A woman faces a possible fine and jail time for baptizing her two children (ages 5 and 7) without first notifying her ex-husband. According to www.foxnews.com Lauren Jarrell, a Presbyterian, “must face a criminal contempt hearing for violating a court order that said major decisions regarding the religious upbringing of her two children should be made jointly with the children's father.” The father, Emmett Blake Jarrell, a Methodist, preferred the kids be baptized when they are older and can better understand the significance of the sacrament.
Speaking as a Presbyterian pastor, we believe that when a young child is brought to be baptized, that child is presented on behalf of the parent’s faith. I have to wonder, did Lauren’s pastor ask where the dad is? If the pastor knew the father disapproved and proceeded with the baptism, why is he/she not being charged with violating the court order also? Because the pastor is not mentioned in this story, I am assuming he/she was not aware of the court order. But it is an observation worth noting.
Assuming Lauren withheld the information of the court order from the pastor, how can she in good conscious and Christian faith bring her children forward to be baptized? One of the questions she would have answered as part of the ceremony is, “Do you intend to provide for his/her Christian nurture?” Call me crazy, but deception is not part of Christian nurture.
The father is not upset that his two kids are baptized. Emmett is upset because they were not baptized in a way that he himself wanted them to be baptized. He wanted them to first have a better understanding of the sacrament. It should be noted that both the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches practice infant baptism. We baptize infants because we believe that God Himself initiates our relationship with Him and grace works in our lives before we are even aware of it or can understand it. If the father is a good Methodist he should not have issue with his children being baptized. This is not to side with the mother; I just question the father’s motives.
Then there are the kids. They will grow up viewing this event not as a ceremony in which they were brought before God to be received into His family but as an event which divided their parents and introduced court proceedings. What do you think that will do to their faith? If these children are being brought up on their parent’s faith, I wonder if they will ever want to have a relationship with God, let alone be baptized if given the option.
This is a sad story. Infant or adult baptism; we believe that God is doing something. At a minimum Christians believe that God is symbolically claiming the baptized person into His family. Can we trick God into accepting someone? Doesn’t God have a say in this? If God is all-knowing, would he willingly accept a child into his Church knowing the child’s father was being deceived? God is not a God of deception, but a God of truth. If I was the pastor who baptized these two children, I would be conflicted. Should I sign that baptismal certificate and record it with the church or tell the mom God won’t honor her deception? These parents have made the sacrament of baptism not about God or their children, but about themselves. They have used deception and revenge to try and control God. If God is the one central to baptism, why is He being left out?
Asher Wiesenthal and Rosa Rapp were baptized in Salt Lake City, Utah. Some are calling their baptisms sacrilege and the church that baptized them is apologizing. What’s even stranger to some, is that Wiesenthal and Rapp are both Jewish and two weren’t even present for their own baptisms. In fact, they died several years ago as holocaust victims. So what’s going on?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) conducts what they call, proxy baptisms or baptism by proxy. It is an answer to the question of what happens to a person who dies before being baptized in the Mormon faith? According to Kathleen Flake, a Vanderbilt scholar who has studied the LDS faith, “Mormons believe that vicarious baptisms give the deceased, who exist in the afterlife as conscious spirits, a final chance to join the Mormon fold, and thus gain access to the Celestial Kingdom [the highest of the three heavenly kingdoms in heaven]” Flake adds that, “Mormons are encouraged to baptize at least four generations of forebears to seal the family together in the afterlife.” (The Washington Post online)
Jewish leaders believe it sacrilege for the LDS Church to insist that Jews are not worthy enough to receive God’s blessing and that it would take intervention on part of the Mormons to enable a Jew to be heaven (at least the Celestial Kingdom). Michael Purdy, LDS spokesman, has voiced regret on behalf of his church stating that the names of Wiesenthal and Rapp were submitted by an individual member of the church and only names of family members should be submitted. In fact, in 1995 the Mormon church agreed to stop baptizing Jewish Holocaust victims.
I myself do not follow the Mormon faith. I do not believe that I require baptism in order for my salvation. And I don’t know about the idea of being sealed together with my family in the afterlife. If I believed my salvation required baptism and I believed in baptism by proxy, I’d probably make sure a few family members’ names didn’t make the list. The holidays were bad enough. But an eternity? Someone’s name gotta come off that list.
So what do you think? Would you be upset if you found out that one of your deceased relatives was baptized by proxy into a faith he/she or you didn’t believe in? Is what the Mormons did offensive or was it worthy of at least a, “thanks for thinking of us” acknowledgement?
Is this worth going mad over?