Sent to you by moya via Google Reader:
My godsister joined my small, home church on Sunday, just days after she turned five. She'd been asking my grandfather/pastor (GP), "So when I'mma get baptized?" since she was two. My cell phone began to blow up at 1:30 on Sunday– our church is still small enough for everyone to care about a tiny girl whose legs dangle off the come-to-Jesus chair. I should be as happy as her grandmother, as proud as her mother, but I'm afraid. My godsister joined my small, home church on Sunday, just weeks after GP quietly removed me from the list of associate ministers for being pregnant "out of wedlock."
In 20 weeks or so, my own baby will be baptized into the community of humanity. I am afraid. