This morning was Z’s baptism into the Lutheran Church. Despite being the only openly agnostic person in the building I still felt like I was the only one taking the ritual seriously. When Z first came to me with the idea of being baptized several months ago I asked if she understood what it meant. She replied that she did, but was unable to explain it any way. As recently as a few weeks ago she couldn’t tell me why she wanted to be baptized, and literally minutes before the ceremony itself she still didn’t understand what was actually involved. The pastor invited her mother and I to come forward and participate in the ritual, but I couldn’t bring myself to do so.
Nothing would please me more than to stand alongside my daughter as she made a lifelong commitment to a person, idea or principle. But that clearly was not the case in today’s ritual. Aside from Z not understanding anything about what she was doing, the officiate, her pastor, clearly didn’t take it very seriously either. He approached her right before the service began to ask if she had any sponsors. She answered affirmatively, but stated they were not there. Wondering what kind of baptismal sponsor didn’t attend the ceremony itself I asked Z who they were (she had never mentioned a sponsor before). She said it was her “aunt” and “uncle” because her mother refers to them as her Godparents despite the fact that they aren’t religious and were not named her Godparents at her Catholic baptism as a baby. In fact, Z never even informed them that they were to be her sponsors. This is all beside the fact that the people supposedly sponsoring her into the Lutheran Church aren’t Lutheran.
None of this phased the Pastor, whom I would assume would be the first to stand up and insist that a recipient of a holy ritual actually understand something about it. The impression I received was that he was far more interested in growing the numbers of his small flock then in educating his followers in the meanings of faith, religion, or even God. Maybe words like sacred, commitment, faith, and devotion no longer have meaning in today’s world, but they do to me.
I’ve never stood in the way of Z attending services. Heck, I’ve even encouraged it. I’ve offered to teach her what I know about any or all of the numerous religions I’ve studied and participated in over the years. We’ve had theological discussions, and I’ve even corrected the doctrine and biblical tales her Sunday School teacher misinformed her about. But I do all of these things to try to build a respect for the religion in her. Obviously I’ve failed.