Ireland

Why do churches baptize infants? Why did ancient churches baptize people of all ages?

Why do churches baptize infants? Why did ancient churches baptize people of all ages?

THE QUESTION:

Why do most Christian churches baptize babies?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

This classic issue unexpectedly popped up as news on June 23 due to an Irish Times interview with Mary McAleese, an attorney and the former president of Ireland. McAleese assailed her Catholic Church for its practice of baptizing infants shortly after birth with parents making vows on their behalf.

That treats children as “infant conscripts who are held to lifelong obligations of obedience,” she protested, and that’s a violation of their human rights. “You can’t impose, really, obligations on people who are only two weeks old” or inform them “at seven or eight or 14 or 19 here is what you contracted; here is what you signed up to,” because they did not give their own consent to be church members.

To her, the church’s age-old baptismal practice “worked for many centuries because people didn’t understand that they had the right to say no, the right to walk away.” But she says modern people “have the right to freedom of conscience” although “the Catholic Church has yet toi fully embrace that thinking.”

Baptist-type churches that arose in the Protestant Reformation, and many of today’s independent evangelical congregations, agree with McAleese and practice “believer’s baptism” based on the personal decision of each individual. The Church of God in Christ, probably the largest African-American denomination, puts its outlook this way: Baptism “is an outward demonstration that one has already had a conversion experience and has accepted Christ as his personal savior.”

Groups that baptize only youths and adult converts, not babies, almost always insist that the rite involve full bodily immersion in water, not mere pouring of water over the head as in normal Catholic practice.


Please respect our Commenting Policy

Ireland and abortion vote: Guess which side the New York Times backed?

Ireland and abortion vote: Guess which side the New York Times backed?

Even by to the New York Times’ current standards, the lead sentence was a headspinner.

The topic was Ireland’s abortion vote, a matter on which the Times team had written exhaustively (google “Ireland abortion vote New York Times” and you get at least 19 stories) before last week’s vote to change the country’s constitution to allow abortion up to 12 weeks.

But do take a second look at that first sentence, then keep reading for a few more lines.

DUBLIN -- Ireland voted decisively to repeal one of the world’s more restrictive abortion bans, sweeping aside generations of conservative patriarchy and dealing the latest in a series of stinging rebukes to the Roman Catholic Church.

The surprising landslide, reflected in the results announced on Saturday, cemented the nation’s liberal shift at a time when right-wing populism is on the rise in Europe and the Trump administration is imposing curbs on abortion rights in the United States. In the past three years alone, Ireland has installed a gay man as prime minister and has voted in another referendum to allow same-sex marriage.

But this was a particularly wrenching issue for Irish voters, even for supporters of the measure. And it was not clear until the end that the momentum toward socially liberal policies would be powerful enough to sweep away deeply ingrained opposition to abortion.

Was there any editor on duty when this no-holds-barred editorial arrived at the copy desk? Can all opposition to abortion in Ireland truly be reduced to “generations of conservative patriarchy?”

Here at GetReligion we call this Kellerism; a term named after former Times executive editor Bill Keller that means a media outlet that has made up its mind on a certain hot button issue to the point where there is no legitimate other side to the story. Thus, only one point of view needs to be included in the coverage. Click here to read a tmatt "On Religion" column that includes the crucial Keller remarks on this subject.

Compare the Times’ treatment to the Associated Press’s take.

In the end, it wasn't even close.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

News test: Try to figure out what The New York Times thinks about abortion vote in Ireland

News test: Try to figure out what The New York Times thinks about abortion vote in Ireland

Innuendo, bias and half-truths make a mess of a report in the New York Times on next month’s abortion referendum in the Republic of Ireland. Though over 1200 words-long, the March 27, 2018 story entitled “As Irish Abortion Vote Nears, Fears of Foreign Influence Rise” is nearly incoherent. A great many words are used to say rather little rather badly.

What exactly is the Times trying to say in what is supposed to be a hard-news feature?

That it is wrong that money from foreign anti-abortion activists is being spent to influence the vote? That religious sentiment, thank goodness, is now a minor factor in the debate? That fell consultancy groups are manipulating the simple-minded to vote against relaxing the republic’s abortion laws? That there is a vast right-wing conspiracy™ at work seeking to deprive women of control over their bodies?

These assertions all appear, but are either unsubstantiated, or knocked down by facts cited elsewhere in the article. The way this reads indicates that there must have been an editor with an agenda at work.

Bits that would give a logical flow are missing, while buzzwords are pushed to the forefront of the story that plays to the Times’ core readership. The National Rifle Association, the Trump Administration, the Republican National Committee, Cambridge Analytica and the Vote Leave campaign in Britain (gasp!) appear as villains. An ur-reader of the New York Times will be expected to clutch their pearls and faint with shock at the goings on in Ireland, or explode with righteous indignation.

The lede opens magazine style -- offering a vignette that illustrates the arguments that will be raised further into the story.

