Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dorothy's Dedication

I know I don't blog about my faith very often, but it's still a very important part of my life. I don't blog about breathing, either, but it's something that I do constantly, and can't imagine living without. I'm always happy to answer questions, but I'm mostly past that stage of my life where I liked to get into big religious arguments for fun. But a friend of mine asked me what the difference was between baptism and dedication, and I felt like the question deserved a well-thought-out answer. I'm sure this brief blog post won't even come close to such a thing, but here goes.

My faith is important to me. I was raised in the church, and my Christian upbringing is important to me, too. I know it's popular in this pluralistic day and age to say, "I'll teach my children about all religions and let them choose for themselves." I admire that sentiment, and I respect people who raise their children in this way, but it wouldn't be honest of me. I'm too biased. I will teach my children about other religions, I will teach them to be open-minded and compassionate, I will teach them to be good listeners, and I will teach them that you can disagree with others and still be friends. But I will also teach them what I believe to be True. Because I need to be honest with my kids, and pretending that the Truth I have chosen is just one of many equally valid choices is beyond my acting abilities.

And that, essentially, is what infant dedication is all about. It's our pledge, before our church family, to raise our children in the way we know to be True. It's also our church's pledge to us, to help us, pray for us, support us, and keep us accountable as we do our flawed, human best to raise our kids right.

My church doesn't practice infant baptism, but essentially, it's the same as infant dedication in principle. But it goes further theologically. Baptism is a sacrament, a physical act with deep spiritual significance. I believe that baptism is more meaningful when it is undertaken by an adult who understands the significance and chooses it for herself. But reasonable people can definitely disagree on this issue. Entire churches have split over this issue, so I don't pretend to have the final word. Honestly (and I'm probably going to step on toes on both sides of the argument here), I don't think it really matters when it's done. There are two sides to the coin: A promise by the parents to raise the child in the church, and a decision by an older child (or teen or adult) to accept that faith as their own. In some churches, baptism happens on the promise side of the coin, in other churches, baptism happens on the acceptance side of the coin. And there is solid Biblical backing for either option, so we could argue until we are blue in the face, and hopefully, still come out the other side loving each other.

So, Dorothy was dedicated this weekend. It was a lovely service, and two other babies were dedicated along with her, so the church was packed with loving friends and family, times three. Dorothy was the oldest of the three babies, and she was also the only one who didn't cry when the pastor took her to pray for her. (She also did NOT explode poop all over the handmade dress that I and my siblings all wore for our dedications, unlike a certain older sister whose name rhymes with Balerie.) We were really grateful for all of the friends and family who came to the service, and for the awesome spread at the reception afterwards. We are very blessed, and so are our girls, to have such an amazing, supportive community of faith.







nivchek said...

***Annoying Orthodox post alert***

So, like, I agree with you and all, about what baptism is for you guys over there, but in the East, it's something completely different. Not really a promise, nor an acceptance, although both of those things are sort of assumed as prerequisites.

For us, it is not a symbol, not even a little bit. Baptism actually washes off sin and actually purifies a person. That's the difference. But then, we believe all the sacraments do actual things.

Sorry, just thought I'd be annoying and all.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to chime in, not to start a theological argument which I definitely don't want to do, but just to clarify for nivchek -- many denominations in the west that practice infant baptism agree with the East on its meaning and significance. I'm Lutheran, and believe that it's an act of God that actually gives faith.

Good job for Dorothy not crying (or pooping!) ELizabeth cried when she was baptized...but she got a lot of water dumped on her face, so I don't really blame her. :-)

I don't post about my faith much, either. I like what you said about yours, though. Thanks. :-)

Jule Ann said...

Thanks, ladies, for the reminder that baptism is also many things in different churches. I explained dedication more, because that is what we practice, and I skimmed over the differences between the various churches that practice infant baptism. I was careful not to use the word "symbolic", though, because I realize that it's not just a symbol for you.

nivchek said...

Cool. I like agreement. Thanks!

EarthenForge said...

Great pics! We're so glad we could be with you all on this special day.

jd said...

Very well put, Jule Ann.