Baptism by Desire
Why I felt I should christen my daughter—even though I don’t truly believe.
At my core, I suppose I’m Christian. I believe many of the religion’s tenets are central to becoming a moral and compassionate person, but I don’t believe, for instance, that Jesus Christ literally died on the cross to atone for our sins. Instead I freely explore and interpret Christianity’s ideals on my own (and I revere the Bible as one of the greatest stories of all time). My parents, who are not religious, gave me this gift of autonomy as I was growing up. They baptized me as an infant, and then allowed me to discover my own spiritual path.
When my husband and I welcomed our first daughter, Ella, into the world almost five years ago, there wasn’t much discussion about whether we would baptize her; it was more a question of when and where. This, I’ll admit, might seem like a paradox—after all, baptism is often considered the first step toward salvation and aligning a person with Christ. Yet I’m comfortable with the contradiction. I’ve rarely felt like there’s a right or wrong answer when it comes to navigating life—religion and parenting being just two of the more murky concepts I’ve encountered.
Although I’ve decided the traditional Christian creed isn’t for me, I still take heart in the fact that my parents loved me enough to baptize me, to do something for my future. And, so, I found myself walking a similar path when Ella was born: I thought only of her future here on Earth and, maybe, in heaven. I considered how baptism would offer her opportunities—like belonging to a church or being able to take communion—if she chooses them. I reflected on how being baptized could envelope her in a community that champions acceptance, respect, and love—all qualities that I hope to instill in her. I knew that I wanted to introduce a religion that she would be able to unfold, build upon, and interpret as she grows. And, quite honestly, I contemplated how my personal beliefs could ultimately affect Ella. If a fatal tragedy were to occur and my convictions turn out to be wrong, at least she will be protected and welcomed into an afterlife I didn’t believe in.
I’m the first to admit that my personal beliefs are nonlinear and could be construed as inconsistent. And I can see how my rationale for baptism may come across as a crass abuse of faith. But I can live with that. I want nothing more than to give Ella a solid foundation for a happy and successful life, and I would do anything to protect her—in the here and now, and forever on. As I see it, this is the very essence of parenting, and a birthright for my child. —Amanda M. Faison