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O Me of Little Faith

In Eastern Europe, a priest has been accused of drowning an infant boy in the process of baptism. It was an immersion baptism, and apparently the priest didn’t cover the child’s mouth. Despite the child clearly being in distress during the ritual, the priest refused to stop until the baptism had been completed.

From the story:

“We couldn’t believe it that he just put his hand over his belly and over the head and submerged him three times in the water.”

Water was found in the baby’s lungs.

There’s more at the news site, including photos and a video, which I didn’t watch and which I won’t post here. (I’m a sensitive dad. I can’t look at stuff like that.)

A bunch of blogs and commenters have been buzzing about this story, from Daniel Florien’s Unreasonable Faith (where atheist commenters see this as proof that religion is dangerous) to Matthew Paul Turner’s Jesus Needs New PR (where his Christian readers are saddened, angry, and asking hard questions).

From my perspective, these kinds of stories can lead to at least three different responses:

Blame Religion: What does it mean when a religious ritual becomes more important than a suffering child…or a human life? What good is religion when this happens?

Blame Humanity: What in the world was that priest thinking? What were the parents thinking? Why did no one push the priest aside and grab that kid out of his hands? What is it about religion or ritual or whatever that makes people forget how to be human? 

Blame God: Where is a loving and/or powerful God during situations like this? A powerful God could certainly step in and save the child, but he didn’t. A loving God would certainly have wanted to step in and save the child, but didn’t. What do we make of this? If we believe in either of those scenarios — a loving or powerful deity — then we have to conclude that God chose not to get involved. This is when we end up doing theological and philosophical gymnastics and use phrases like “his ways are not our ways” because we have to explain why God chose not to do something than any moral person would have done — save a child from a stupid, needless death. Why?

I don’t know about you, but questions like these keep me up at night.

Because I don’t know who to blame…and because, as a Christian, I feel part of the blame belongs to me.

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