Thursday, May 27, 2010

Can a little holy water hurt?

My mother has voiced concerns that The Grape will grow up to be a heathen. She would really, really, really like me to have him baptized.

I go back and forth on whether to humor her or not. On one hand, it's a small thing to do to make her happy. Her church is as liberal as Christian churches come and I genuinely like the pastor. She's engaging, whip smart and articulate. And she's a feminist. The congregation welcomes people of all races and sexual orientations. They're pro-choice and pro-environment. They believe Darwin was onto something. They're pretty much the kind of church I'd join if I were shopping for a congregation.

But the thing is, I'm not. While I'm more than open to the possibility of a higher power, I have a hard time with that whole resurrection bit. Which (most Christian clergy would probably agree) renders me unfit for the faith. I also don't buy the baptize-him-to-keep-him-out-of-limbo approach. Holy water as an innoculation against hellfire seems downright silly to me.

For my entire adult life, I've been a C&E churchgoer. Hypocritical? Maybe slightly, but I like the holiday traditions and the familiar music. Oh yeah, and I love the candles at Christmas (Note to Pastor: The glow sticks last Christmas Eve sucked. Silent Night does NOT mesh with the rave vibe. I will not sue you if The Grape gets wax on him.)

I've made peace with my brand of hypocrisy. I mean, I know a gay man who frequents a Roman Catholic church, where they preach that his orientation makes him a sinner, because he just loves the smells and bells. They remind him of his youth.

Like him, I appreciate the option to drop into a church service for the nostalgic benefits now and then, but I don't find myself yearning for more spirituality in my life. While many people find great joy in the fellowship of like minded believers, I don't believe enough to crave that sort of communion either.

Many people have said just do it. Go through the motions. It doesn't hurt anyone.

I have trouble with that. I have enough respect for people who believe, and take their faith seriously, that I don't want to stand in their house of worship and promise to raise my son in the church when I know I won't do better than the two big holidays (plus whatever weddings and funerals we happen to attend).

Still, it would make my mother happy. And The Grape does love water. He would probably try to catch some in his mouth as the pastor pours it over his head. It might be a nice family event - one with a sense of occasion but none of the circus atmosphere brought on by most celebrations these days. My agnosticism doesn't mean I don't want The Grape to learn about world religions and their place in history, literature and culture. He's free to choose a faith, if he so desires, when he becomes an adult.

But I'm still feeling guilty about the Great To Baptize or Not Quandary. Maybe I should contact the pastor and ask about her policy regarding the offspring of the marginally faithful. Can't hurt to find out, right?


  1. So did you ever call the pastor?

    Nina Cerbo (wife of Chris Cerbo...)

  2. Hi - Somehow I missed your comment. Thanks for reading! No, not yet. Although my mom continues to worry about the Grape's heathen status.