Spare me the social niceties, I’d rather you embrace the secular.

This post may get me in to trouble but I’m a plain-spoken sort of woman and I tell it as I see it.  This is my opinion; it probably won’t be yours and I’m not expecting it to be yours. However, I’m not one to stay silent on things that really nark me.

Christenings. There, I’ve said it.  I can’t abide Christenings.  Specifically those which are only an excuse for a social event.  I’ve got no problem with believing Christians getting their babies Christened – although I would like a word about that later. But anyone who is getting their child Christened to just have the excuse for a shindig, then I take dim view of that.  What precisely is the point?  If you don’t go to church and it’s not part of who you are, then what are you seeking to achieve by it? Your child isn’t going to be any more angelic as a result. Can I recommend that if you don’t really ‘believe in all that stuff’, but want to recognise the birth of your child and mark their naming in some appropriate social way, that you google Naming Ceremonies and pick something secular to celebrate it with?  Does that sound too radical coming from a Christian?  It won’t if you knew my heart. I feel that a large section of the church has lost its primary function and effectively become a hatch, match and despatch service.  That, I feel is wrong.

It applies to weddings too.  It breaks my heart when I hear that someone has chosen to get married in a church because it gives them, for want of a better phrase, a nicer backdrop.  To provide a nicer setting for the pretty dress, the morning suits and the oh so pointless hats, than the ugly 1960s Registry Office down the road. Give me a break!   There are lots of lovely houses and gardens that are licenced for civil weddings these days – what’s wrong with using one of those?

I would far rather turn up and celebrate a baby’s arrival with a secular naming ceremony or attend a civil wedding in a country house, than I would attending similar church services when I knew it meant diddly squat to the parties involved.   Yes, I know the stock response is ‘but it gets them in to a church when they otherwise wouldn’t come.’  Sorry, but that doesn’t wash with me, you’re missing the whole point of the faith.

Excuse me if I’m wrong (and on this I don’t believe I am), but Matthew 28: 19 does not mention getting bums on seats; it says ‘make disciples of all nations…’ We’re not here to be raising money to keep a roof on the church and keeping it going.  Location is irrelevant; if you’re a Christian, you’re just as much one if you’re in a church or if you’re in a pub.

It goes on a bit after that and says ‘… baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’  And this is where I have to nail my colours to the mast and say that parents should not be making promises on behalf of their children.  By all means promise to tell them about and demonstrate the love of Jesus to them, but any decision about becoming a Christian has to be theirs and theirs alone.  I also feel it’s wrong to be making them jump through hoops at a young age to get them ‘confirmed’. You can’t possibly know your own mind at that age.  I didn’t get it sorted out in my head until I was 31 and then I could look back and see that I really had no idea what promises I was making at 12.

The changes that being a Christian brings in someone’s life are so vital and so radical, that to reduce it to the level of a batch-processing, rubber-stamping exercise is criminal.  In our church we only have a handful of baptisms during a year; but each person who comes forward of their own volition, has found their life radically changed. Believe me, there is no finer celebration than witnessing that, it’s a dancing in the aisles moment!

Baptism is what Jesus commands and what Jesus himself demonstrated.  It wasn’t some poshed-up naming ceremony, it was a profoundly dripping wet experience – read it for yourself in Matthew 3: 13-17.

We’ve got lost in many ways and it’s time that the church faced facts in some quarters.  It’s not about being nice people in pretty buildings singing nice songs, it’s about sharing the good news, it’s about reaching the hurting of this world, it’s about showing people that there is a way, a truth and a glorious life to be had in Jesus.  Let’s stop parading about like we’re in a fashion show, let’s stop being used and go out and be useful – getting out there on the streets and doing what we’re called to do.

And don’t get me started on the whole jumping through hoops to get your kids into faith schools…  I’m sure you can imagine what I think about that.

I’m aware that my views may not sit well with you, but I hope you can see that my heart is to get the Christian faith back to what it’s supposed to be doing and away from being Rent-a-Venue for your nice social occasion.  If you believe in God then join a church, be part of it, learn about God and Jesus and take it seriously.  If you don’t, then I won’t think any less of you for choosing the secular and putting Auntie Maud’s nose slightly out of joint as a result.

To be honest, I’d think more of you if you did.

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3 Responses to Spare me the social niceties, I’d rather you embrace the secular.

  1. Nic says:

    My parents submitted to social pressure when I was born and had me christened. My dad’s step mother and step aunt had a deep and abiding faith (and lived it as you describe) and really it was to please them more than anything that the ceremony was held.

    Much though I’m glad that it brought my beloved Kate and Auntie Mary pleasure, I really wish my parents had held out, because it is just so not me. What is done cannot be undone, and the records will always show I was welcomed into a church I have no connection with or interest in. It pains me that my own lack of belief – which is deeply and sincerely held, and an integral part of who I am – will never have the same official recognition.

    (My parents did send me to Sunday school, although not attending services themselves, and did not quibble when at seven I said I no longer wanted to go as it was all a bit silly as obviously God doesn’t exist …)

  2. Amy M. says:

    I wish more Christians held this viewpoint, and it’s flipside. I don’t object to Christians reclaiming their faith. I object to the ones who are trying to make Christianity infuse every aspect of secular culture. Put Christ back into Christmas by all means, but then don’t get bent out of shape if I say “Happy Holidays” because I don’t know for sure what religious holiday they are celebrating around December 21st. Or, if they must say “Merry Christmas” to satisfy their own religious longings, then don’t attack me if I return “Happy Solstice”. Or whatever seasonal greeting applies.

  3. There is the arguement that you never know whether something in the service for baptism or marriage is the moment which changes their lives. If during the day they spend time reflecting on the words, hymns, sermon, …….the thought may lodge in the mind for years………..who knows where it might lead………………If someone never sets foot in a church for the whole of their lives, think what they are missing. My service of difficulty is Mothering Sunday, but my reasons are personal so I do understand your comments Rachel. Keep up the good work!

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