When I taught at Duke Divinity School, one of my colleagues made this audacious, bold claim: When we baptized our children as infants, we were giving them the mark of Christ that would last throughout their lifetime. The theological point is this: While saved by God’s grace, the watery mark of baptism was, and is, a tangible gesture of the Church’s belief that the One who made us continues to claim and name who and whose we are. In most churches, baptism is a public ritual, a sacrament, that let’s the world know that the one who is baptized is marked as Christ’s own. In effect, our children live with our, the parents, decision to have them baptized. The watery cross made upon the infant’s forehead will last from childhood to adulthood, and beyond.
While I think that baptism is a profound sacrament and theological point, I also know that in a country where Christianity has a hold over much of our cultural, political and social life, the need to be fearful of this “mark” on one’s life is minimal, if existing at all. It isn’t like there are barbarians storming the Statue of Liberty or flying toward the Golden Gate Bridge. Having to argue, justify and rationalize that one is a Christian rarely occurs in a nation in which Christianity is heralded loudly and constantly from the AM/FM radio, television programming late into the evening, is found in all mixed up in our current politics and is part of the framework of our cultural wars.
However, since I came out of the closet and began to live life openly as a gay man in my part of North Carolina, my children have also been marked. My children are marked as the daughter and son of an out gay man. As my son reminds me often, all that one has to do is Google my last name and one of the first things that comes up is the book or this column of the same name, “On Being a Gay Parent.” “There’s no one who has a hard time imagining you are the parent. And, besides Dad, it isn’t like we have a really common name, like Smith or Jones,” he says with a dry wit in his voice.
Parents who may be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer expressing or questioning mark children. They will be marked for their entire lives. But this marking is not always a good or noble mark in the eyes of some communities who are not open to the diversity of God’s creation. In a recent story posted on Huffingtonpost.com, a private Catholic run school, Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Boulder, Colo., dismissed a child who was in their pre-school program, not because the child was emotionally or developmentally problematic, the parents were non-believers, couldn’t afford the school or the color of the child’s skin. The only reason the child was forced to leave the school was because the child’s parents are a loving, caring, compassionate couple, who happen to be lesbians. The Archdiocese stated: “Homosexual couples living together as a couple are in disaccord with Catholic teaching.”
There is much that is wrong in this situation, none of which has to do with the child or the child’s parents in this case. The Archdiocese is in the wrong. That any Church — which is to reflect the essential nature of the God of love, embodied in Jesus Christ, whose love is breathtaking in its inclusiveness, that the Spirit continues to inspire believers to welcome all — is unable to see how it is hurting “one of the least of these,” a child, demonstrates what is the condition of its heart metaphorically. By their actions, which are antithetical to the Gospel of Love, the Archdiocese is the one marked, wearing the scarlet letter of sin and injustice. And, the world will know they are not acting Christ-like in their walk of faith. : :
This article appears in the March 20-April 2 print edition.