DUBLIN -- As Ireland prepares to vote in May on a referendum on whether to repeal its ban on abortion, anti-abortion campaigners can be seen rallying most weekdays on the streets of Dublin, outside Parliament, and at universities, news media buildings and the offices of human rights groups.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Assumptions instead of voices and facts: Anti-Catholic bias in The Guardian?

Assumptions instead of voices and facts: Anti-Catholic bias in The Guardian?

Along the Paris streets, the death-carts rumble, hollow and harsh. Six tumbrils carry the day’s wine to La Guillotine. All the devouring and insatiate Monsters imagined since imagination could record itself, are fused in the one realisation, Guillotine. And yet there is not in France, with its rich variety of soil and climate, a blade, a leaf, a root, a sprig, a peppercorn, which will grow to maturity under conditions more certain than those that have produced this horror. Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.

-- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859) Book 3, Chapter 15.

The tom-toms announcing the death of Chief Wahoo, the logo of the Cleveland Indians, may not immediately bring to mind the arts carrying aristocrats to their deaths in Revolutionary France, but for Dickens the creek of the tumbrils’ wheels hurrying to the guillotine sounded, as do the drums from Cleveland, the death of an old way of life.

The mob must be satisfied with their choice of victim. Be it a king or a smiling, cartoon Indian warrior. Vox populi, vox dei. The voice of the people is the voice of God.

In principle I have no objection to the smashing of idols in a good ideological rant. But it is somewhat trying to see these rants presented as journalism.

The newspaper of Britain’s chattering classes, The Guardian, never ceases taking a hammer to the Catholic Church. As an Anglican I don’t mind a good kick in the Vatican’s shins from time to time, but when fairness, balance and context are replaced by conventional wisdom and bigotry, even a good Protestant like me can feel aggrieved.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Case of the missing blasphemy defense: What Ireland's Independent, BBC and the Daily Mail skipped

Case of the missing blasphemy defense: What Ireland's Independent, BBC and the Daily Mail skipped

According to the online version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, theodicy is defined as a "defense of God's goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil."

It's a word not at all unfamiliar here at GetReligion central.

As it turns out, the question of theodicy might well be the linchpin of a potential police investigation in the Republic of Ireland involving a British comic named Stephen Fry. Since Fry is British, let's go to the recent account by the BBC (original spellings and style retained).

This is long, but essential. Read carefully.

Police in the Republic of Ireland have launched an investigation after a viewer claimed comments made by Stephen Fry on a TV show were blasphemous.
Officers are understood to be examining whether the British comedian committed a criminal offence under the Defamation Act when he appeared on RTE in 2015.
Fry had asked why he should "respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world. ... full of injustice".
He later said he was not "offensive towards any particular religion".
According to a report in the Irish Independent newspaper, no publicised cases of blasphemy have been brought before the courts since the law was introduced in 2009 and a source said it was "highly unlikely" that a prosecution against Fry would take place. ...
Appearing on The Meaning of Life, hosted by Gay Byrne, in February 2015, Fry had been asked what he might say to God at the gates of heaven.
Fry said: "How dare you create a world in which there is such misery? It's not our fault? It's not right. It's utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?"

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Religion, morality and terrorism: How do IRA Catholics compare with ISIS Muslims?

Religion, morality and terrorism: How do IRA Catholics compare with ISIS Muslims?

HEATHER’S QUESTION:

I remember being shocked years ago that some Irish terrorist acts were carried out in the name of Catholicism. What were the reactions to that, compared with the support or denial of Muslims toward violent jihad today? (Paraphrased)

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

The Guy can only sketch a few aspects of the religio-ethnic strife that has so roiled Ireland for centuries, or of the terror syndrome currently plaguing world Islam. Another preliminary point: Believers should realize that such bloodthirsty conflictrs are a strong argument skeptics use to brand all religious faith as evil.

Neither Islam nor Catholicism is pacifist in principle. So for both religions the questions become under what circumstances the use of force is moral, and how it should be applied. Ranking authorities in both faiths have denounced terrorism, whether by the Irish Republican Army and related groups made up of Catholics, or by extremist minority Muslims in factions like the Islamic State or ISIS.

There’s similarity between the two situations in that religious identity has been fused with, and often submerged by, power politics and ethnic solidarity. There are also major differences, as follows:

Though sporadic killings still occur, fortunately the IRA’s death campaign ended through democratic negotiations with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement’s power-sharing between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. By contrast, terrorism by ISIS and similar Muslim factions in an ongoing, large, well-organized and seemingly ineradicable movement, especially where democracy is limited.

While the IRA campaign occurred in several northern Irish counties with occasional attacks elsewhere, Muslim-inspired terror is raging worldwide, and the scope of the bloodshed is far greater.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

St. Patrick of Ireland: It's time to make one tweak in the Religion News Service 'Splainer

St. Patrick of Ireland: It's time to make one tweak in the Religion News Service 'Splainer

The headline on a timely "'Splainer" feature from Religion News Service could not be more direct: "The ‘Splainer: Who was St. Patrick, and would he drink green beer?"

You know, or think you know, St. Patrick.

