And now for something completely different
It just occurred to me that I might a "bad Methodist" for something other than gay issues: my views on baptism. In the United Methodist church, we practice infant baptism. I can't say I'm exactly against it; it doesn't particularly bother me that we baptize babies. But for me, baptism is a symbol of a commitment an individual makes to God, not a symbol of a commitment an individual's parent makes on his or her behalf.
I get this from my father. My dad was a Baptist and my mother was a Catholic and they got married (after breaking up like five times for "religious differences") in a Baptist church back in the day when Catholics were excommunicated if they were married by anyone other than a Catholic priest and "good Catholics" were supposed to shun weddings that involved a Catholic being married by anyone other than a Catholic priest. My mother was, in fact, excommunicated and my father's best friend and several of my mother's cousins refused to attend their wedding because of this. My grandmother, to her credit, not only risked her standing in the church by attending, but actively encouraged my mother to try out my dad's church and see what she thought before breaking up with him for good.
When my parents decided to get married in a Baptist church, my mother was forced to be re-baptized. This bothers me a lot. Whatever I might think about infant baptism, it still is a baptism. She didn't need a second one, particularly one by immersion when she has a water phobia. Far from being the spiritual sacrament baptism should be, it was a traumatic experience, and an infuriating one because they were basically invalidating the baptism she'd already had, which meant something to her.
But my father, good Baptist that he was, didn't believe in infant baptisms and my mother took her promise to raise us kids as Protestants very seriously, so my brothers and I were not baptized when we were babies. The Baptist church didn't really work out for my parents, so they started going to a United Methodist church when I was a young child. It was a nice happy medium--Protestant enough for my father and liturgical enough for my mother. This is probably a major reason I ended up in the Methodist Church myself; it just feels like home.
When I was 19 I was baptized, also in a United Methodist church. It was a private ceremony with my family and closest friends. If I had to do it over, I'd do it in a regular church service, but I was in college and easily embarrassed and I felt funny about being baptized as an adult in a church that normally baptizes babies. My brothers were also baptized in college or later, although neither of them goes to a Methodist church. (My parents don't anymore, either.)
When my kids were born, I remembered how special my baptism was, and I wanted to leave that option open to my children to choose (or not) when they were ready. Our pastor at the time was very flexible and was willing to do the parts of a baptism ceremony that didn't involve the actual baptism so that my husband and I could stand before the church and promise to raise our children in that Christian community, but without it being an actual baptism. (For what it's worth, my husband was raised Catholic and was baptized as a baby, but he didn't have a strong opinion either way and let me make the call.)
The reason I'm reminded of all of this is recently there was a baptism in our church during a Community Sunday service when the kids were in worship with us rather than in Sunday school, so my daughter C. (age 8 going on 30) asked about baptism. I explained to her what it was and that she and her brother and sister were not baptized as infants and why I chose not to do that. She thought about it a while and then told me she wants to be baptized. I spoke with our pastor about it and he's going to talk with her on Sunday, but barring anything really weird coming up, she will probably be baptized sometime this month or early next month.
Even though she's a few weeks short of 9 years old, I feel confident she knows what she's doing. She's a very deep thinker (asked me for the full theological significance of Christ's crucifixion when she was all of 4) so when she says she wants to make a promise to God, I believe her, and I'm really proud of her for thinking it through on her own and making the decision for herself.
I also want to say how proud I am of my other kids, my daughter A. in particular. One of the sticky parts of raising triplets is letting them be individuals with their own pace of growing. There's an expectation that they'll reach all the big milestones at the same time, so it occurred to me that baptizing one child and not the other two could be kind of tricky. If one kid wants something the others aren't ready for, we can't fall back on the excuse, "She's older, that's why!" and it is very difficult for them to not compare themselves to each other. C. tends to be naturally good in school, while A. is a more natural athlete. A. will berate herself if she can't read as well as C. even though they're both above grade level, while C. will get frustrated if her dribbling in basketball isn't as good as A.'s even though her persistence makes up for it. So my first fear was that as soon as C. announced she wanted to be baptized, A. would want to as well just to make sure she wasn't "behind."
While we were discussing this, however, A. looked me in the eye and said, "Mom, I don't want to be baptized," and I am so proud of her for taking it seriously enough to know she's not ready yet. When I told C. that her grandparents would be coming and maybe some of her other relatives, I made sure to reiterate to A. that I was proud of her for knowing her own mind and that when and if she wants to be baptized, we'll make just as big a deal out of it for her. (My son, who borders on autistic, tends to focus only on his interest-du-jour and has taken no interest one way or another in the whole subject, so I'm not worried about him feeling left out.)
I'm glad I didn't baptize them when they were infants. I'm enjoying watching C. process what her faith means to her as she makes this decision and I look forward to the other kids going through their own processes when they're ready. And I'm grateful that I go to a church that allows a lot of leeway for me to have a different take than church doctrine. "Bad" Methodist or not, I find myself really appreciating the UM church and its capacity to embrace differences in our individual journeys with Christ.