• Tue, Feb 11 - 11:00 am ET

I’m a Christian But Chose Not To Participate During ‘Baby Dedication Sunday’

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My church is a fairly large, non-denominational Christian church in the Midwest. Every year around Mother’s Day, we have a dedication service for parents with new children to dedicate them to the Lord.  Baby dedication services are typically a ceremony that affirms a commitment by the parents to raise their children according to God’s will.  In my church, the ceremony is held after the regular, although shortened, sermon.  They play a slideshow of pictures set to music of all the children and families participating.  The pictures are invariably adorable.  Some are a series of pictures that show how much the child has already grown or just a collection sweet and silly snapshots.  Then all the parents gather on stage with the child being dedicated, other children, and sometimes other family members that have an important role in the child’s life (like a grandparent.) They are introduced to the congregation and repeat an oath of commitment.  The congregation is asked if they will help support the family in raising their children in a Godly manner and the congregation agrees that they will.  Last year, all the parents were given a rose as well.

 

While I watched all the pictures of the babies on screen, I almost wished I had submitted the baby dedication form myself.  My daughter was just over a year old and would have been a sweet addition to the rest of the children.  In fact, after the service, my minister’s wife asked me why my daughter’s pictures weren’t up there.  I excused myself by claiming to have lost the form and missed the deadline (all true) but there was more to it than just that.

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  • Kay_Sue

    This is a fine line to walk, especially, I imagine, as a mother of a daughter. I grew up in a very conservative Christian community, and I can attest that there are many things that, when accepted point-blank without quesiton, can be damaging to a girl’s psyche. It has taken a long time to overcome some of the basic tenets of parenting girls in the faith–the emphasis on modesty, the fact that I never owned my body or sexuality. Those are things that I would not want to confront as a parent.

    While I consider myself a Christian, I’m not raising my sons in my faith. I’m exposing them to it–when they ask questions, when they see me reading scripture, when they encounter other Christians (including our family), I am more than happy to talk about it with them. But I refuse to raise the types of men that were raised by the church I grew up in. Yes, they are mostly good people, but there’s an underlying misogyny there that I can’t accept as a parent or as a woman. I am glad that there are churches coming out of that fog, but I don’t want to expose my sons to a ton of duds while vetting potentials.

    And we’ve been dealing with it anyway, because my older son’s best friend is a very staunch Christian. Right now, he’s terrifying my son. He’s preaching hellfire and brimstone all the time. He told him that good people go to church. Since we don’t, my son was convinced we were bad people, which lead to a lengthy (but actually wonderful) discussion on the fact that some good people go to church, some don’t, and not everyone that goes to church is a good person too. Things like that are *exactly* the ideas I don’t want them to internalize–but it’s still a conflict to me, as someone brought up in the church. It’s not an easy balancing act, and I wish you luck as you manage it.

    I read a blog post this summer that really covered the whole “modesty policing” trend very well. If you get a chance, check it out: http://www.imperfecthomemaking.com/2013/07/what-our-daughters-and-sons-need-to.html

    I really found it to be an enlightening look at modesty and the context that we place it in.

    • Guest

      Thanks for sharing the article. The whole don’t trip up men with your clothing thing has always driven me nuts. I really liked this woman’s take on it. (Although the story of the church asking the teenage girl to stop wearing sundresses because of the effect on old men instead of telling old men to quit being pervs really had me going.)

    • Kay_Sue

      I hated that too. It all denies the basic tenet of Christianity: We are each personally accountable for our actions, and have to take responsibility for them. That’s kind of, Christianity 101 as I’ve always understood it.

    • Jessica

      That post was so spot on for me. Growing up & accepting my own body was hard enough. Throwing around responsibility for how other people saw it was overwhelming.

    • Kay_Sue

      I feel that. It really is hard enough figuring out how to be a *woman* at that point. Please let other people be responsible for their own minds and lust. I had enough on my mind figuring out boobs and periods.

      I read that post the first time, and instantly loved the author for putting into words exactly what I had thought and not been able to express.

    • Sara610

      The thing that kills me about this is that if covering up were a reliable way to prevent sexual assault, rape wouldn’t happen in countries where women are covered from head to toe. But it still does, and you know why? Because in most cases, rape isn’t about sex. It’s about POWER. That’s why it’s used as a weapon of war in many countries.

