Posted in Spiritual Sundays

Spiritual Sunday: To baptize or not to baptize? That, among many others, is the question.

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I have to start by saying I’m not a parent yet, but my husband and I definitely want a kid in the future.  If you’ve read my religious background, you may understand why I’m a little torn on the subject of how to religiously bring up our future offspring.

The topic of religion and what we plan on passing on to our kids (if anything at all) has come up many times in our marriage.  For the most part, I think we agreed that he’s okay with baptizing the kid as a Catholic, just to have a religious basis, but to let him or her decide for themself what they want to believe in (or not believe in, if the case may be).

This agreement has since brought up many other questions:  who would we choose as godparents?  Would my husband then agree to convert to the Catholic faith?  What about the godparents?

The idea of godparents are also a strange one.  Traditionally, godparents are chosen to help the child in his or her religious education and to support that child spiritually.  More often, though, godparents are seen as the people who take over guardianship should the legal parents become incapacitated.

One thing I have to disclose is I’m sorta kinda (okay, fine, REALLY) obsessed with the TV show Gilmore Girls.  I’ve watched the entire series at least 5 times over and can probably tell you the entire plot of an episode after only 3 seconds into it.  I tend to talk about the characters in the show like they’re real people sometimes.  So relating posts to Gilmore Girls episodes may happen more often than not.  (I promise this is going somewhere…)

There’s one episode that I remember when Lorelai (the mother) and Rory (the daughter) are asked to become godmothers to Lorelai’s best friend Sookie’s two children (Did you follow that okay?  Sorry about that).  Neither Lorelai nor Rory are terribly religious (they’re pretty accepting of everything), but both felt like they were under a microscope when they were presented with godparent responsibility.  They engage in a one-upping “I’m holier than thou” contest in front of the pastor who’s giving all the godparents a “religious interview,” for lack of a better term.  The comedic conversation goes as follows:

(Taken from crazyinternetpeople.com)
REV.SKINNER: So, I always like to take a few minutes before my baptisms to get to know the godparents a little bit. Of course I already know you two, but I just want to touch base and make sure you understand the obligations of what you’re getting into here today. Now, basically, godparents are responsible for the spiritual upbringing of their godchildren. I certainly hope the parents throw their two cents in, but the godparents are vitally important figures in a child’s life. So, tell me, what are your religious affiliations?
LORELAI: Oh, well, Reverend, you’ve known us forever.
REV.SKINNER: Well, yes, I have, and I still have no idea what your religious affiliations are.
LORELAI: Oh…
RORY: Well…
LORELAI: We’re a bit lapsed.
REV.SKINNER: Yes. From…?
LORELAI: Well, um…religion. But, you know, I can’t speak for Rory, but I have a strong belief in good…you know…over evil. I mean, if I was asked to choose a side…
RORY: I read “The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe”.
LORELAI: I have a bible. Although I may or may not have accidentally given it to Goodwill, because I’m remodelling. But Goodwill is a religious organization… I think. But even if it’s not, good will. It’s in the ballpark.
RORY: I buy tons of girl-scout cookies.
LORELAI: I have two “Mary is my homegirl” T-shirts.
REV.SKINNER: Well, these are all very positive if somewhat irrelevant things. And it seems like your hearts are in the right place.
RORY: Absolutely.
LORELAI: Definitely.
REV.SKINNER: And it says something good about you both that when a friend calls you up and asks a favour, you come through like this.
LORELAI: (obviously having figured something out) Right, right.
REV.SKINNER: Shall we?
RORY: We shall.

This brings up an important point.  Above even spiritual upbringing, I’d look for good role models for my children.  If they are good people and their hearts are in the right place, then I think that’s who I’d entrust my children to.  But what happens when the people you want to be your child’s godparents are atheists?  I would feel bad forcing someone who didn’t believe in God into such a religious ceremony.  And what would the church think?  Or would we all just try to cover up the fact?  Has anyone out there with kids ever run into this problem, or know what the solution is?

Then comes up the religious upbringing itself.  If our kid is baptized Catholic, he or she would then eventually be expected to participate in the other sacraments:  confession, confirmation, and communion being among them.  We’re both a bit wary of our kid going “that far” into the Catholic religion.  At that point, we’d feel like we’re forcing only that one belief on our kid, and he or she wouldn’t feel quite comfortable exploring other religious/non-religious avenues.  So why even bother with baptism, you ask?  I guess I’m not so sure myself.  To me, it’s just something that I’ve been brought up with…a ceremony as much of a rite of passage as getting a driver’s license or graduating high school.  It’s as logical to me as a first birthday party when it comes to normal childhood events.  Of course, this isn’t true for everyone.

