My husband and I are total opposites. He's ultra-conservative, and I'm ultra-liberal. He's grumpy, I'm outgoing. He is a foodie, and I have the palate of a 5-year old. Where we differ the most, however, is in terms of religion. He's an atheist who was raised by a very conservative Christian family; I'm spiritual, having been raised by a former Catholic turned astrologist.
When we had our first child, we didn't baptize her. However, my mother-in-law started talking to her about God. It didn't bother me, though it irked my husband a bit. She took her to church and Sunday school, and and we ended up enrolling my daughter in a Christian pre-school where my mother-in-law worked.
My little girl took to Christianity pretty well. I thought that since she was being introduced to the "gentle" side of Christianity, it didn't bother me — I believe in Jesus, prayer, and Christmas. My husband was annoyed, but since I felt OK with this, it was two against one.
At her school, there was an after-school club called Kids for Christ. Abby asked if she could join, and I said sure. The club would provide snacks, do some fun activities, pray, and talk about God and the Bible. Nice, right? I thought so. My husband, on the other hand, said, "Enjoy your fairytales."
On the last club meeting for the year, they rented a slide with an inflatable pool at the end. She had a great time! When I picked her up from school, I asked her how it went.
"Awesome!' she said, "I got baptized!"
"Baptized? What do you mean?'' Maybe she misunderstood.
"I was in the pool and Mr. K asked me if I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart and then he dunked me in the water!"
Yep. She understood.
I drove home feeling very conflicted. My husband, of course, wasn't happy about this. I told him I'd handle it, and I initially contacted my mother-in-law to talk to her about this. Even she was shocked that this was done without our permission.
Then I posted on my Facebook wall to see how other people felt about it. I still was waiting for Mr. K to call me back, but in the meantime, a debate started raging. It was actually really interesting. Conservative Christians thought there wasn't a problem; they thought the problem was with me because I wanted to "cross-block" eternal salvation. Non-Christians agreed with me that I should have been informed and been the one to give official permission.
I finally got in touch with Mr. K, who's a very sweet guy. He cheerfully told me that it was a spontaneous thing — one kid had asked to be baptized in the inflatable pool, and he decided to ask the rest of the group if they wanted to be baptized, and several kids said yes. So he did.
I'm the type of person who doesn't want to hurt feelings. But... baptizing is kind of a big deal, right? I would like to think it is. So who should have more of a say? A young child, or the parents of that child? I get that maybe all these kids saying they want to be baptized has a bit of a group mentality — everyone is doing it. And a lot of moms on my Facebook wall said it's harmless. I get that. It's not like they gave her a tattoo. But shouldn't parents be notified of things like this before they happen?
I support her wanting to be baptized, but I would have wanted to be there. I told Mr. K my feelings. He reiterated that it was spontaneous and that there was another mom there taking pictures that I can ask to see. I told him that's nice, but I would have liked to have been there to take the pictures myself.
I took it upon myself to warn him that he really should let parents know if this sort of thing is going to happen. There might be a parent that gets angry and might force the after-school club to shut down, and that would be a shame. I also told him my husband is an atheist, and Mr. K got all jumpy and said, "Oh man! Is he mad?" I told him he feels the way I feel — that we should have been asked for permission.
Ultimately, I believe that being baptized is a spiritually intimate moment between a person and God. In the case of a small child, parental consent must be given, in my opinion, no matter how "spontaneous" and regardless of if the child says they want to do it.