Atheists have got it all wrong, man. They convince other people to give up religion by writing long, scholarly books and the occasional angry essay, or by encouraging them to learn more about religion, or by not actually caring whether or not a person is religious. They should really take notes from the Franklin Crossroads Baptist Church in Kentucky, where new recruits to the faith are drafted by taking minors to a group baptism without their parents’ permission.
Two weeks ago, public-high-school football coach Scott Mooney took about 20 members of his team of minors on a “team-building” trip to a church 40 kilometers away, in a school bus, with the school superintendent in attendance, without requiring permission slips, and with at least one parent under the impression that the team was going to have dinner and hear a motivational speaker.
Eight of the kids changed into white robes and were baptized. At least one kid says he had no idea what was going on, and boy is his Catholic dad pissedâ€”not because he wanted the boy to remain Catholic (the mother is Baptist), but because he wanted his son to be allowed to make up his own mind about his faith, free from the pressure of his coach, superintendent, or teammates. The son, of course, is mortified and just wants his dad to shut up because he “fears ruffling feathers among the team.” What a perfect illustration of why this all happened: peer pressure. What 16-year old boy really wants to be the one who doesn’t go along with the crowd? (While there were other students who weren’t Baptized, if they were already Baptists, they wouldn’t need to.)
The highlight of the article is the response from the reverend, Ron Davis:
Although Rev. Davis typically seeks parental consent for baptisms involving minors, he said the boys were “bulked up” and looked older than their 16 years.
“I didn’t check their IDs,” he said, adding that Mr. Mooney — who has brought players to church services in the past — did not pre-arrange for the boys to accept the sacrament.
But officer! The boys on the high school football team coached by a known member of my congregation who showed up in a school bus looked like adults!
For full disclosure, I grew up Baptist and was Baptized when I was about seven. The preacher came to my house and asked me questions about Jesus, verifying that I understood I was accepting him as my personal savior. Can a 7-year old really weigh her options, consider alternate religions, and make a rational decision about a thing like that? My adult self says no, of course notâ€”I had never even heard of Islam, Buddhism, or Judaism, and I certainly hadn’t realized that there was even a possibility that my entire family and community could be wrong about the existence of a god.
But, I remember believing fervently in the Baptist god and wanting to be “saved,” and I felt good about my choice. Being Baptized didn’t require that I sign a contract for the rest of my life . . . it just required me to affirm what I believed at that time in front of my congregation. And hey, at least it was what my parents thought would be best for me.
The bamboozled high school football players, though, are another story. Parents were misled and the authority of a public school was used to trick kids into affirming something they didn’t even believe. That’s just slimy. Um, and illegal?
On the plus side, the parents are fighting back. And, this nicely highlights how desperate churches are getting. After all, if your religion is so shitty that you have to trick minors into joining it, you’ve got a serious PR problem on your hands.
Thanks to reader Deirdre for the tip.