      Boiling rape down to simply a matter of sex and saying that if women just covered up, it wouldn’t happen, is simply inaccurate and it ignores a whole piece of the puzzle that we HAVE to understand if we’re ever going to solve the problem.

    • ElleJai

      I made a terrible mistake.

      The article was so awesome I dared to read the comments… After the first reasonable few, it derailed.

      I stopped when I realised I wanted to break some faces and started falling into the mental snare of “modesty” guilt implanted by the church I attended as a teen (LDS).

      I found the Church because my life was a mess but apparently they messed me up worse and it’s still working!

      The article itself was brilliant though :)

    • Kay_Sue

      I know. I think that article was a big part of why she quit blogging about her faith and switched to a new blog. Well, that and the people that took offense to a post she titled “For When Motherhood Is Kicking Your Ass”.

      Apparently, it was too much for people that she was a MOM and a CHRISTIAN and typed the word “ass”.

    • ElleJai

      Mouth breathers in Christian (modest) clothing… Ugh.

      I got banned from commenting on one of their sites a month ago because I actually answered their “pro-life” question regarding why Walter (the poor 19 week old fetus who died shortly after prem birth) was any different to a baby.

      It’s not worth me holding a discussion with people who can’t think for themselves. I must keep reminding myself of that and just facedesk instead.

    • Sara610

      A couple of years ago, someone on another “mom’s” message board posted about this issue. Her husband is a youth pastor, and apparently she (the youth pastor’s wife) came in to ask the girls in the youth group not to wear tank tops or short skirts because it would “tempt” him into doing inappropriate things. The general consensus was “your husband is a grown man, and if you’re having to go ask CHILDREN to cover up because you’re worried that otherwise he won’t be able to help abusing his position of power and having sex with the teenage girls under his care, then the problem is with him and no one else. Also, you married a gross creepy dude, so you may want to think about that and stop enabling his creepitude.” Still, there were a couple of people who endorsed her particular viewpoint.

      Sigh. I’ve been working with high-school students for over a decade, and in college one of my education-methods professors told us, point blank, “At some point in your high school teaching career, you may very well find one of your students attractive.” This is a fair point, especially since when I started teaching I had students who were only a few years younger than I. The thing is that if you’re in a role of being responsible for minors, that is a line that you ABSOLUTELY CANNOT CROSS. Under any circumstances. And if you ever feel yourself WANTING to cross that line, it’s a pretty good red flag that you need to find another line of work. Blaming it on those slutty, slutty teenage girls with their whorish tank tops and knee-baring skirts is simply not acceptable.

    • Kay_Sue

      Yup. It’s a ridiculous point of view. You have to put the onus for thoughts and actions where they belong–on the person that has the thoughts and commits the actions. Anything else is just creating a scapegoat.

  • chickadee

    Let me just say that “To Train Up a Child” is not mainstream Christian parenting — those are hard-core fundamentalists there, and no Christian that I have ever encountered thought that book was anything but abuse.

    And I know this is going to sound judgmental, and I don’t mean it to be, but I’m wondering a bit why you are attending THIS church if you don’t want your child to be a part of its community. Find out how they feel about modesty, what they will teach your child about herself and her body, and what disciplinary methods they advocate, and then decide whether to be a part of their community. There is no sense in attending a church that teaches something that you don’t agree with. By all means, choose Christian elements with which you are comfortable, but if this church embraces elements that you don’t like, you might want to find another church to join or attend. You sound like you might like the Unitarians — they are really open and accepting.

    • Tea

      Might want to look at the UCC as well.

    • chickadee

      Oh yes — I forgot them. I always assume that I am going to have to make some compromises in church membership, since I will always disagree with something unless I start the church of Christianity that Suits My Beliefs to a T. The Episcopalians work fairly well for me.

    • scooby23

      I go to a UCC church!

    • Tea

      I’m catholic, but went to a UCC school and had a lot of great talks with the campus chaplain. The UCC seems like a great group.

    • scooby23

      Yeah, they’re pretty awesome. I guess I can’t speak for all UCC churches, but mine has always been a great environment to go to church in. I also was unaware that UCC had schools. Cool.

