American Baptism, Democratic and Republican

Archdruid Eileen as drawn by Dave WalkerArchdruid Eileen offers a perceptive comment:

In America, it seems to me, you can tell politicians apart by the age at which baptism takes place. Broadly, I reckon, Democrats baptise children and Republicans baptise adults.

This is really an aside in her post A Guide to English Christianity, which led her creator to tweet “*leaves country*”. But America will be no safe haven for the writer after that comment.

But is this correlation true? It certainly seems to tie in with my experience. Among my limited number of American friends, those from mainstream denominations, who generally baptise children, tend to be on the political left, whereas the Baptists and Pentecostals who only baptise adults tend to be on the right. I would suppose that the latter tend to be more individualistic, in both politics and religion, and to be Republican, whereas a stronger sense of society and corporate identity could be linked to both baptism of children and Democratic politics.

However, the rule doesn’t seem to work for recent Presidents and presidential candidates. Bill Clinton is a Democrat and a Baptist; George W. Bush is a Republican and a Methodist (former Episcopalian). Barack Obama fits the bill as a Democrat from the paedo-baptist United Church of Christ, but he was personally baptised as an adult in that denomination (which incidentally implies that he is not a Muslim). Of Obama’s four current Republican challengers, two are paedo-baptist Roman Catholics, although Newt Gingrich has been baptised as an adult, not once but twice; one, Ron Paul, is a Baptist who baptises children – at least his own five; and one, Mitt Romney, accepts only adult baptism, in its distorted Mormon form. So, it seems, Eileen’s rule is followed better by the ordinary people than by their leaders.

15 thoughts on “American Baptism, Democratic and Republican

  1. I think it would be more helpful to say that folks baptize “infants” or “believers”… most denoms and churches will baptize children once they profess faith in Jesus.

  2. Oh! And my experience growing up in the United Church of “Christ” is that it’s not a particularly Christian church (and I say that in the absolute broadest definition of “Christian” that I can muster).

  3. I think the reason that Evangelicals (Pentecostal, Baptist) tend to be more Conservative/Republican than other denominations has nothing to do with baptism, per se, but with the fact that Evangelicals are usually more Bible-orientated than the others. We view the Bible as accurate and our guide to life and eternity, whereas others tend to be more humanistic,

    When you are humanistic, you usually believe that it is up to mankind to save the planet, and mankind in the process.

  4. Kay, I take your point that “infants” and “believers” is more accurate, but I was following Eileen’s terminology. Anyway, I assumed that “children” meant “infants” – and didn’t want to get into trouble by calling Obama and Romney “believers”! Whatever UCC may be like, it does practice Trinitarian Christian baptism, and any presumed Muslim who undergoes it is reckoned to have renounced Islam and become a Christian.

    Galveston, I take it that you are a Baptist or Pentecostal and a Republican supporter! Others would certainly argue that the Bible supports baptism of infants and more Democratic policies.

  5. It’s been my personal experience that most registered Democrats that I know are either atheists, agnostics, or paedo-baptist Christians.

  6. Rhea, I’m glad to hear some American (I assume) confirmation of what we Brits, Eileen and myself, have observed. I could ask if you know any Jews, as I suspect most of them are Democrats.

  7. Too many stereotypes–perhaps true of a majority, but if you haven’t met practicing Christians who are Democrats and live in the US, then you haven’t looked as I know lots of them (and since I primarily vote Democrat, am one). On the other hand, I will admit to not speaking a whole lot about politics with church people as they do tend to not appreciate finding that some of us don’t believe Christianity and capitalism are mostly synonymous or that that some of use disagree strongly on what we believe are Christian values or that we disagree on which issues we prioritize.

  8. PLTK, I admit that I am talking stereotypes and majorities, and that there are exceptions to prove Eileen’s rule. And of course I agree with you that there are many “practicing Christians who are Democrats”. My point is that most of them are in paedo-baptist denominations. Out of interest, what is the denomination, if any, and stance on baptism of the church you attend?

  9. And the irony is I mis-typed “politicians”, meaning “politics”! Thanks for your suggestions regarding individualist vs collective. I’m wondering whether an old-style Tory is quite Pelagian, or at least not a believer in absolute depravity (as they believe people have a basic goodness they can express) while more authoritarian strains, both left and right, are maybe more Augustinian, and don’t think you can leave people to themselves.

  10. Thank you, Archdruid. And I interpreted your “politicians” as “supporters of political parties”. As for UK politics, perhaps it’s no coincidence that I am a Lib Dem (although not happy about the Coalition), and as an Arminian somewhere between Pelagianism and Augustinianism.

  11. I agree with the writer above who cautioned against overgeneralisation. Two American examples of Reformed & Anglo-Catholic conservative Anglicans: 1.) Bishop C. Nedd of the Episcopal Missionary Church – and
    2.) (Reformed Anglican)
    Both men hold strongly to infant baptism as practised by the C. of E. and are also conservative theologically. Unfortunately the other varieties of Christianity get more media exposure in overseas news reporting because they have more adherents. The Evangelical Party in the American Epicopal Church (T.E.C.) is smaller than in England and many of the leaders have migrated to other Anglican jurisdictions or gone home to England in the case of the Rev’d Dr. Kew . The courageous Prayer Book man the Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon is now part of that great cloud of witnesses in heaven.

  12. As an American Anglican, I can tell you that there are large numbers of us who are conservative. And you should investigate Gary North, James Jordan, Peter Leithart and Doug Wilson – all committed to padeo baptism and all very conservative.

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