A practical view of baptism

Anchorage Daily NewsMarch 20, 2012 

Back in the old days when Alaska had summer, I got up on a bright, warm morning and headed for the Daily News on foot.

I had been reading a memoir by a prominent New York writer and pieces of it were rattling around my brain. The writer was born and raised in small-town Illinois and wrote at length about his ancestors who settled there after the Civil War.

The ancestors were deeply religious. Many followed the teachings of the famed evangelist Alexander Campbell, a pioneer of the giant revival meeting.

The ancestors dedication to the Christian faith eventually ripped the family into two factions. The factions disagreed about baptism; they eventually could not discuss it. One faction believed in full immersion baptism, the other in sprinkling. A full-immersioner taunted a sprinkler "Show me, show me in the Bible where scripture endorses sprinkling."

After a few minutes of walking, I saw two old men standing on a corner. They seemed to be hesitant, confused. I approached them, told them my name and asked if the needed help. Yes, one of them explained they were momentarily lost. They were visitors to Anchorage and after arriving from Georgia the night before, they had gone for a morning walk. They were in town for a church revival and were house guests of a couple they met only hours ago. They participated in Alaska revivals every summer.

We walked along together for a few minutes before the more talkative of the old-timers had a Eureka moment and announced we were close to where they were billeted. Another block and we were at the door of the house.

The old-timers thanked me for my concern. We chatted briefly.

I was curious what the men, given their experience, made of the full-immersion versus sprinkling controversy and told them about it.

"Michael," the more talkative senior said "it's Michael, right?" Yes I replied. "Michael remember, this isn't the first time I have been to Alaska. I have been to McKinley Park, and I put my hands in some of those streams up there, so I know how cold the water is in Alaska. Michael, I have done baptisms, but I'm not doing full immersion baptisms around here. Forget it."

The three of us laughed, shook hands, and said good-bye.

-- Michael Carey

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