Ask Amy: Family members press for baptism
Dear Amy: I grew up in a conservative Catholic family and went to 12 years of Catholic school. After, I decided to leave the Catholic faith. My husband was raised without a religious background.
Ten months ago, we welcomed our first child (my parents’ first grandchild) and have decided not to have her baptized. My family is very upset.
They say we don’t have to have her baptized Catholic, and that any nondenominational baptism would be OK with them, however my husband and I are just not religious and don’t see the point of going through the motions or making “promises” that we will raise our child Christian or with any religious ideals.
We want her to make that decision (if she chooses to) later in life.
My family’s disappointment is really weighing on me and now I’m feeling guilty and a little resentful for them not respecting our decision. The conversation keeps coming up.
Should we just do it and get it over with to make them happy and end the conversation? — Catholic Guilt
Dear Catholic Guilt: My siblings and I were also never baptized; even though we were raised as church-goers, my independent mother let her children choose their own faith practice, including choosing none. When I decided to get baptized as a teenager, I was proud to make a choice about the course of my own life.
Baptism means different things to different denominations but yes, if you baptize a child with clergy present, you are participating in a Christian rite, and if you do not intend to have your child identify as a Christian, you should not do it.
For Catholics, baptism is connected with huge concepts, including original sin and the fate of the soul. If your parents believe that their grandchild’s very soul is at stake, they will continue to push.
You might mollify some by creating a “naming ceremony” for your child. You and your husband could design your own ritual, asking members of both families and special friends to pledge to watch after your child, celebrating your baby’s presence in the greater community and possibly naming “guardians” to be in a special relationship with your child, if something happens to you.
Will this satisfy the family members who are bugging and guilting you about baptism? No, it won’t. In fact, it might offend some. But you would be able to say that you have done exactly as much as you are prepared to do.
You should prepare yourself for more pressure in this regard, but you are the parents and you must act according to your own values.
Dear Amy: My mother passed away at 90 in 2018. When she was alive, my small extended family always celebrated birthdays together.
Since Mom died, we haven’t gotten together for birthdays, but we still exchanged cards and gifts.
I recently had a birthday. Of course, with the restrictions in place now, we can’t get together anyway, but I thought a birthday card or two would come in the mail from someone in my brother’s family, and maybe a gift card, since that’s what my husband and I sent to them. But I got nothing.
They each sent me a “Happy Birthday” text, and that’s it. I was hurt by that.
Should I tell them I was disappointed, or just wait until the next birthday comes up and send a text, saying, “I guess we’re not doing cards and gifts anymore, so happy birthday.”
If that’s what they’re going to do from now on, I don’t want to spend time and money on them, and get nothing in return. Is that selfish of me? — Disappointed in Indiana
Dear Disappointed: You simply don’t know what other people are going through right now. You are obviously disappointed, but I don’t think it helps for you to convey that.
My suggestion is that you send a warmly worded card to your family members. Even if they reciprocate next year with a text, this is an opportunity for you to be kind and generous.
Dear Amy: Your recent statement that, “There are no White people in the Bible” was outrageous and offensive! It just shows how little you know. Romans, for instance, are White, and they figure prominently in the Bible.
Please, don’t parade your ignorance and pass it off as fact. — Upset
Dear Upset: I was employing hyperbole to try to make a point — that (in my opinion) White Christians (and I am one) cannot pretend that Christianity springs from or is about their Whiteness.