Kentucky Fans and Infant Baptism: An Analogy
Many people come to TCPC from a context that does not practice infant baptism and are therefore confused by the ritual. Why baptize a child that cannot yet express their faith? Do you believe that baptism saves the child? Are the parents making the choice for the child? Does the child not have to grow up and confess their own personal faith? How exactly does all this work???
These are good questions, but I often tell people they know exactly how this work because they do it with their children in so many other ways.
Let me illustrate with a contextual practice that we all understand. When I go to the hospital to visit newborn babies and their parents, you know what I often find the baby wearing? A University of Kentucky onesie. Now what’s this odd practice all about? In essence, the family has “baptized” their child into a story. They have brought their newborn into their love affair with the Wildcats.
I have never met a Kentucky fan that didn’t want their child to be a Kentucky fan. And in a sense they don’t give them a choice. From infancy they clothe them in the schools colors, they take them to games, they tell them the stories, and they teach them the cheers. In other words, they raise them up within the liturgies of this story.
I have yet to find a parent who says, “I will wait until my child gets old enough to decide for themselves whether to wear these colors.” Of course this eventually happens. The child will grow up and choose to embrace the CATS as their team. In other words, their parent’s fandom will become personal to them, and they will choose themselves to wear the colors. That’s what happened to me. In 1992 when Christian Laettner hit that shot, suddenly this thing became personal. It was my conversion. The rituals of my childhood had suddenly became my own personal passion.
Now I suppose there is a chance the child will grow up and commit apostasy by rooting for Louisville. But that is by far the exception. Typically our children love what we love. And so most often fans say things like, “I can’t remember not being a fan. My parents were fans, I grew up that way, and now I too love UK.” And so the story continues on for another generation.
It’s a silly analogy, but I think you get the point. Every parent takes the symbols that flow out of the stories that are nearest and dearest and places them upon their children. Baptism is the symbol of our gospel; it is the initiation rite into the story of Christianity. It is the story that is most precious to me, and it is a story that I have brought my children into. I will raise them within this story, train them within the liturgies of this story, enact this story, proclaim this story, and I fully expect that my children will one day accept and love this same story. And so the story will carry on for another generation just as God has promised.