    • Kristen

      My husband and I were raised Catholic and although we want to raise our daughter Catholic as well, we looked for a progressive Catholic church that shared our values on social justice before baptizing her. Clearly your faith and community matters to you, so if you are unsure maybe you should have some discussions with the ministers at your church or find a church that fits your beliefs better. Its all so tricky and I wish you the very best!

    • Jessica

      I know it’s not mainstream, it’s not something my church endorses either, but it does come to mind when I hear the phrase “Christian parenting.” It’s completely possible that I’m alone in that association. But it seems like the families that do follow it claim it’s how God wants them to parent.

      I hoped not to sound like those were all things taught at my church, rather that I didn’t know what I would be committing myself to in participating in the dedication.

      We chose our church for a few reasons. First being the minister & associate minister were both at my home church growing up. The associate minister was my youth minister & baptized me when I was 9. That church split & they both found a home where they are now. That was about 11 years ago. Every year since then, our families have gotten together for a weekend reunion. So we are pretty close family friends. Secondly, I trust our minister to give sound spiritual teachings. He’s not a brimstone & hellfire preacher, but he doesn’t just give feel good messages either.

      My daughter is still young enough that she’s in the nursery, but if she were to come home talking about a teaching I don’t necessarily agree with, we would just have a conversation about it.

      At the end of the day, we go to church for the community & fellowship. Not for religious rules.

    • Sara610

      Agreed that OP might really identify well with Unitarian Universalism. Also, there ARE Christian UU churches. There might be one in OP’s area.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      I was kind of thinking too, it doesn’t sound like she knows what her church does and doesn’t support. So it is like, why are you there…..? I don’t think this dedication sounds so “in the church forever” that if the kid doesn’t like it later, she can’t get out though, especially with parents that are open-minded.

  • Bethany Ramos

    I am also a Christian, and you sound like a wonderfully balanced mom. I was raised very strictly religious, and my husband and I both have thought about God so much for ourselves. I really believe in God but not so much in religion. I think how you describe teaching your kid to question for herself is one of the best things you can give her.

  • Mystik Spiral

    Good for you!

    I was born and raised Catholic, so I was baptized before I had any concept of myself, let alone any kind of god or religion. I parted ways with the Church in my teens and have never looked back. I think baptizing and dedicating little children to a way of life they have no say in is nothing more than going through the motions for show. It’s meaningless, IMO.

    Had my parents allowed me to feel open to explore my own beliefs and spirituality, my teen and early adult years would have likely been a lot easier, less resentful, and more joyful. I’m 41 years old and am truly happy for the first time in a very, very long time.

    I am staunchly anti-organized religion, and I identify as an atheist with sort of a Buddhist outlook on life. Lol. I can’t say my mom is thrilled that I don’t (and will never again) go to church except the occasional Mother’s Day or Christmas (because it’s important to her). But I think she is finally accepting that I don’t believe in the Christian version of God.

    My dad died 5 1/2 years ago, and his faith was very important and comforting to him as he fought cancer for years. I’m happy he had it (on edit – I should clarify, I’m happy he had his faith, not cancer… haha). But it’s not for everyone, and I have a lot of admiration for the parents who don’t automatically assume that their children will want to walk the same spiritual path as them.

    Anyway, I’m rambling… :)

    • Melissa

      I was also raised Catholic. My understanding/interpretation is that in Baptism, the parents are choosing to raise the baby in the teachings of the church, much like parents are choosing every aspect of the baby’s life at that point (what to eat, what to wear, etc.). Then in Confirmation, you as an “adult” member of the Catholic church (I put that in quotations because most often Confirmation occurs at 15-16 and I don’t consider that adulthood), you as the individual make the choice to either continue with the church or follow a new path. That’s essentially what you did. Of course, the church and your parents were probably hoping that you would continue your Catholicism, but the whole point is that Confirmation gives you that choice.

      In any case, I think it’s important that parents set their children on a spiritual path of the parent’s choice until the day that the child is old enough to decide which spiritual path to be on. I would think that children in general would be less likely to grow up to choose any spiritual path if they weren’t on one to begin with. I suppose one could argue that parents need to expose their children to many different spiritual faiths early in life, but then this would seem to go against the parents own faith, so it seems appropriate to practice the same faith as one’s parents until one is old enough to discover a new path on one’s own.