The guy with the shamrock. The cultural excuse for some of the most rowdy parties in the history of humanity, anywhere on earth where there are people who have any claim to be Irish.

Allow me a moment, along those lines, for a personal note: I am about an English as one can be, in terms of family heritage. However, my patron saint is St. Brendan of Clonfert, better known as St. Brendan the Navigator, who is another great hero of Irish Christianity. So cut me some slack on this topic.

So how does one start a news-you-can-use explainer feature about someone who is famous as a cultural figure, yet not as well known as the great Christian saint that he actual is? Let's look at the RNS overture.

Hint: My major problem with this piece is right here at the top.

For Catholics, Episcopalians and some Lutherans, March 17 is the Feast Day of St. Patrick. For the rest of us, it’s St. Patrick’s Day -- a midweek excuse to party until we’re green in the face.
But who was Patrick? Did he really drive the snakes out of Ireland or use the shamrock to explain the Trinity? Why should this fifth-century priest be remembered on this day?

OK, hold it right there.

Now, as everyone knows, there are about 1.2 billion Catholics in the world. That ancient communion goes right at the top of the list, if you are talking about feast days for St. Patrick. And it's true that there are about 85 million Anglicans in the world and, here in America, the small flock of Episcopalians is still a major player when it comes to making news. When you add up the various branches of Lutheranism, you get nearly 80 million believers.

Now, who are we missing there in this list of Christian communions that honor St. Patrick?

That would be the world's second largest Christian communion, as in the various Eastern Orthodox churches. So do the Orthodox have a feast day to honor St. Patrick?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

That strange mash-up on religious calendar: Happy Imbolc, Saint Brigid's Day, whatever...

That strange mash-up on religious calendar: Happy Imbolc, Saint Brigid's Day, whatever...

It’s tough to find breaking news items on pagan topics, much less anything that’s remotely newsworthy other than the occasional pagan holiday. Pagans are a peaceful lot and they don't tend to make a lot of news. This past week, as a break from reading about #MuslimBan, we had a wealth of articles on Imbolc, the mid-winter pagan holiday.

Now there are dueling realities to Imbolc/Ground Hog Day/Candlemas and St. Brigid’s Day because they all occur in the first two days of February. The first event is pagan; the second is secular and the last two are Christian feasts. Nevertheless, reporters end up mashing them all together, with results that are, if not funny, rather inaccurate. 

I know space is at a premium at some outlets, but do the same reporters clump Lincoln's Birthday and Valentine's Day together because they're two days apart? Don't think so. So why connect St. Brigid's Day, much less Candlemas, with Imbolc? What follows is what several media did with this time period.

The Seattle Weekly described the pagan aspect in a piece by a woman identified as the publication’s “resident witch:”

Imbolc (pronounced im-bowlk) is a Gaelic word meaning “in the belly,” and for many modern Pagans, Feb. 1 is one of four Greater Sabbats, or grand holy days, marking the seasons. Imbolc (also spelled Imbolg or Immolc) acknowledges the first stirrings of spring, the deep shift away from winter and the return of light and heat to the Northern Hemisphere.
Central to many Imbolc traditions is the Irish Great Goddess Brigid. She oversaw fertility, poetry, smithcraft, and healing, and was a part of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the deities of pre-Christian Ireland. For ancient Celts, she was the ever-changing Earth itself, coming back to life after her winter sleep. Celebrations ranged from raging bonfires and torch processions through the fields and streets of the local village to simple ceremonies, centered around the mother of the house wearing a crown of lit candles as she led her family in ritual.

Not to be outdone, the International Business Times wrote:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Gray Lady celebrates LGBT St. Patrick's Day victory (with two crucial words missing)

Gray Lady celebrates LGBT St. Patrick's Day victory (with two crucial words missing)

It's time for a news update -- care of The New York Times -- on National Irish Pride, Political Clout and Green Beer Day (previously known as St. Patrick's Day).

If you have followed the political wars over New York City's iconic St. Patrick's Day Parade, you know that they have boiled down to one basic question: Does this event have anything to do with the Roman Catholic Church and, well, one of the greatest missionaries in the history of Christianity, a saint beloved in both the Catholic West and, increasingly, in the Orthodox East.

Now, there isn't much question about how the organizers of this parade would answer that question. Yes, most of New York City goes nuts, for reasons that have little to do with a feast day for a holy man. I get that. I once accidentally spent the evening of St. Patrick's Day in a hotel directly above an Irish bar, which was not a wise choice.

However, if you go to the official website for the New York City Saint Patrick's Day Parade, you can still read this:

The New York City St. Patrick’s Parade is the oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the world. The first parade was held on March 17, 1762 -- fourteen years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The parade is held annually on March 17th* at precisely 11:00 AM in honor of St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland and of the Archdiocese of New York. The parade route goes up Fifth Avenue beginning at East 44th Street and ending at East 79th Street. Approximately 150,000 people march in the parade which draws about 2 million spectators.

That's pretty clear.

However, if you read the new Times update mentioned earlier you will certainly notice that it is missing two rather interesting and important words, for a story on this topic.

Please respect our Commenting Policy