She walked down the aisle, clutching a trembling ball of fur. The sanctuary was basically empty- her parents, little brother and a few close friends from school were there. The priest was also present. He waited up at the front of the sanctuary, near the table, which held several lit candles and what appeared to be a blue punchbowl filled with water. She was excited- today, her pet was going to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Her brother had recently gone through the sacrament leaving Robert Fletcher, the family guinea pig as the only one who hadn’t done it.
The priest didn’t perform many of these. For humans or animals, but he was glad to do both. The man enjoyed baptizing people, because he fully believed that Jesus had commanded it. He baptized animals, because it was a nice thing to do. A few children, teenagers and old women brought their pets in throughout the year and requested they be sprinkled with water. Once, he’d tried submerging a puppy rather than just splashing it- the family insisted that a legitimate baptism required that the little beast go completely under– that didn’t work out incredibly well. Normally though, everyone left with a good feeling.
★ ★ ★
Animal baptism is a relatively new conversation. Scripture can be manipulated to support or argue against it, but if anyone is completely honest, the sacrament doesn’t make sense for anything but humans. But it’s symptomatic of a bigger problem. Dunking animals in hopes of saving them or something stands as evidence that the Church has allowed sentimentality in her doors.
Sentimentality employs emotion as a motivation for action- nearly any activity at all, positive or negative. Marriages can’t be built on it (and last). Children should not be born into it (or subjected to it). Sentimentality should not be present in the church at all. What kind of congregation or pastor has time for something like that?
I’ve been on the offensive against emotion for a while now, but have to admit that it isn’t a bad thing when it’s in its right place. Our affections come about as a response to some sort of stimulus- they help a person understand their own perspectives.
I experience joy when ________ happens because apparently, I love it.
The problem is that too often, people ________ because they want to feel ________. This is a problem. It leads to alcoholism, teenage pregnancy, and listening to Linkin Park, which actually is a problem more than it isn’t– even I’ve been guilty of that one. Let’s put this back into the original context:
People baptize their pets because they want to feel like they won’t lose their animals forever when they die.
It’s a sad day when a beloved member of the family dies- too often, their lives aren’t nearly long enough. But the good news is that God is concerned about all of creation. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems that He’s restoring grass and trees, camels and pugs differently than He is humans. Don’t get me wrong, Jesus is the key to getting everything back to where it needs to be, but the sacraments aren’t necessarily for creeping things, birds of the air, fish or anything else (Ephesians 1:10).