Baptism and Community Involvement (Part 2 of a 3 Part Series on Anabaptist Distinctives)

ImageAs MennoNerds, we all have found certain distinctives of Anabaptism to be central in our expression of faith.  This article is part of a MennoNerds Synchro-Blog in the month of May on Anabaptism. This blog will explore some of the Anabaptist distinctives that my fellow Mennonerd, Tyler Tully, has written up on his blog (http://thejesusevent.com). To read what other Mennonerds are saying on Tully’s Anabaptist formational arguments, I’d encourage you to check out: http://mennonerds.com/special-blog-series/mennonerds-on-anabaptist-convictions/).

  • Tyler’s description of “Free Church of Confessing, Baptized Disciples- For the Anabaptist, community is essential in following Jesus. Although individuals choose to respond to this calling, or not, we enter into community with others through baptism as community is maintained through discipleship. Salvation is realized in community, but so is sin.  As a matter of intersection, some Anabaptist groups draw from Wesleyan and Liberationist wells that are also aimed at communal and economic reform in light of the Kingdom of God. Although not unique among (mostly white) post-liberal groups, post-colonial theologies continue to influence this new wave of Anabaptist expression just as historically rooted Anabaptist theology has influenced them. In tandem with the movement of the God that delivered the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt, the social and cultural reality of Jesus as a marginalized Jew in an occupied land, and the history of Anabaptist persecution during the Reformation period and beyond–Anabaptists choose to minister in, of, and amongst the marginalized. We see this as a natural expression of our commitment to discipleship in the Kingdom which stands against Christendom and the State.

To be honest, this blog post gave me the most amount of trouble in terms of thinking of how I wanted to present it. Finally, I decided to present it from my own viewpoint as someone who was baptized as an infant and later re-baptized as an adult. This poem is my description of how I have come to an understanding that baptism is reserved only for those old enough to make a conscious decision for themselves to choose to be part of community. On the other hand, I wish to say that I do not look down upon churches which practice infant baptism as many of them are using it simply as an expression of dedication to God and to the church.

When I was an infant,

My parents decided to baptize me.

Water splashing all over my brand new body.

I didn’t get the smiles.

I either cried,

Slept,

Perhaps yawned.

I was wearing a pretty white dress.

The colour of purity

Of innocence

Of simplicity.

And such was I at that age.

The world had not yet shown me it could be cruel

There was no reason not to trust

I could see people as purely good

Because I had not been indoctrinated by books, arguments, or theoretical concepts.

Baptism is an important time

Because

It presents an opportunity for re-birth, renewal, and re-generation.

It is a time of commitment, dedication, and belonging.

BUT

It is not necessarily the point of Salvation.

And this is where I radically differ from the view on infant baptism

Because

I feel that many people who baptize babies may not necessarily realize

The historical implications such an action means.

It is more than just a dedication

In many cases it is a belief that Salvation is imparted to a child or granted for a short amount of time

So that if the child passes away they will be safe

BUT had they not been baptized

Who knows where their soul would lie

It is the claiming of one’s soul for God.

ALSO

Infant baptism poses some serious questions about the historical links

The cruelty that Anabaptists had to undergo because they chose not to allow their children to be baptized

Because baptism meant being one with the State

So if you weren’t baptized, you couldn’t really be a citizen.

Which is ironic, because

Christians are called first and foremost to be citizens of heaven

Which includes being counter cultural at times.

When I was older

I chose to become re-baptized as an adult.

To make a conscious choice

To belong to a community of my own volition

Rather than because I was told that I am now a member of this church

To take Salvation a step further

And to claim it as my own.

To make baptism one way among many to prove that point to others.

I still believe community is essential in allowing one to thrive in their faith

But we cannot ignore the ways community comes into our lives.

Babies cannot make a decision for themselves to live out community by

Serving the poor

Living amongst the marginalized

Breaking bread with people on the fringes

BUT

Adults can decide those things.

Adults can decide to be full members of community.

Adults can decide to be baptized.

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