What happens as the child grows up?  We’re both afraid of the time when the child is old enough to realize that Mom & Dad don’t go to church together.  How to explain that awkwardness?  Would I even bother to take the child to church if we want the child to be free to choose their own belief system?

In the end, I think we both want to provide our child with something to believe in, no matter what that may be.  If there is anything we both agree in, it’s that it’s important to learn faith in something, if in nothing else but humankind.

What do you guys think?  Do you think it’s important that both parents have the same spiritual/non-spiritual background?  How vital do you think religion is to a child’s development?  If a child is left to their own devices to figure out what they want to believe in, do you think this will just end up in them being spiritually confused or lost?

I know I’ve asked many more questions than I usually do, and that I’ve wandered in thought much more than I usually do, but it’s a conversation I’ve been wanting to start for awhile.  And I believe that the best conversations have lots of questions!

Here’s to believing in something,

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4 thoughts on “Spiritual Sunday: To baptize or not to baptize? That, among many others, is the question.

  1. I read the response on facebook, and I agree with a lot of the points she makes, only from the reversed agnostic/athiest perspective.

    1–You’re not forcing anything on someone. If someone isn’t comfortable taking part in a religious ceremony, they’re allowed to say so.

    2–Your kids will be curious about the differences in yours and S’s religious beliefs anyway, so it won’t matter if they’re following one of you to church. If you bring them up with religion, it’ll be an influence on which they make their decisions, regardless of whether they follow that religion. If you bring your kid up to be religion-free, that will form the basis of experiences for which they will make their decisions. Regardless of whether they stay with the religion-free approach. The world is full of athiests perspectives, and it is (even more) full of Christianity (and, to a lesser extent, “all the other” religions). Your kids will have a full spiritual upbringing if you raise them up in a way that is consistent with your’s and S’s beliefs about open mindedness, understanding, and learning.

    I don’t think baptism is going to indelibly mark your children for one experience or another. I think it’s the full, bigger picture of how you approach religion that will have the lasting influence on your kids.

    1. That’s true that I wouldn’t be forcing anything on anyone. Luckily I’m not naturally that bossy (only comes out when I’m in a leadership position) and my friends are pretty outspoken so they would definitely protest if they weren’t comfortable. The Facebook commenter brought up a good point later, too: that as long as the person I choose to be the godparent (if we DO choose to baptize our kid) is comfortable talking about religion, it shouldn’t be a problem. If, on the other hand, this person is evangelistic in their belief/non-belief, we would without a doubt not consider that person for being a godparent.

      You bring up a great point that I didn’t even think about: that a “spiritual upbringing” could be brought about without any kind of traditional religious teaching at all. Love and acceptance, which I think are the two most important things that the Bible teaches Christians, are absolutely things that can be taught to a child without having to go to church. But I like stories, and S likes anecdotes, so I think church could provide both of those things for our child when either one of us felt we were lacking in the story and anecdote department. Maybe what I’m realizing is that perhaps S and I are too lazy to find examples of love and acceptance on our own. LoL. Time for that to change, I suppose.

      Thank you for reinforcing that baptism isn’t going to dictate the beliefs they’ll hold for the rest of their life. I’m afraid I’m going to be one of those mothers who question every single choice I made for the kid when that kid starts to get into any kind of trouble. Like, I’ll be one of those moms that somehow draw the ridiculous conclusion that my child played hooky because I forcefed them broccoli or something. Yet another thing I should probably change. 🙂

  2. I wanted to post this Facebook response from a friend of mine. She prepped a long response to put on WordPress but it didn’t publish, so the least I could do is include it here:

    “I wrote you a lovely long comment and now wordpress won’t publish it, so here it is: In my opinion, if you don’t raise your child with some sort of religious practice, you’re making the choice for them: they will become non-religious. If you want them to become, non-religious, then of course that’s fine. But because society is generally secular (at least in the part of the world you guys are in) they will have exposure to non-religious ideas and persons, unless you take special care to shield them to that kind of thing. I don’t think you need to worry about Daddy not going to church with Mommy. Lots of daddies don’t go to church. It’s also a good idea to expose the child to people with different religious beliefs and practices, so that they won’t be prejudiced and so that they have someone to talk to if the religion that they’ve been brought up in isn’t working for them. I’m not Catholic so I don’t know if things like confession would be necessary. I would be pro confirmation and communion, personally, but that’s really up to you. I would insist on things like prayer and learning bible stories though, if I were to insist on anything. We are hoping that a friend who is Muslim will be the godmother to our child, and we don’t think that will be a problem for anyone. So maybe an atheist would be fine. Atheists can still teach children about the wonder of life. My two cents.”

