I wanted to share this allegory with those (maybe 2) of my readership (maybe 5) who have given up (probably wise) reading the out-of-control comment trail (140 and counting) of one particular post of mine (to remain unnamed). I’ll present the allegory first, and give the legend at the end (although it doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to figure out what I’m talking about):
There exist in this country Visible Americans, and True Americans. Visible Americans become so by birth, and get a social security card (we call this the SSN of Visible Americanship). (Adults can also become Americans by immigration; they also have the SSN applied to them.) True Americans, however, are defined by their faith in the democratic process and the ideals of the American experiment, and that faith is expressed publicly by VOTING. But since that faith, and that public expression of faith, require a certain amount of maturity and capability for reason, babies cannot be true Americans. (Although the SSN is not technically required for True Americanship, everybody agrees that all True Americans need to have the SSN, and the only decent excuse for not having the SSN is if you get hit by a bus immediately after naturalization or birth, while your SSN is still in the mail.)Continuing to extend the analogy, not all Visible Americans are True Americans (not all Visible American babies grow up to vote, not all immigrants vote after they gain citizenship (however, I bet the proportion of voting naturalized citizens is significantly higher than the proportion of born citizens who grow up to be voters)). There even exist Visible Americans who vote, but who do so without true faith in American ideals, and therefore are not True Americans (we call them Democrats (sorry, I couldn’t resist!)). Anybody that thinks that just being born American, or getting the SSN, makes them a True American, is wrong, and such heresy is extremely detrimental to the institution of True Americanism.
There is a significant relationship between the promulgation of True Americanism, and birthing of children to American parents (both visible and true). This is because of the responsibility of True Americans (shamefully abdicated by way too many Visible, and even True Americans) to teach their children the difference between Visible and True Americans, and to raise their children to become True Americans. Even though the difference between True and Visible Americans is critical to what makes America possible in the first place (if nobody participates in the Democracy, where’s all the Democracy?), there is also something special about just being a Visible American. There are many benefits and priviledges which accrue to Visible Americans, due to the nature of the True American community. And to suggest that only adults (or only voters) should be given the SSN:
- is a misguided attempt to reduce the number of non-true Americans who think they are True Americans,
- will not eliminate false Americans,
- denies to underage Americans the benefits and priviledges which naturally accrue to them by virtue of being Visible Americans, and
- is tantamount to throwing out baby Americans with the bath water.
So here is the legend:
- American = Church (or for OT continuity, Covenant Body), so Visible Americans and True Americans correspond to the Visible Church and the True Church
- The SSN of Visible Americanship = the Sign of the Covenant (NT baptism, OT circumcision)
- Voting (the public expression of faith) = Public confession of faith
- Birth = Birth
- Immigration = Conversion
- All Visible Americans should have the SSN (even children) = All members of the visible church should have the sign (even children)
- The (hypothetical) well-intentioned desire to combat false Americanism by restricting the SSN to voters, which confuses the SSN and True Americanism = the (historical) well-intentioned anabaptist desire to combat the Catholic heresy of salvation through baptism, by restricting the Sign to confessors, which confused the Sign with the Thing Signified
Now I do not contend that this allegory constitutes an actual argument for Infant Baptism (any such argument must of course be rooted in scripture). I intend only to illustrate the critical difference between the paedobaptist and credobaptist understandings of what baptism is; i.e. a God-applied sign of the Covenant, or a man-applied sign of saving faith.
The biggest flaw in this analogy is that there is no analogue for salvation; there is no political concept (that I can think of) which is at all redemptive in nature, and there is no difference in what death does to Visible vs. True Americans. However, I think this raises another important point: the chief end of man is not to get saved, but to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The chief end of salvation is not to save our skins, but to restore us to relationship with God (so that we can properly glorify and enjoy Him). What is the chief end of True Americanism in my allegory? There is no room in the allegory for any concept of redemption, but there is for discussion of the proper relationship of a citizen to the rest of his country (i.e. informed participation in the democratic process). Similarly, we should try to shift our thinking from man-centered (am I saved? will I go to heaven?) to God-centered (Has God graced me with the faith to confess that Jesus is Lord? Is my life God-glorifying? How can God use me to bring my neighbor to also glorify God? Oh, and by the way, am I truly thankful to God for calling me back to himself, for eternity?)