Daily Archives: September 3, 2021

Should infant baptism be forbidden?

I am glad that in the Netherlands wearing a mask is now mostly a thing of the past. I find it inconvenient and unpleasant, but I do realize that there may be circumstances in which the government can oblige me to wear a mask if there is a scientific consensus that it can prevent a lot of misery. I don’t think my personal rights are so seriously in jeopardy that I would join a demonstration against it. Where compulsory vaccination is concerned, the matter is more sensitive. This involves being forced to allow some substance to be injected into your body. For some people, it involves a serious medical problem. Those people should of course be exempted. But what about the people who have religious objections to vaccination? There are groups of believers who think they should trust God rather than Pfizer, Astra-Zeneca or Moderna. I am thankful to God that some good vaccines were developed so quickly, and was glad when it was my turn to be vaccinated.

If people do not want to be vaccinated, that is their right. It is a decision they should be free to make. I believe it’s wise that, as a precaution to others, non-vaccinated people are not allowed at certain events if they can’t show proof that they have been vaccinated, have recently been tested, or already have had Covid-19. People who do not want to be vaccinated must be prepared to face certain restrictions as a result of their decision. Whether an employer can require an employee to be vaccinated is another matter. I must confess that I am not totally sure about that, but I am inclined to think that it depends on where someone works. It seems to me that people who work in healthcare or education, and who have no urgent medical reason why they cannot be vaccinated, should be expected to show proof of vaccination.

The last argument about this has not been heard, even within the Adventist Church, where there is also (certainly in the USA) considerable polarization on this issue, partly of a religious nature, but partly also as a result of political allegiance. But the issue of freedom versus coercion is at play in a lot of other areas as well. This morning I read in the newspaper that Die Linke, a German political party on the left side of the political spectrum-the fifth in size in the country, with 69 seats in the Bundestag- believes that children should not by birth automatically become members of a religious group . Infant baptism and circumcision, this political party believes, should disappear. One can only join a religion when one is “religiously mature”. It was not clear in the newspaper article what age they were thinking of.

For those who reject infant baptism and the circumcision of newborns as unbiblical, this idea may not sound so dramatic. But no doubt the so-called “dedication” of children is also considered wrong. That formally joining or not joining a church or religious group should happen freely, and not under parental coercion, is fortunately endorsed by most people in our time in our part of the world.

But the fact remains that most parents hope that their offspring will make the same religious choice as they once made themselves. And many parents are intensely saddened when their children choose a different religious path. Parents often do everything they can to raise their children within their own religious sphere. This often determines the choice of school and of leisure activities. Often this also manifests itself in prohibiting all kinds of activities that are seen as contrary to “our faith.”

No doubt, in many cases there is coercion. Children must attend church. They are not allowed to do certain things on the day of rest. They are not allowed to participate in certain social activities or sports. Many parents wonder afterwards if their rules have not rather achieved the opposite of what they intended. Undoubtedly, the coercion they experienced made many young people dislike everything associated with faith and church.

That each person should be able to decide freely, at the time of their choosing, whether to join a religious group, is for me beyond question. Whether the rejection of infant baptism is a sensible point in this regard is debatable. But more discussion in religious circles and within families, about the question at what point example and encouragement turn into pressure and coercion, and how a free choice of every “mature” child can be guaranteed–even if that choice is intensely regretted by the parents–is certainly desirable. Perhaps, however, Die Linke could still use some advice from religious experts in elaborating the relevant program points in their political manifesto.