    1. E,
      First of all, I really appreciate you taking the time to read this post. I’m actually really glad you did, as I was actually really curious as to what you and your husband’s plans were for your baby in this regard. I know both of you to be pretty religiously openminded like my husband and I are, so I very much respect the input you provide.
      There was something that you said that particularly stuck out: “If you want them to become non-religious, then of course that’s fine.” I realized right there that maybe that’s the real question I’m trying to ask: rather than “Should I baptize my baby” I’m really wanting to know “Do I want to raise my kid to be religious?” That’s something neither I or my husband are 100% sure of yet. I think in a perfect world we would raise or child to be respectful of everyone, and if they gravitate towards one particular faith/non-faith, it would be of their own choosing, not because we forced them into it. There are many great teachings out there, from all walks of life. Since my husband and I know and are friends with people from many walks of life, I’m positive in the belief that we’d support our child in whatever they want to follow. I can’t see myself being judgemental on either side of the spiritual-secular spectrum (i.e., “You don’t believe in God? What’s wrong with you?!? Or, conversely, “How could you possibly believe in God?!? There are so many logical arguments against His existence.”), so I think we’re safe there.
      As I alluded to in the post, I suppose the more important thing to bring the child up with, even above religion, is the foundation to become a good person with a good heart. I think the reason why so many parents turn to a religious foundation for their kids is because at the core of a *good* religious belief is just that: to treat others the way you want to be treated (indeed, many articles have been published with excerpts from all the major religions and their version of The Golden Rule). In many ways, religion is a reinforcement of how to live life and how to treat others. So the question really becomes whether or not my husband and I are capable of setting a good foundation for our child without that religious reinforcement. At least, until they are old enough to figure out on their own how they want to live their life and how to treat others.
      You’re absolutely correct: we live in a secular part of the world. With that, we have many secular friends. So I think it would be virtually impossible to “shield” our kid from non-religion. Besides, I think you and I would agree that non-religion isn’t a dangerous thing that a kid would need shielding from anyway. 🙂 Thank goodness we have the brains to have figured that out! LoL.
      I think the whole “Daddy not going to church with Mommy” thing is more something I’m super self-conscious about being judged for than anything else. I do realize that lots of daddies don’t go to church, but that doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable for me for some reason. When I do go to church on my own, I find myself tempted to lie and tell those who see my wedding ring that my husband’s overseas. In my mind I would see that as being more respectable than a husband who has the illusion of not supporting my religion (Of course he DOES support it, but I don’t feel like going into a whole long diatribe with a stranger about both of our religious histories. That’s what blogging is for! Ha.). Then if I DID end up taking my child to church, I’d feel that much more self-conscious because I’d then look like the single mother whose husband left her.
      Now, I have to supplement this with a couple of things: 1) My husband has actually said to me that he wouldn’t mind going to church with me and our kid in order to support me in my belief and so that the child would have the positive association with church that it’s something the family is united on. 2) I realize I need to get over these silly self-conscious thoughts regarding what I think other people are thinking of me. Yet they are there nonetheless. Something I need to work on…but I never claimed to be perfect.
      We also fully plan to expose the child to people of all beliefs. We are extremely lucky in the fact that our group of friends are quite religiously diverse. I’m excited to see what kind of things our kids will learn from the group, as they are all wonderful people. I would be only too honored if they looked to any one of them as a spiritual guide, and I think the feeling would be mutual.
      As far as confession and Catholicism, the last I knew–it could very well have changed since I did confession…I’m not quite up to date on all the changes…but that’s a Spiritual Sunday post for another time–confession is required before communion. So if they did have communion and confirmation, confession would be a part of it. Ironically, I haven’t actually been confirmed yet, and I’m not quite sure if I want to be.
      I agree with you on prayers and religious stories, if we were to raise our kid with religion. Both I think are integral to having a faith: the former because it is the epitome of faith (believing in something that you can’t experience through your senses), the latter because it helps to form the child’s morals and ethics.
      I think it’s great that you’re considering a Muslim to be your child’s godmother. What a rich religious background he or she will have! And I also am in agreement about an atheist teaching our kid about the wonder of life. I’m just not so sure how comfortable that situation would be, to ask them to promise to bring up a child in God’s teachings. I’m pretty sure I’d be uncomfortable if I was asked to promise to bring a child up in something I didn’t believe in. But I suppose we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
      Thank you again for your two cents! 🙂
      ~Violet~

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