I suppose I'm musing on the mormon thing this week - not sure why. Maybe I'm just trying to get into chanson's "Sunday in Outer Blogness" feature.
One of the things that non Mormons might not realize is that Mormon children get baptized at 8. I don't know who came up with that age. Growing up, I thought it was awfully convenient that seven or eight was the same age for Roman Catholics.
I had NO idea what I was getting into at the age of eight. I got baptized because it was expected. All the other kids in my church class got baptized after they turned eight. My parents and extended family were looking forward to my baptism, it was an "event". Somewhere I have a photo of my Dad and me standing outside the church, I got a brand new dress just for the occasion. My uncle and aunt came just for the baptism. It was a big deal.
Let me state again - I had no idea what I was getting into. I had no idea that it would be possible to say no. I had no idea that I might grow up and NOT be mormon. It was inconceivable. I could read but I was in third grade. I was a Republican, because my parents were republicans. I hadn't read the Book of Mormon (I had tried)- my exposure was through a story picture book (complete with swords and horses).
For this post, I was trying to think of all the things I didn't know about at 8. And I'm having a hard time defending how any eight year old can make a lifetime commitment to a religion - or can make any lifetime commitments period. I am skeptical of any sixteen year old making lifetime commitments - and a sixteen year old is in high school, can sometimes drive and work outside the home. I couldn't make my own food.
These things are traditions, rites of passage. I don't want to sell eight year olds short. I'm amazed at how much my three and a half year olds know and comprehend. I understand that parents take their religion and religious tradition very seriously. They want their children to take an interest and personal ownership in religious faith and spirituality.
But eight is very young. Children are far from independent. I was still actively trying to please my parents at that age. I wanted them to be proud of me. I didn't think rationally about what *I* wanted or where life would take me. When I resigned from the mormon church (officially) some years ago and had my name removed, that's one of the things that was a part of the form letter sent back to me. That whatever eternal protection the baptism had for me had been removed. It seemed so strange to me - because my original decision to be baptized hadn't been my decision.
If religions continue to baptize children at 8, for tradition - I can't argue with that. But at least stop pretending that the decision is a lifetime commitment or that it has eternal consequences. I don't know how to get around that - to honor people who made that commitment at eight and have kept it. Who remember that day (when they were eight and baptized into their church) and still treasure it. That's fine.
It just seems to me there is so much more to church and religious faith and membership. Whatever that is, eight is much too young to fully understand the consequences of one's actions.