I was talking to a friend a few months back and I decided to mention that I’m opposed to people having to be baptized before they get communion.
To say he was opposed to my idea is putting it mildly. He strongly feels that people must be baptized before they get communion, and anything less is fraud. He got a little hostile in his response, and very defensive.
He compared it to when his sister got a mail order ministry certificate and a journalist press pass. She didn’t go to school for these things, so she is saying she is something she isn’t in his opinion. To him, to take communion without being baptized is to say that you are a Christian when you aren’t.
Who would be hurt by a non baptized person taking communion? Who is defrauded? What would be taken away from a person who was baptized if a non-baptized person took communion? And what is the definition of “Christian” – someone who has had the sacraments, or someone who acts in the manner of Jesus?
He got really angry about this topic. I’m starting to learn that anger is a sign of fear, and of a sign of feeling a lack of control.
I wonder what he was so afraid of. I wonder why he feels a need to control who gets communion. Perhaps one day I’ll ask. Perhaps one day I’ll be brave. I’m not sure how to explain my view on this so I’m still working it out. It has taken me several months of working on this to get to this point. I probably have more to say on this subject later.
Baptism is a public declaration of membership into the Body of Christ. Communion is remembering the sacrifice that Jesus made and it is reuniting with him, so that he abides in us, and we in him. It is reuniting to the vine, as we are the branches and we cannot bear fruit if we are not connected to the life-giving vine.
If people can be baptized as infants – this decision is made for them – then why do others have to be baptized to take communion? Baptism is a passive action in denominations that allow infant baptism. Communion is active – you have to intentionally do it. It is something that can’t be done to you or for you. I feel like the very act of wanting to take communion means that you were called to it.
There is a Christian author I like who is named Sara Miles. Her parents are atheists and she was raised to be highly skeptical of organized religion. Sara decided to walk into the church near her house one Sunday. She went in, participated in the service, and when it was time to take communion, she did so. This was a church where you have to get up to go get communion – it wasn’t one where the plate comes by you while you sit in your pew. You have to make an effort. She felt called to take part in this sacrament.
When she took the bread and the wine, she got “it”. She got it harder than people who have been raised in the church. She got it harder than most people who go every week. She met Jesus there at that altar rail, and started a food bank. She realized that it is all about feeding people, about taking care of people. That it is all about love and healing and compassion. Nobody is turned away, and nobody has to “prove” that they are poor. Anybody who wants food gets it, and it is real food, not canned.
Here’s the point. She wasn’t baptized. She continued to go to church for a year before she decided to get baptized.
What if the minister had said beforehand – by the way, you have to be baptized to get this? She most likely would have stayed in her pew, feeling like an outsider. She wouldn’t have had that conversion experience. The food bank wouldn’t have started.
Part of the reason you have to be not only baptized but Catholic to get communion at a Catholic church is the idea of transubstantiation. Transubstantiation means that you believe that the bread and the wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus. The problem is that the majority of Catholics don’t even understand this or believe this – but they still get to take communion.
But forget it if you are from another denomination. I wrote a local Catholic church once and asked if I (at the time an Episcopalian) could take communion there. I was sent a link that explained that because of “the sad divisions” in the Body of Christ, only Catholics could take communion at a Catholic church. The part that drives me up the wall about this is that it is because of rules like this that we have “sad divisions.” Get rid of the rule and stop being sad.
Look at the story of the loaves and fishes. Jesus blessed what was offered, and broke it, and it multiplied. This is a miracle, but it is also real. It is to show us to not be stingy with our gifts. The same message is throughout the Gospels. Give what you have away. Don’t hoard it up. Let your gifts (which are freely given to you by God) be multiplied and then give them away.
God gives us what He gives us because he wants us to give it away to others. It isn’t for keeping. The light of a candle is not diminished by sharing.
So why has the church put a rule on who can take communion? How is the church hurt by a non-baptized person taking communion? Let’s turn that around and ask what is the harm in refusing communion to someone who isn’t baptized? Everything.
We are called to welcome the stranger. We are called to build bridges, not walls. Anything we do that excludes is bad. We are to gather up the lost sheep.
I remember one time I was on a road trip with a boyfriend. We were both kind of hippy-looking, with long hair and tie-dye t-shirts. We stopped at a truck stop to get something to eat and to use the bathroom. Out of the blue, a huge gruff man came up to us and told us that we weren’t welcome there. He was a customer, not an employee. He made it very clear that we weren’t part of the mix of people he expected to see there.
I feel like we are doing the same thing to people when we say they can’t take communion unless they are baptized. We are saying that we are in a special club and it is very nice and you can join too but only if you do it our way. We are in, and you are out.
I don’t want to be part of a club that does that.
I feel that if a person feels called to take communion, they should take communion. Who are we to stand in the way between a person and Jesus?
Now, it isn’t like they check baptism records at the door. It isn’t like there is a mark on you that lets others know that you are part of the club. There isn’t a secret handshake. So you could take communion and not be baptized, but that isn’t the point. The point is that officially, you aren’t supposed to. And that is hurtful.
And it isn’t Christ-like.
The Christian church has to stop acting like it is part of a special exclusive club where we’ve won the game of musical chairs. So sorry – we’ve got it and you don’t. Too bad.
That isn’t what this faith is supposed to be about at all.
If church isn’t about love, and I mean real, deep-down, honest to goodness nonjudgmental welcoming love, then it isn’t really what Jesus died for.