    • Mystik Spiral

      No, Confirmation really wasn’t much of a choice for me. I got confirmed, even when I knew I didn’t want to be Catholic. I’m sure it’s precisely why the Church usually pushes that sacrament on teenagers of about 16. They are still living with their parents, and are still oftentimes ill-equipped to make a decision of that magnitude.

      I view my confirmation much like my baptism – a meaningless gesture that was done because it was expected. I hear what you’re saying, and this of course is all my opinion and my experience. I still have a lot of resentment toward the Catholic Church and my parents. It’s hard work getting past it… :)

    • chickadee

      Yes! If you are living with your parents and don’t want to be grounded for life, you don’t politely decline to be confirmed, since that’s tantamount to saying, “I think that you and your beliefs are wrong, and yes, I;d love to go to hell, thanks.”

    • http://mother--bored.tumblr.com/ Aimee Ogden

      Yeah, seriously. We went through a year-long catechism in eighth grade in my family’s church, and after faking my way through three or four sessions of “speaking in tongues” after everyone was so concerned that I wasn’t “moved by the spirit” the first time (seriously), declining baptism and confirmation at the end of the year was nowhere near on the table.

    • ChickenKira

      I was the stupid child who said she didn’t want to do her confirmation.
      I got a 2 hour long rant from my mother about how disgusted she was in me and my walkman confiscated, only to be returned after the confirmation.
      Confirmation is in grade 6 here (Australia), so 11-12 year olds. Saying “No, I don’t want to” just doesn’t happen.

    • tSubh Dearg

      I was very lucky that when I was 11/12 and preparing for my Catholic confirmation, I told my mum I didn’t want to do it. She said that was fine and did I want to think about being confirmed with Church of Ireland (Anglicans) in a couple of years.
      I said I would think about it and as we were regularly attending the local C of I parish and because I felt like it was a better fit for me I made my confirmation there at the age of 15 or so.
      But I was very grateful to my mum for letting me not be Confirmed before I was ready for it.

    • Doubter

      The church I went to did confirmation at the same time as communion (so…4th grade). Not really much of a choice there.

    • Mystik Spiral

      That’s crazy. We had First Communion in 1st or 2nd grade, entirely too young to understand the concept of cannibalism in cracker form.

    • AP

      Most Catholic churches where I lived did Confirmation at 7th-8th grade, around the same time the Jewish kids were doing bar/bat mitzvah.

      Everyone was eager to be Confirmed or Bar Mitzvahed, though, because it meant no more CCD/Hebrew School. Only about a tenth of (public school) parents made their kids continue with religious education past Confirmation/Bar Mitzvah. It was viewed as a graduation from going to services, not a commitment to the religion.

    • ElleJai

      I baptised my son in my family’s faith (Catholic) and blessed him in my husband’s family’s faith (Mormon). This avoided WW3 from the grandparents. It’s like an hour tops for both and doesn’th aveany beari ng on his future unless he wants it to.

      I’ll take him along to liberal Catholic services but I absolutely am not trying to sell the Bible as anything bigger than a lovely allegory, because I don’t believe in Jesus. I believe in the idea of a God and Goddess, but not Jesus as a living, breathing, death defying bloke from Earth.

      Mind you I also have stuff on Paganism, Ancient religion, Hinduism, Buddhism etc lying around and we’ll be exploring the concept of other religions and also no religion. Just because the family believes something doesn’t mean they’re right; what works for my individual kid/s may look very different. And that’s ok.

      In the meantime, until he’s old enough to stay home alone or to have a definite opinion on whether he’d like to go to Church, we’ll meander along for a look and the community.

  • NotTakenNotAvailable

    As someone who was surrounded by kids who were raised in the “our church’s way is the ONLY way, and if you ask questions, you’re on the express route to hell” mentality, I say bravo! Good for you for taking the time to think about what aspects of your faith are important and being openminded enough to acknowledge that your daughter might have a completely different view of the world in the future. Rock on!

