Ask Margot-Differing views on baptism

They have differing views on baptism... but will the third time be a charm?

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
My soon-to-be fiancé and I have always agreed when it has come to faith-related issues. He has recently begun to participate in a Bible study program with our new pastor. Since our pastor knows that we will be getting married next year, he has begun to talk to my boyfriend about our relationship. Our pastor
I always considered my Confirmation a second baptism for myself.
brought up the fact that, when I joined the church, I failed to be re-baptized. My boyfriend came home and discussed this with me. I have explained my reasoning to him before, and I did it once again. I was born into a Lutheran church (our current church is Baptist) and I was baptized as a young child and then I went through First Communion and then Confirmation. I always considered my Confirmation a second baptism for myself. I was old enough to know what I was doing and I was starting a new life of faith. Our pastor doesn’t believe in baptism of young children or the method in which I was baptized and I suspect he doesn’t think that Confirmation is a valid profession of faith. I don’t disagree with how my boyfriend or his family did it, but I think that there is more than one method that is acceptable. I am now worried that this is a subject that could become an issue in our relationship. How do I tell my boyfriend (and our well-meaning but strict pastor) that I respect their method and beliefs but that I have my own, and they should not push me into something that I don’t think is necessary?
— Once should be enough!

Dear Once,
While I can’t offer you advice on the doctrinal complexities of baptism, I can agree with you that, yes, once should be enough. You’ve offered what seems to me like a pretty good explanation of your beliefs. You’re not anti-baptism; you simply prefer to honor the tradition you grew up with. I’m sure your boyfriend — and your pastor, for that matter — feel the same way about many things in their lives. So that’s it; end of story.

Or is it?

You ask in your letter, “How do I tell my boyfriend (and our well-meaning but strict pastor) that I respect their method and beliefs but that I have my own, and they should not push me into something that I don’t think is necessary?” That seems like a perfectly articulated statement to me. Have you tried this direct approach? I know it’s hard. But it’s often the best way to handle something like this.

The question that keeps nagging at me is why they keep nagging at you. It’s obviously a very important issue but you’ve said your piece — three times — and that hasn’t been enough. What I’m concerned about here is how this could establish a pattern for other serious issues later on in your relationship. For example, does “No!” mean “No!” or does
I respect their method and beliefs but I have my own.
your boyfriend think he can wear you down if he just keeps after it long enough?

If yours were a casual relationship then this would just one awkward moment and you could probably wait it out. But you’re both marriage-minded, so I think you’ve got to settle this one — once and for all — on two levels.

If it was me, I’d handle it this way: I’d sit my man down and say something like: “I’m not going to be baptized again and we’re not going to talk about it anymore. I’m going to insist that you respect my beliefs just as you expect me to respect yours. That’s it; end of discussion.”

If you’re thinking about building a life together, you’re going to have dozens of big decisions to make along the way. And, yes, some of them will be bigger than who’s getting baptized and who isn’t. You need to start right now at developing a framework within your relationship to handle disagreement. Without a way of dealing with differences, you’ll be stuck on this merry-go-round for the rest of the time you spend together—which may not be long given how tenacious your boyfriend seems to be and how steadfast you seem to be.

Use this awkward problem as an opportunity to create a new pattern in your relationship. Learning how to handle disagreement is vital to any relationship’s success. And this looks like the perfect example of a disagreement that won’t go away until you both decide to put it away.

And if he’s not willing to do as you ask? Then he’s not, in my book any way, the right man for you.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. Send your faith-based dating questions to
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