Adults have always been more eager to be lovers than to be parents. This has been the case for more than just a few centuries. Contraceptives and abortion are two ways of dealing with this challenge. Let’s look at the history of how society and the church have dealt with the dilemma.
Christian Baby Baptism
There are many great articles on how and why infant baptism started.
There are those Christian Scholars who claim it was all done in the Early Church, and with those that followed. They are not wrong, they just don’t go back very far in history. There is a great article about it at https://bible.org/question/what-are-historical-origins-infant-baptism. Note that this view focuses on the Christian reasons for it, and why the Christian church does it today.
Since there were no “Christians” at the time of John the Baptizer, it appears that they are not looking back far enough in history. Long before “Christian baptism” (baby or not) there was the rite of Baptism in the Jewish traditions. Actually, there were two different immersions that had very different meanings.
Jewish Proselyte Baptism
There are scholars that go back to the Jewish roots of baptism. They focus on adult baptism. A proselyte was someone who was not Jewish by blood and wanted to become a Jew and be treated as such. The baptism of the Proselyte was a ritual where they were immersed in a natural water source (river, lake, etc.) to allow the natural water to wash away their past, and make them worthy of becoming Jewish.
Yes, that was only a first step. Now they had the same long road ahead of them that all Jews had, in following the Torah and submitting to their rabbi. It was a one-time washing, never needing repeating.
Jewish Immersion Cleansing
In first-century Judaism, there was another ritual of cleansing in water. In the book of Leviticus, God instructs Jews to cleanse themselves from ritual impurities, contracted through such acts as touching a corpse or a leper. Washing primarily fulfilled the legal requirements of ritual purity so that Jews could sacrifice at the Temple. So, every time they wanted to enter the Temple, they had to wash first.
Notice that these Jewish people NEVER underwent the baptism of the proselyte. Why? Because they were born into “God’s Chosen People” and didn’t need that ceremony. They were already good enough.
Early Church Adult Baptism
The Early Church adopted adult baptism from their Jewish forefathers. Almost every Christian has been baptized in the same way that the Jewish people baptized Proselytes. John the Baptizer was basically telling the Jewish people that their bloodline was not enough to make them special before God. Instead of being arrogant about their righteousness, they needed to admit that they were no better than any proselyte who converted to Judaism. They all needed to humble themselves before God in the same way. ALL of them needed the Proselyte baptism, and should not see themselves as above it.
This is what Christians call “adult baptism” and has the same meaning. It’s a one-time thing and signifies cleansing from previous beliefs and demonstrating to others that significant change.
What About Baby baptism?
Some scholars say that baby baptism, which came later, is from a Jewish ritual. However, Jews NEVER baptized babies. They did circumcise boys when they were 8 days old to signify that the father was Jewish and would claim his as his son. It also signified that God accepted that young boy as His own son as well. There was nothing for baby girls so it is doubtful (to me) that circumcision was replaced by baby baptism. So, infant baptism did not have Jewish roots. Did it come from pagan roots? Again, we are talking about baby baptism here, not adult baptism.
The early Church was very good at making local pre-Christian rituals into Christian rituals. That’s why we celebrate Christmas and Easter when we do. Both replaced pre-Christian celebrations. This made it easier for evangelizing since local rituals did not need changing.
The article at https://downeycmbc.org/2015/09/29/pagan-origin-of-infant-baptism speaks of how many other religions had baby baptism as part of their rituals!
None of the articles above give any reason for the pagans to have had baby baptism! It is as if we are just saying, “they were pagans and needed no reason to start baby baptism, they just did”. What? That sounds like an un-motivated scholar making up a reason, instead of finding one! Few things come out of thin air and become adopted almost worldwide. This was before Christianity existed, and met a need all over the globe! What was that need that basically all humanity recognized? Why was there baptism of babies just about everywhere?
All societies have cherished families and growing families. Because of the nature of human beings, I suggest that there were unwanted babies as well. I don’t think that “affairs” or “infatuation” are anything new. The sex drive in people has always been something strong, and it does push us to procreate. However, it also has us doing things without thinking about consequences we don’t want.
Today, with modern technology and medicine, we have reached the ability to fulfill our sex drives and not worry about those “consequences”. Between condoms, pills, and devices we are “free” to follow our desires. (Some say we are trapped by our desires more than humans ever have been.)
But what could people centuries before us do? How did they deal with “consequences”.
The easiest way to deal with unwanted babies was to just abandon them. This sounds cruel by today’s standards. However, looking back at what options they had, realize that this was it. However, one way to give that baby a chance to live was to abandon it by the side of the road. That way if someone else saw it and wanted it, they could just take it and raise it. There were no “formal” adoption processes.
This “solution” exists even today. Babies are still found by the side of the road around the world! It is both cruel, and compassionate!
They really had no other choice if the baby was truly not wanted.
So, how did “religions” address this issue? What would have been a very compassionate way to deal with these babies?
We have learned that “baby baptism” was a global phenomenon! What if it was the answer to abandoned babies? While most people today think that early religions were all “pagan”, “disgusting” and “vile”, they forget that those religions were also compassionate. All the local religion had to do was:
- Claim that all babies are condemned if not baptized. (Few people really wanted the babies to be condemned, they just wanted to be rid of them.)
- Tell the people that the only way to “save” the baby is to have it be baptized. (Since this could not be done immediately, they would have to wait until the priest, or shaman could visit that village.)
- Because people had to wait for the sake of the baby, they cared for it until … they felt love for it! (Remember that babies were named at their baptism!)
- This did not force people to keep their babies, but it did greatly influence their love for the baby. They could still give it away, but now they cared for it.
Sound familiar? “There is nothing new under the sun.”
So, in closing:
Any of us can condemn people of another religion, and many do. I promise you this: compassion exists outside your church walls and membership roles! Even outside your denomination and religion! Compassion can be found in EVERY corner of the world. If you ignore their compassion, then you are JUDGING them and may want to review your compassion.
Please comment and/or respond to what you heard inside of you as you read this! Let’s share!
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