Trinity 12 ~ Baptism of Louis Buck
Today we are Christening/baptising Louis. Not everyone gets baptised these days.
So I wonder if you are wondering, what are we doing, and why. And I ask this question because actually, it might not be me that has to answer it. It might be you...
Nowadays, when people choose to have their children baptised, they might be making a decision that other people do not understand or respect. And they might say that someone like me is a relic of the past, promoting something unbelievable and offering an event that is completely irrelevant in modern society.
We live in an age when religion has a bad name, and Christians are thought of as quaint, nostalgic or even mildly dangerous. Perhaps less dangerous than Muslims, but as such, more rather than less easy to ignore completely. Some of you here may have encountered these views - you may even hold them.
And yet, here we are, welcoming Louis into the Christian family, asking the supernatural spirit of God to bless and protect him, and affirming our shared beliefs in Jesus Christ - the Son of God, who died on the Cross and rose again to give us hope on earth and in heaven.
So, what are we doing, and what answer can we give to anyone who asks, ‘why on earth would you do that?’
Here are some facts, which you may or may not know:
- Great Britain - pre or post Brexit, is a Christian Country.
- It doesn’t matter what those of other faiths and none say - we are not a secular nation.
- USA, France and Turkey are secular nations - but we are not.
- Christianity lies at the heart of our government, culture and legal system.
- Anyone is free to dislike this, but no-one can deny it.
But being a Christian country does not mean that everyone who lives here is or must be a Christian. And indeed many - around half of the population say they are not. But because we are a Christian country - as opposed to being a secular, or a Muslim country, people are free not to be. In some Muslim countries, not being by a Muslim can be very difficult indeed - life-threatening even. Whereas Britain is not a country in which non-Christians are persecuted. As a Christian country we allow other faiths their freedom. Secular countries, often do not, and restrict the freedoms of all faiths. This is, currently a problem, as for example, France is fiercely secular. Which is why issues surrounding multiculturalism and multi-faith - work out differently. The underlying philosophy and agenda is different.
For at heart of a Christian country is the belief that we are all creatures of God, loved by God, redeemed by Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit. At the heart of a secular nation lies the belief that beliefs have no place at the heart of the nation. At the heart of a religious country is a set of values and beliefs that can be accepted, rejected, overturned even. Whereas at the heart of a secular country is a vacuum, a black hole into which goodness and truth may be sucked.
In this country, the monarchy, the church, the government desire and work towards the flourishing of all people. It is quite unique internationally, and while it may make Christians look weak, it actually makes our country strong and resilient. For one of the things we will not tolerate is intolerance.
Tolerance, welcome and the flourishing of others are values that Jesus gave us. But in our reading today he also warns that issues of faith and belief can cause division and even violence. We know this. And we must be honest about it.
But here’s some other facts to ponder:
- About 85% of the world’s 7 billion people adhere to a religion.
- A fifth of them are Muslims.
- A billion are Hindus.
- But about a third of the world’s population - that’s 2.2 billion people - and the biggest group of all are Christians.
So it’s worth remembering as we welcome Louis into the Christian Faith today, that he is joining a third of the world and half of this country. Contrary to what you might hear or believe, Christianity is the majority faith in Britain, Europe, North America, South America, Africa and it is worth remembering that there are huge numbers of Christians in China, Russia and the Philippines. Christians form the majority faith in 158 countries worldwide, only 10% of Christians live in countries where they are a minority.
So, it is fair to say that being baptised is not a strange, minority, irrelevant, meaningless thing to do. Quite the opposite. And it was all begun by that one man who gave up his life so that we might all have life - eternal life - all 2.2 billion of us, 2000 years later.
The Rev’d Dr Gordon Giles, St Mary Magdalene, Enfield, 14/8/16