My baptism was not stylish nor sexy. Turns out, that might be a problem.
When folks ask me whether I’m born again, I’m often not sure how to respond. I’ve honestly not said that Jesus Prayer that will secure my relationship with Christ as my Personal Lord and Savior. In some quarters, having never uttered the Jesus Prayer is tantamount to an eternity in the fiery pits of hell, I know. But there you go.
Because I’m nice and desire not to offend, I often respond to such born-again questions with “14,” my age at baptism. Even then, I hadn’t made an overly conscious decision to accept Jesus; it was just time, the point at which most Mennonite young folks went through the baptismal rite.
I also wanted to be baptized during our church retreat at Drift Creek Camp, a place in the Oregon coastal range where’d I had a little self-contained religious revival that summer, thanks in part to the cute Mennonite college guys serving as counselors. By most summer camp standards, Drift Creek was extra damp and drippy, with cabins that sometimes housed rats and a bathhouse that surely harbored other vermin. But it was heaven to me that summer, a come-to-Jesus place, for sure.
So I was baptized at church retreat, wearing skuzzy camp clothes, the only teen that year to be baptized. My dad, our church pastor, sprinkled me with water, after I shared a short poem expressing my faith. I no longer have the poem, but I’m sure it rhymed. (Love and dove? Camp and Tramp?) Church members came forward to hug me. I feigned a bloody nose so I could leave mid-way through the hugs, the ones given to me by people I didn’t know well.
I’m that kind of introvert.
It turns out, though, a stylish baptism is what it’s all about, so maybe my baptism didn’t take. I found out as much a few weeks ago, when our beloved and very cool campus pastor, Sarah Baldwin, went on and on about stylish baptism on her Facebook page. Okay, well maybe she just posted something from the web because she was appalled, but still. If you want to know about stylish baptisms, just ask Sarah.
Or, you can go right to Sarah’s source, which is a woman named Leslie, who appears on some kind of reality show called Big Rich Texas. (As a regular connoisseur of reality programs, I’d not heard of this one, which felt momentarily like a failure for me.) Big Rich Texas Leslie says you can have a baptism that is both Holy (as in sanctified) and holy (as in, Holy Crap, what a swanky baptism!). All you need for a Holy/holy baptism is lots of money, a private swimming pool, and your own righteous, albeit classy, connection to the Lord.
Of course, I totally get the swimming pool suggestion, which Leslie says is cleaner and more controlled. I don’t like going into icky lakes either, and would hate to be dunked under by a pastor, only to have some snakes or algae get tangled in my hair. But here’s one tiny theological issue: Big Rich Texas Leslie suggests a classy baptism requires dunking. What about those of us who only sprinkle or pour? Will our own baptisms be deemed less classy, just because we don’t have the baptismal pool that can double as a space for post-baptism Marco Polo games?
Who am I kidding, though. According to Big Texas Leslie, the post-baptism celebration doesn’t mean swimming in the pool, but releasing doves and eating cake. The cake in her video, a multiple-tiered confection with white butter cream frosting and a classy topper, looks suspiciously like a wedding cake. But then, you know, you may believe yourself the bride of Christ after your baptism anyway, and what bakery is going to cater to baptismal cake? (Though for some reason, if anywhere, Texas would have a booming baptism bakery business.)
And releasing doves apparently represents purity and innocence, central symbols in any stylish baptism. To me, birds represent chaos, scaly legs and claws, and poop, but whatever. My baptism wasn’t stylish.
Finally, a word about what to wear at a stylish baptism. From the video, it appears the baptized should wear a strapless white dress, akin to one of those bridesmaid numbers your friend promised you could wear many times after her wedding. Though I’d be a little worried that the dunking motion might cause a little nipple-exposing sacrilege, stylish people know how to keep their dresses on, even in a swimming pool.
As Big Texas Leslie reminds us, too, the baptism is not a time to be “boobalicious.” If you are a guest, your dress should be tasteful but modest, as should the dress worn by the baptized during the cake-and-dove-release time. You don’t want to be sloshing through the celebration in a wet strapless, white dress, even if you’ve been washed clean by your new life in Christ.
No word from Big Texas Leslie about what Quakers should do. The Quaker value of simplicity certainly does put a damper on the whole elegant swimming pool and beautiful wedding cake thing, I would think, as does the Quaker idea that baptism is a spiritual rather than a physical rite.
Those poor, poor Quakers. Without the physical sacrament of baptism, they lose their opportunity to be truly chic, to eat baptism cake, to wear a modest, boobalicious-less dress. No wonder our campus pastor couldn’t stop talking about stylish baptism on her Facebook page a few weeks ago: always looking out for the needs of our students, that one.
Perhaps a new Quaker tradition is in order: a stylish spiritual baptism, with the bride of Christ dress in a lovely Quaker gray.
You can watch the Big Texas video here: