BACK TO SCHOOL WEEK: Baptism language

A reader writes:

I have recently been reading your books and website. I am constantly amazed at how God puts people in our paths who we can walk parts of our journey with…Your story and mine are very similar. In my 30 year journey with Christ (made “official” at age 10 – though I don’t ever remember not knowing Jesus) I have been to various churches from Presbyterian, UCC, to Methodist, to Assemblies of God and other Pentacostal influence (still detoxing), to a year in Catholic school, to my current Vineyard. I have always seen beautiful things in each (I love the idea of the Rosary, I love “walking in the gifts of the Spirit”, find value in the less ‘spirit-filled’ denominations) and have grown with each new exposure. The problem I have encountered the most is the problem of feeling like I’m some sort of rebel when I start to ask questions and poke around at the theologies/hermeneutics, eschatologies that don’t sit with my spirit. I find that there are usually only a few I can share my thoughts with and not get the ‘I still love you but I’m worried about you’ look or warnings about being careful of who /what I read because there are false teachers lurking in the darkness. I have longed for a harmonizing of the positive things I see in all the faiths that call themselves by Jesus’ name, and an honoring of those who do not. I like to venture into other camps and find Jesus there. It’s awesome. But not popular, not deemed ‘safe’ unless you are a person with a proper degree in conservative Biblical studies. Finding your writings as well as those of some others (Rob Bell – gasp! He says we should contemplate!), Gulley and Mullholland (oh, no! God might save everyone?!) have been so refreshing.
This weekend I was watching a baby dedication/baptism at a Methodist church and found myself chafing under some of the language (though stated in pretty words) that seemed to indicate that this child was sinful and dirty prior to the baptism and “part of the family of faith” only AFTER water was placed on her head…I get the whole symbolism behind it, and I know the Biblical grounds for it, I just wonder if people would be better served if we baptized them into a knowledge of who they already are because of the work Christ already accomplished – especially when dedicating or Baptizing a child. Maybe that’s heretical and erroneous. I just can’t look at a child and see sinfulness.

I don’t want to leave the universal Church as Anne Rice recently declared. My xxx family has exposed me to a kind of community love that I can’t imagine leaving. I want to stay – and feel called to stay – and maybe weave into our family a broader view of our impossibly huge God.
I need to know I am not alone in this…So, thanks, man, for your courage and example!! That’s all I really wanted to say. Thanks if you made it this far!!
(I guess we both suffer from long paragraph/parenthetical statement syndrome as well)….

Thanks for your note. This sin-focused language relates a lot to the Greco-Roman narrative I talk about in New Kind of Christianity.
If you’ve never read Jerome Berryman’s writings on children and God, I highly recommend them. I finished Godly Play recently and am enjoying Children and the Theologians now.