olympic baptism bingo

5 07 2011

There’s a new Olympic sport. Not as much of a guilty pleasure as beach volleyball, but good nonetheless. It’s called Olympic News Bingo, and involves watching BBC London (my local news) and seeing how many tenuous links to the Olympics they can make with an ordinary news story.

A bus has crashed – OLYMPIC TRAVEL CHAOS.
Famous person visits London – OLYMPIC HOTEL CHAOS.


You get the picture. 

Without wishing to cash in on such cheap journalistic techniques, I was thinking about how much the Olympic ticket lottery was a bit like many people’s attitudes to child baptism.

To get an Olympic ticket, you don’t have to be into sport, you just need to want to be there; you don’t have to know what it will be there – you may end up watching cycling or wrestling or hammer-throwing – but at least you will be there; you don’t have to make any long-term commitment, just give your credit card details, sit back and wait. It may work out, it may not. At least you’ve done your bit to try. 

Many people approach having their children baptised in a similar way. You don’t have to be into Jesus (or even religion), you just need to want them want them to get into heaven, though you don’t really know what that means and actually aren’t very interested in finding out. Like handing over your credit card details to Olympic organisers, you make the “renouncing evil” promises through gritted teeth. You don’t really know what you are promising, or where you will end up, but at least you are in shout for a ticket.


And the best thing? No long-term commitment.  Ok, the vicar goes on about the ‘baptism legacy’ being you and your child involved in your local church developing healthy spiritual lives… but you know as well as he does that you have no interest in a long-term legacy, just like getting an Olympic ticket isn’t going to make you join a gym. You just want a ticket and then to go home.

I know not everyone thinks like this. We are about to do our first baptisms at our church for years and our prayer is that in the same way buying an Olympic ticket might get more people involved in the wonderfully life-giving life-changing thing that is participation in sport, so our baptisms might get more people involved in the wonderfully life-giving life-changing thing that it participation in Jesus’ kingdom, in bringing heaven to earth now, not just for the future.

Only time will tell. I know I am convinced that no ticket will give me a better view of the Olympics then from my armchair. So there I will stay.

unnecessary beach volleyball picture





9 responses

5 07 2011

I have an awful feeling that many of the people who have got Olympic tickets will be disappointed whn they get there. there are no commentators, nobody to explain the rules and tell them about the people involved, no action replays and no shots of celebrities watching and it could be raining. You are on your own.

I think its the same with Baptism. People want the packing but aren’t prepared to do the work themselves and find out about it. The digital age has made it easy to watch and think you are participating from the cosiness of your home or pub. But ask people to come into the real world, and actually run a race or play a sport, or to stand in a muddy field and cheer and you get a different reaction.

Baptism is joining something. It is the start of participating which means hard work, taking knocks and struggling. Of course the rewards for doing this are tremendous but they aren’t instant and the ten steps to success manual doesn’t work. Sad isn’t it.

5 07 2011

It was through a baptism visit by my local vicar (which I thought unecessary) to get my daughter ‘done’…just in case baptism was the ticket needed to get into heaven… that I first heard that God was knowable and loved me to boot…Graham (the vicar in question) was to my mind either mad, or he really did know God’s love…I decided he was one of the sanest people I had ever met…full of joy, and energy, and an enthusiasm for life…he left me a book called ‘Basic Christianity’
which I stayed up most of the night to read…that was 41 years ago… God has been so real and His love so faithful…how I thank God for that baptism visit.
So who knows Kevin, maybe baptism visits will prove a rich field for you to show how real and knowable God is to you.

5 07 2011

Thanks carol, stories like yours are inspiring! There are several in the current congregation who have come the same way… thank you for reminding me of that!

8 07 2011
Sandie Bradley

Yes indeed Kevin. I too felt the same way as Carol, and had the same views on “doing churchy things”!
It is through Hilary’s first visit to our home and the enthusiasm she had for God and church that I decided to continue going to church after Hayden was baptised! (I’m also proud that Hayden was your first baptism here in St Helier!)

5 07 2011

When I wasn’t a Christian I was very cross that we could not get baby Sarah baptised without going to church. She was baptised at 4 when we were Christians, and it was so great as she had a little idea about what it was about.
Now I have to admit that I have, at times, been very intolerant of those people who want to just get a ticket, show up and leave. I have even stayed away from that weeks’ service because of it. Oh Dear, I think I need to come up a bit higher.

6 07 2011

I reckon baptism is “bigger” than our theology and our intentions. It doesn’t really matter what WE as parents or vicars or priests or pew people believe about it… what matters is that something supernatural and incomprehensible takes place between God and the child being baptised.

God will use whatever he can to mark us as his own… even random gambles at getting tickets to things you’re too lazy or too apathetic to pursue properly. Thank goodness that he is more gracious than we are is what I reckon. But
I might just be projecting the God I dream of rather than the God he is when I make this assertion… so feel free to take it as a bit of a fluffy ideal.

Always thought provoking reading your blog.

7 07 2011

Don’t worry AnotherKate, I enjoy a bit of fluffy idealism! The question is, does anything actually happen at baptism, or is it a sign of what has already happened? A sacrament is an outward sign of an inward grace… but when?!

7 07 2011

The incentives for baptisees today are much too vague. We live in a competitive age, where targets drive nearly our behaviours. People want to know what they are aiming at and need to be able to measure themselves against their peers, whether that’s through school results, playstation scores, or the effect of the gunk in their hair. So I suggest that vicars should embrace the zeitgeist and start recording individual baptism performances so that they can publish the results outside their churches. Trying to break the local record for things like ‘longest time held under water’ or ‘loudest scream when getting your hair wet’ might entice more people into church to get dunked and try to get their name on the honours board. Some church people might even volunteer to get re-baptised if it enables them to have a go at beating their previous personal best performance. I might even jump in there myself if I thought there was a chance of being given a medal for wearing the stupidest pyjamas or something…

7 07 2011

Thank you Edge. I couldn’t have asked for a better 651st comment!

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