I keep thinking about some of the comments on this entry.
Once there was a man who had a son who seemed somewhat different in his thinking and speaking. He seemed slower than other children and unable to grasp words and talk about things (mainly abstractions) the way most of his peers did.
However, the father was diligent in raising his child and even challenging him to be like others when it seemed appropriate and healthy. He enlisted his son in a softball team made up of children his son’s age and was gratified to see that his son did quite well. He hit the ball. He caught the ball. He threw the ball. And he was able to keep track of the game well enough to do all these things how and when he was supposed to. Watching him in practice it was obvious his son would be as valuable a player as anyone else.
But at the first game the father was shocked to see the coach keep his son on the bench for the entire time. Seeing his son just sit there and watch everyone else play was hard to take, but the father forced himself to be patient and wait for the game to end before asking the coach what was going on. He didn’t want to interrupt the coach’s work during the game, and he didn’t want to come across as upset when he did talk to him.
So after the game, he told his by-now-tearful son to wait by the car and went up to talk to the coach. “Coach, I was surprised my son didn’t get to play. It seemed like he not only never got to go on the field, even though you don’t have that many players, but he also wasn’t on the batting roster.”
The coach looked surprised and (though the father tried to discount this) more than a little self-rightous. “I thought you knew that children had to answer the Baseball Questions, in order to play.”
“Yes, about the nature of the game and why we play it and the main rules.”
“Is there any doubt my son can play ball?”
“Oh none at all, if you’re talking about mere bodily rituals. But anyone can hit a ball with a stick or catch it or throw or touch bases. We need to know if he really understands it.”
“Um, I’m not sure if that really makes sense but maybe we can ask him those questions now?”
“Oh no. We have to assemble a meeting of the coaches when we are all dressed up in business suits and have an official secretary to record proceedings.”
“Isn’t that intimidating.”
The coach grinned. “Right. Mrs. Brown didn’t bring her child to the game today, Brian, today because he is so shy. He wouldn’t say a word in front of all of us at our Team Council Meeting. After he failed our exam, I exhorted her that it was good for him to sit and watch the game whenever he had a chance (and much better than watching on TV). But she must be too embarrassed or something.”
“Or something. Why is it better to watch from the dugout if you don’t even get to play? I think the playing is better on TV. And at least there are half-time shows.”
“Oh sure, if you think baseball is only about entertainment.”
“No, I think baseball is for participation, but you’re the one mandating that they observe only.”
“Well, right. Because if you can’t go through the interview how do we know that you are truly participating. If you want your son to play he needs to be able to answer our questions.”
Of course, this kind of treatment of a child by a baseball coach would be totally condemned as insane….
But it is considered completely fine for Protestant pastors to do this to children, as well as raise the question that maybe the child is really going to Hell.
I’ve been wondering why this historic error is so hard to unravel. And why people who should know better are so hot to resist coming to their senses (I’m thinking of people who are quick to hammer on Matthew 19.14 to defend infant baptism). I’m beginning to wonder if the issue is economic self-interest.
If there was a group of people who had (they subconsciously feared) no marketable skills other than writing and arguing over doctrinal formulations as found in historical texts–what skills would they want consumers to value? What if these people found the only way to make a livlihood in a few denominations where their past-time in writing, blogging, conference-speaking, and publishing was seen as somehow essential to Christianity? Wouldn’t they get defensive if Christianity got too easy–if anyone could do it, withouth their permission–even a toddler?
For those who don’t have the background to know what I’m talking about, this is a post about paedocommunion.