Monday, April 11, 2005

"I Baptize You in the Name of...Well, Me!"

I just read this on and could not believe what I was reading. How do you baptize someone without their knowledge or consent--and then consider it binding and theologically legitimate? Isn't the whole essence of baptism one of *conscious choice* to accept a belief system? Baptism without choice is what we call The Crusades or The Inquisition, is it not?

I'm inclined to believe that there is no intentional attempt to create harm, but at the same time, how do you baptize someone of a different religion into your own and not anticipate that it will be a grievous offense? What if Catholics decided to posthumously re-baptize Mormons as Catholics? What if Jews decided that Lutherans should be posthumously "saved" from the error of their ways? Maybe if you're not religious you say, "a pox on all their houses," recognizing that just because someone in Utah says I'm now Mormon don't make it so. But on a basic human level, shouldn't our first impulse as religious people be to "do no harm?"

Just sign me,

Jews, Mormons to Review 'Dead Baptisms'
Monday, April 11, 2005

SALT LAKE CITY — Jews and Mormons decided Monday to jointly scrutinize a Mormon database that includes the names of thousands of deceased Jews — including Holocaust victims — who were given unwanted, posthumous baptisms.

A committee with members of both religions will study how names get into the massive International Genealogical Index (search) — which has an estimated 4 million entries — what processes are followed, and how greater order can be brought to the unwieldy listing.

The move lets Mormons "see what we can do that doesn't compromise our core beliefs and practices" while still addressing the concerns of Jewish leaders, said D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy (search), a high-ranking church leadership body. "We're going to do a lot of fact finding, and we will go from there."

"The church did not compromise its principles. The Jewish community didn't compromise its concerns," said David Elcott, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee in New York, one of five leaders who met with Mormon officials Sunday and Monday.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (search) believes individuals' ability to choose a religion continues beyond the grave. Through its unique practice of proxy or vicarious baptisms, names are forwarded for baptism, and church members stand in for deceased non-Mormons. The church believes the ritual is required for the dead to reach heaven.

Researchers found the names of Holocaust victims in the church's massive index more than a decade ago. After Jewish leaders protested, the two sides signed an agreement in 1995, and about 380,000 names of Holocaust victims were removed. The agreement also called for no further proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims, celebrities or people who are not relatives of those seeking the baptism.

But Jewish leaders claim Mormons continue to posthumously baptize Jews and Holocaust victims. They said the meetings Sunday and Monday followed a decade of frustration over what they called broken promises.

The 1995 agreement also called for the removal of Jewish names in the index. But Mormon officials maintained Monday the agreement didn't guarantee vicarious baptisms for deceased Jews would never occur.


SquareSlant said...

People worry about the silliest things.

They are DEAD! I doubt anything can hurt them – least of all some one baptizing them. Better put the church police out on the street – some Mormon or maybe even a Muslim might be praying for a dead Christian – that needs to stop right now – don’t want to confuse God.

Anonymous said...

It depends on the church. The Catholic Church, for example, will not baptize any infant without express permission of the parents or adult without their express permission. It wouldn't be considered binding because it was done dishonestly.

Raine said...

Having been around a Mormon church for most of my younger life (and surviving hundreds, if not thousands, of attempts at conversion), I can say that there is some motive to their need to convert the deceased. There is... how can I put this? A reward, for converting someone to Mormonism. It is a belief, that if you convert someone to "God's True Religion," no matter how wretched you are, your sins will be forgiven, and you will go to the "highest" level of Heaven, the "Celestial Kingdom."

Would a chance for a free ride to heaven be worth the ire of a few living people? To a majority of Mormons, yes. Any agreements come second to the church and the will of God.

Which is why, when I die, my Will will have a clause forever and always declaring my religion, and all those who attempt to alter it posthumously will forever face ill luck and wrath... or perhaps just a hefty lawsuit.

Freeman said...

It would be cool to baptize your enemys in a religon that you know is false. Then, you will be sure that they'll end up in Hell :).

cogentnotion said...

I think you answered your own question here by pointing out - "Inquisition", "Crusades", and "do no harm". The former, not meshing with the latter. I'n not sure Religeons would ever sigh up with the "do no harm" bit, that was the Doctors' line. I have the impression that most religeons are based in the "go forth and multiply" credo together with the "spread the Word" bit. Every once in a while, we frail humans take the idea a little too far, yeah?