Baptism III (or Dedication) and the meaning of Christianity

A recent comment was left with an entry so old that many readers will have never seen it. The comment reads in part:

Please email a copy of the universalist dedication
ceremony for our daughter. I was raised Catholic
and my husband was raised Jewish. He is an
agnostic now and I believe in God but I don’t
consider myself Catholic or Christian since saying
that means that I believe the only way to salvation
is through believing in Christ.

There’s a lot to work with here. I’d like to start with the definition of Christian (a Catholic is a Christian) since, though this is the common understanding, I believe it is in error, and the error itself causes misery.

While I do believe it is Christ who saves (from what? the power of “sin, death, and the Devil.” It is what Audre Lourde called “anti-life”) the function of salvation does not come from belief. Belief, in one sense, is an achievement of the mind and salvation is a gift: it is given without price or condition. This is one of the ways that God is free, as well as loving and compassionate. Indeed, this is the substance behind the recent post entitled “No ‘Who’s Sorry Now’ Theology.”

Belief, which can also be understood as trust, for Christians (and with it the need for the church) is the conception of divine activity which makes deeper participation in God relatively possible. (I don’t want to say participation with God is less possible or full in other religions, or perfectly full among Christians, but I do believe it is more on-target.) It is as one person tells another about God-as-friend. In recounting how this “friendship” came to be, it is important to understand how it began and what bonds sustain it. The interpretation of this story is what theology is. The story’s context is the church. The means of entering is baptism.

So now, about your daughter. I would first advise you and your husband to understand what you intend to do with regard to your daughter. Can you tell each other, and others, in simple words how she will be different after the service than before it. Some possibilities include dedication to human service, being blessed by God, thanksgiving for her birth, being named in the presence of her community, and being given her spiritual inheritance. These, you will note, can be said both of baptism and if your daughter was being converted to Judaism. In other words, who will she be afterward? If you’re not sure, think on it. It will also suggest whether or not you will be well benefited by the assistance of clergy. (Email me privately – see the link to the right – naming where you live and I can make a referral.) Until then, too, any service text I would offer would likely be misleading.

Congratulations for your daughter’s birth, and blessings while you discover new things about your faith. If it helps, you are not alone in this situation.

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