  • Ddaisy

    You seem like you really have your head on straight and you will do an amazing job raising your kids. I’m glad you used the phrase “teachings often associated with Christianity” rather than “Christian teaching” because I do think a lot of the controversial stances of some churches are much more political and have little to do with Jesus’ actual teachings.

    I completely respect your choice not to participate in the ceremony–you should NOT feel pressured to do it. But for what my humble opinion is worth, it sounds like the way you plan to raise your kids is 100% “Godly” and I hope your decision not to partake has more to do with giving your child free choice and not because you don’t think you can live up to the church’s expectations. Because I think you will do an awesome job of it :)

  • Jell

    God bless you on behalf of people everywhere who, like myself, were raised by parents who took a fundamentalist-or-nothing approach to child rearing. My parents weren’t awful, they were just unwilling to question anything about raising Christian children that whatever church they were attending (usually evangelical fundie) advocated. I’m still a Christian but no thanks to my upbringing.
    If you want your kids to grow up respectful and devoted to your faith I think you’re taking the best approach here. You want chidlren to be able to question things, search for answers, and not allow guilt or fear of consequences to be their main motivator.
    Kids whose parents followed rules by rote and never questioned a thing were in my experience the ones who usually became disillusioned and angry about their religious upbringing. If a person decides to follow a different path than that of their parents let it be because they found answers elsewhere, not because they were driven away.

  • kay

    I think if you’re going to be part of a church community it’s good to know where they stand on things. My mom sent my brothers to a random vacation bible school once… midway through the teacher excitedly told my mom how the next day was exciting because they were going to “take the devil out of the children!” my mom gave her a “WTF?” and never went back.

    We spent a while “church shopping” while I was pregnant before we found our church. And it’s the right fit for my family. I’m facebook friends with my pastor and know she (like me) supports gay marriage and wishes for greater ecumenicism between Catholics and Lutherans (I am catholic-ish but we’re attending an ELCA church). I’ve watched them let teenagers give sermons on how they don’t know what they believe in, and they aren’t sure about the bible with it being an ok thing. The only parenting classes they have on the regular focus on healthy eating-no train up a child nonsense. We’ve had rabbis, atheists, and anyone else you could think of give sermons. And there’s a huge emphasis on service and giving to the poor. So I had no qualms about baptizing my daughter there.

    (And if they ever started on modesty I think they’d first have to deal with the usher who shows up in biking spandex EVERY week.)

    • ElleJai

      I.. I think I want to attend your church! It sounds absolutely awesome.

  • http://mother--bored.tumblr.com/ Aimee Ogden

    This should be printed up as a how-to guide for parents. As an atheist raised by fundamentalists, I especially find it nice to read accounts from parents who want their children to choose their own way and don’t insist theirs is the only right choice to make (I certainly don’t think mine is) … internet high fives for you!

    • Muggle

      I wasn’t raised by fundamentalists but one of the things that led me to atheism was being unable to question what my church was teaching, because nobody wanted to address it. It was all about the rules, all about Jesus being my boyfriend when I was apparently too young to have real boyfriends, all about the politics. I was baptized when I was 7, ffs. So it is nice to hear from Christians who are so balanced and want their kids to think for themselves.

  • SA

    I think that was such a wise decision. I came from a very religious family. I love my parents, but a lot of the way they deal with young people and faith still bothers me. Not just them, but a lot of religious families. I see the postings on Facebook, I hear the stories from family members. There is so much talk about young children’s beautiful and strong faith and adoration of God, but the thing is with most children, they are going to believe what you tell them. These same kids aren’t praised for their unfaltering faith in Santa Claus, however they believe in him with just as much intensity. I firmly believe a true commitment/dedication to God can only come from independent thought from an adult mind. There are many stories in the family about when I became “saved” and how committed I was….I don’t even remember it, I was that young. I believed because that is what my mother believed and it was incomprehensible to me that she could be wrong. Now I am Christian-agnostic. Still not sure what I believe, but finding it hard to let go of the life I was taught. Religion is a lot more complicated that stories of Noah and manger babies and I think that children should find their way to it instead of being forced on them as the only way.

  • MaebykittyRN

    Hubs and I are Christians, but we are not dedicating our infant or getting him baptized. I just think it should be his decision to do those things. We didn’t circumcise for the same reasons. Some of the fundamentalist people I grew up with are not happy about all of this.

