To Baptize Or Not To Baptize?

I hear you just had a child. Congratulations! Now that the news is out, there are a lot of decisions to make. Cloth or disposable diapers? Will you breast feed exclusively, or will you use formula? Will your child be baptized, or not?

If you're not familiar with the practice, baptism is generally understood as a symbolic representation of the burial and resurrection of Jesus. Some of the older, more liturgical churches (Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, etc) believe in infant baptism. Basically, we're all born with the 'sin nature' that came about when Adam and Eve were tossed out of the Garden of Eden and need to have that sin 'removed' if one is going to go to heaven. For Catholics, baptism is a way of literally 'washing' that sin away and giving the child a fresh start. It also means that the child is being received as part of the Church as a whole. On the other hand, congregational churches such as Baptists and Pentecostals believe that baptism should only be done on people who have made a profession of faith and want to make it public. It's seen as a symbolic act of obedience rather than conferring any particular 'status' on a person.

 I understand that some of you might not be Christians and as such I've attempted to explain things in neutral terms. However, since Christianity is the world's largest religion of late and I'm writing from an area of the world (the southern United States) that has a very large Christian population, it's something a lot of parents think about. So...

What are your personal beliefs about baptism?
Ask yourself if it matters to you when or how baptism takes place, if it takes place at all. For instance, my husband and his sister were baptized when they were older because their parents believed that it is something a person should decide upon for themselves. As I mentioned above, however, many churches believe that baptizing a child as a baby removes the 'original sin' of Adam and Eve and is the beginning of a lifelong journey of faith. What do you believe, if you have a belief at all?

Do either of you have a particularly strong opinion on the matter? If so, is there room for compromise? This is related to the above. If there is a difference of opinion between you and your partner, how strongly are those opinions held? Is one of you willing to 'lean' at all? This is especially important if one of you is of a non-Christian religion, or is not religious at all. It can make a difference in how you choose to raise your child, so you need to be on the same page.

What do other family members think? Do you care? Even if you and your partner don't hold any particular beliefs about baptism, your family and/or in-laws might. As you've probably noticed, grandparents and other relatives can be rather opinionated! If they are, does it matter to you? Does it matter to your partner?

I hope I've been able to give you a balanced idea of what to consider when deciding whether or not to baptize your child. Either way, it's entirely your decision. Good luck!

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