The Sort of Person They Call a Christian: First Picture
It is a young man—let us think of it so, reality furnishes examples in abundance—it is a young man, we can imagine him with more than ordinary ability, knowledge, interested in public events, a politician, even taking an active part as such.
As for religion, his religion is—that he has none at all. To think of God never occurs to him, any more than it does to go to church, and it is certainly not on religious grounds he eschews that; he almost fears that to read God’s Word at home would make him ridiculous.
When it turns out that the situation requires him to express himself about religion and there is some danger in doing it, he gets out of the difficulty by saying, as is the truth, “I have no opinion at all, such things have never concerned me.”
This same young man who feels no need of religion feels the need of being—paterfamilias. He marries, then he has a child, he is—presumptive father. And then what happens?
Well, our young man is, as they say, in hot water about this child; in the capacity of presumptive father he is compelled to have a religion. And so it turns out that he has the Evangelical Lutheran religion.
How pitiful it is to have religion in this way. As a man, he has no religion; when there might be danger connected with having even an opinion about religion, he has no religion—but in the capacity of presumptive father he has (risum teneatis!)1 that religion precisely which extols the single state.
So they notify the priest, the midwife arrives with the baby, a young lady holds the infant’s bonnet coquettishly, several young men who also have no religion render the presumptive father the service of having, as godfathers, the Evangelical Christian religion, and assume obligation for the Christian upbringing of the child, while a silken priest with a graceful gesture sprinkles water three times on the dear little baby and dries his hands gracefully with the towel—
And this they dare to present to God under the name of Christian baptism. Baptism—it was with this sacred ceremony the Savior of the world was consecrated for His life’s work, and after Him the disciples, men who had well reached the age of discretion and who then, dead to this life (therefore immersed three times, signifying that they were baptized into communion with Christ’s death), promised to be willing to live as sacrificed men in this world of falsehood and evil.
The priests, however, these holy men, understand their business, and understand too that if (as Christianity must unconditionally require of every sensible man) it were so that only when a person has reached the age of discretion his is permitted to decide upon the religion he will have—the priests understand very well that in this way their trade would not amount to much. And therefore these holy witnesses to the truth insinuate themselves into the lying-in room, where the mother is weak after the suffering she has gone through, and the paterfamilias is—in hot water. And then under the name of baptism they have the courage to present to God a ceremony such as that which has been described, into which a little bit of truth might be brought nevertheless, if the young lady, instead of holding the little bonnet sentimentally over the baby, were satirically to hold a night cap over the presumptive father. For to have religion in that way is, spiritually considered, a pitiful comedy. A person has no religion; but by reason of family circumstances, first because the mother got into the family way, the paterfamilias in turn got into embarrassment owing to that, and then with the ceremonies connected with the sweet little baby—by reason of all this a person has—the Evangelical Lutheran religion.
1. Do not laugh!
I posted this earlier this week, then Blogger blew up and I had to re-edit and re-post it. I had originally written an introduction, but I can’t remember what I wrote. So this time I left it off.