    • Courtney Lynn

      We heard about it for not circumcising, too. Ugh. Educate yourselves, people. Including relatives!

  • Courtney Lynn

    Like another person already pointed out, “To Train Up a Child” is definitely NOT mainstream. It is a fringe, extremist view, one that we definitely don’t support. We’re non-spanking Christians, too and we’ve caught flak from our Christian AND non-Christian friends for it. “It won’t hurt ‘em” “You’re teaching them respect” etc. Bullshit (I have no conviction on cursing unless it’s blasphemous, BTW). We don’t believe telling a kid not to hit and then hitting them is an appropriate way to handle it. Spanking IS hitting, however you justify it.

    I would consider looking at other churches, too if yours is so against the way you believe. I would never attend ANY church that advocated that book or any aspect of its teaching, either! I also completely agree with you on the modesty issue. I have a daughter. I believe in dressing appropriately but at the same time, everyone is responsible for their own actions. It’s not our job to dress like beekeepers because one boy might like our elbows or another likes your neck.

    My belief is, unless the Bible explicitly states it (and even that is open to interpretation sometimes), it is a matter of conviction. You start treading the waters of legalism and that is dangerous.

    • Jessica

      I know it’s not mainstream, it’s not something my church endorses either, but it does come to mind when I hear the phrase “Christian parenting.” It’s completely possible that I’m alone in that association. But it seems like the families that do follow it claim it’s how God wants them to parent.

      I hoped not to sound like those were all things taught at my church, rather that I didn’t know what I would be committing myself to in participating in the dedication. My church is pretty wonderful. Baby dedications & baptisms are pretty commonplace & I wanted to discuss how vague vows to raise children “for The Lord” made me uncomfortable for all the things it could potentially include.

    • Courtney Lynn

      Glad you do have a good church! We love ours, too. God really put us in the right place with those people. Raising children for God, to me, means that we’re a Christian family who puts God first as the compass to our lives. You’re so right about the “rod”, too. It was a guide tool and that’s what that verse means to me. There is also scripture about “not exasperating” your children and making them resent you! So to me, it also means having a good, loving relationship with our kids. And hey, you should NOT have to dedicate your kid if you choose not to. That’s a personal decision.

    • Jessica

      I also liked what you mentioned about legalism. Jesus basically lit up the Pharisees for being so concerned with the letter of the law that they ignored the spirit in which it was intended.

    • Courtney Lynn

      Exactly. Our pastor talked about how Christ frees us from legalism! That is a hill I will die on!

  • DE

    You are not a Christian, if you can say you will support your daughter in any religion she chooses. The basis of Christianity is believing that Christ died for your sins and is THE ONLY WAY to eternal life. All other routes leading to eternal damnation.

    • Guest

      You’re not a Christian if you’re okay with billions of people being tortured forever just for not believing in Jesus, no matter how good they were in life. You are, however, a dick.

    • Muggle

      You’re being a knob. Stop it.

    • Kelly

      You are not a good parent if you won’t support your daughter just because she has different religious beliefs than you.

    • CW

      Christ died for our sins and salvation is only achievable as a result of His sacrifice. However, the Bible says that only God knows who will or won’t be saved. I choose to have faith that a merciful and loving God may save non-Christians who are otherwise good people (baptism by desire).

    • Courtney Lynn

      I really cringe when others say “you are not a Christian if…” or put Christian in quotations to describe someone. While I agree that our Christian faith IS the correct path, I can’t be ANYONE’S Holy Spirit. Nobody can. All we can do is raise our children with the faith and teach them why. We can’t make them be Christians themselves, though. Supporting her child in their life decisions does not equal agreement and it definitely has NO bearing on her own salvation. You do NOT have the authority to say that she is not a Christian.

  • anon

    You are a great mom. “nuf said.

  • Guest

    This was a beautiful and thoughtful piece. I loved this:
    “I want to show her why my faith is important to me and how it has played different roles throughout my life. If she decides to explore other religions, I will gladly support her and help her find out what really works for her. Ultimately, I want my daughter to grow up and become a successful, happy individual, whatever that looks like for her.”