanted them baptised was so they had godparents, and if anything happened to us we knew who would care for them. rolleyes.gif And yet despite this, he won't agree to do up a will to put that same idea in writing!

#11 Domestic Goddess

Posted 07 March 2013 - 09:30 PM

QUOTE (Itchy_Witch @ 07/03/2013, 10:11 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Later DH admitted to me the main reason he wanted them baptised was so they had godparents, and if anything happened to us we knew who would care for them. rolleyes.gif And yet despite this, he won't agree to do up a will to put that same idea in writing!

Though, courts place no value whatsoever to "god children". You'll find that guardianship gets contested more often when "god parents" are involved, compared to those who have legal guardianship stated in their wills.

#12 BadCat

Posted 07 March 2013 - 09:33 PM

There was pressure.  Goodness knows why since church would probably fall down if anyone from my family ventured in there.

We ignored the pressure.  We are atheists.  Standing in a church and promising to raise a child in a particular faith would be hypocritical and ridiculous.

#13 ~Supernova~

Posted 07 March 2013 - 09:44 PM

I was pressured for DD. I gave her a naming day with a celebrant to shut them up.

DS...DH's family is religious, but I have never had any pressure. He won't have anything.

I refuse to be a hypocrite. DD has displayed a desire to learn RE, I have succumbed and let her learn Bahai. I won't, and don't, lie to her about my opinions though.

FWIW I'm somewhere on the border of atheist and agnostic.

#14 FEdeRAL

Posted 07 March 2013 - 09:44 PM

When I was little the only Christians in the family was my dad and one of his sister. Mum was a staunch Buddhist but dad managed to convinced her to let me go to Sunday school. Having me baptised was out of the question. One by one all my dad's 10 siblings converted and one day mum became a staunch Christian instead. I was too old to be baptised by then without consent, but my younger siblings all went through it.

Mum was one of those who once they get their mind set on something they refuse to let it go kind of person. Having an unbaptised child who drifted away from the church is one of her greatest "shame" (face saving and all that). I get away with it because I live in another country and everytime she brings it up I tell her I have to go. So she stopped asking.

Now that DS and DD are here, she has started telling me to bring them to church again (and baptised, and obviously I would have to be too since DH believes god is an alien). So far I just pretend to listen and go to my happy place - I have yet to find a solution to make her stop  mad.gif

#15 Kylie Orr

Posted 07 March 2013 - 09:47 PM

Thanks bellygood for your thorough post and I agree wholeheartedly that parents should make informed choices rather than pressured ones.

I did extensive research and ended up completely confused. The state of Limbo was certainly endorsed in the time I was christened close to 40 years ago but I do understand the church no longer subscribes to this. That being said there were many theological papers arguing about it and none definitive in their discrediting of the theory. If you can direct me to something that clearly absolves unbaptised babies from being considered not to require salvation at the hands of God's mercy, I'd be keen to read it.

This is direct from the vatican's site:

there are theological and liturgical reasons to hope that infants who die without baptism may be saved and brought into eternal happiness, even if there is not an explicit teaching on this question found in Revelation. However, none of the considerations proposed in this text to motivate a new approach to the question may be used to negate the necessity of baptism, nor to delay the conferral of the sacrament. Rather, there are reasons to hope that God will save these infants precisely because it was not possible to do for them that what would have been most desirable— to baptize them in the faith of the Church and incorporate them visibly into the Body of Christ.

I think we can all find quotes and passages to support our viewpoints. Rather, this article is more about the pressures families feel to continue traditions they don't necessarily subscribe to, such as baptism. It can be tricky to navigate when you want to show respect to your parents but also forge new traditions for your own family unit.

Edited by Kylie Orr, 07 March 2013 - 09:49 PM.

#16 gabbigirl

Posted 07 March 2013 - 09:57 PM

We baptised our girls, even though neither my husband nor I are religious. It is an incredibly important tradition for our family, and I loved participating in a very old family tradition.  A few hours out of our day made my parents so happy, as it meant so much to them to see their grand daughters participate in a baptism like they, their parents, and their parents parents....

#17 Feral Grey Mare

Posted 08 March 2013 - 09:05 PM

No pressure whatsoever. Nobody in my family has been christened for about four generations. We are just not religious people at all. DH was a lapsed Catholic who survived the teaching methods of a Catholic boys' school in the 1960s so he was totally opposed to anything even remotely religious.

#18 FeralProudSwahili

Posted 08 March 2013 - 09:08 PM

No pressure at all. Which I'm pleased about.

#19 Squeekums The Elf

Posted 08 March 2013 - 09:12 PM

No pressure here thankfully.
It would have been a firm NO if anyone tried to pressure.

My hair begins to smoulder upon entry to a church anyways.

#20 **Marni**

Posted 08 March 2013 - 09:22 PM

When I was 15 my Dad's partner (non practicing catholic) told me I would be going to hell because I wasn't baptised. I was terrified for months afterward.

My parents are both agnostic. For some reason they had my older brother baptized but not me. I've asked them why and they "don't know" or "don't remember" I'm guessing they just never got around to it.

#21 PaulineN

Posted 08 March 2013 - 09:22 PM

Though, courts place no value whatsoever to "god children". You'll find that guardianship gets contested more often when "god parents" are involved, compared to those who have legal guardianship stated in their wills.

So surely a will that names guardians, comes before god parents?

#22 kentishmaid

Posted 10 March 2013 - 10:45 AM

No, I didn't get either of my children christened, both me and my husband being non-believers.  Because my own mother was a Methodist, I wasn't christened either as apparently babies aren't baptised in this church,well, that's what she told me!  My children were only briefly bothered they weren't christened because they didn't have godparents like the other kids.  But they got over it, as had I! Not being baptised never did me any harm, well not that I'm aware of!

#23 Phascogale

Posted 10 March 2013 - 10:55 AM

No pressure.  However my mum does keep talking about 'her' religion ie her interpretation of the bible and how I must believe her.  I refuse to get into those conversations as her justification for what she believes does not fit in with my interpretation of the bible and it's not worth the argument.

The religion that I am doesn't believe in baptism of babies.  You can dedicate your baby to the Lord but baptism is a decision that you make when you are ready.  For some that's as early as late primary but others are much older and well into adulthood.

There's a lot of merit in that when you choose to be baptised that it's a conscious decision to follow God and live your life inaccordance to that.  Rather than doing whatever you like and saying that you'll be right, or you are a certain religion because you were baptised as a 6 month old but you don't follow the principals and don't actually care.

My religion also talks about the innocence of children so no going to limbo or to hell if you aren't baptised.  In fact my religion doesn't condemn you for not being baptised.  It's more that if you believe strongly then generally you would be baptised as it's the next step in your beliefs.

#24 honeylulu

Posted 15 March 2013 - 08:11 AM

I was given the "talk" by my MIL regarding baptising our son. I simply replied, "We don't go to church, why would we get DS baptised? And you don't go to church, so why would you care?"
That shut her up.
I know my inlaws are shocked at our decision. They are Italian and such religious ceremonies are social celebrations more than anything. But I'm no hypocrite.

#25 seayork2002

Posted 15 March 2013 - 08:50 AM

We chose to do, in my husbands church where he was batised it was about 1000 years old and it has been done for there for generations, it was our choice only.

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