The people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”
I have never been baptized. The church I was raised in — the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) — taught that baptism was a ritual only for adults.
It’s not surprising: the WCG guarded the gates carefully. To get invited to church, on had to show some real persistence. To be baptized, one had to be living a “Godly” life. The church itself took the prerogative in defining this “holiness.” Though it liked to claim everything came from the Bible, the theology was twisted into unrecognizable shapes by the time it got to us, so holiness meant things like paying tithes, not celebrating Christmas, getting all the leaven out of your house once a year, not smoking, and a thousand other examples of pettiness.
Whenever one of my church friends or acquaintances announced he or she was getting baptized, it seemed like the end for our friendship. After baptism, they were entering a whole new league, and we were often encouraged to see the baptized young adults as true adults, while we unbaptized dilly dallied in sin.
Because it was such a momentousness step, I never considered it. Not once. The thought never entered my mind, and that is yet another in a long line of “proofs” that I never really believed any of it to begin with.
As an atheist, I once took pride in that simple fact. “I’ve never been baptized, and I never will be,” I declared.
I still remain doubtful on some days — and I mean that “doubtful” in every conceivable way. I pray occasionally; I go to Mass with my wife; I read. And through it all, I have little idea what to expect.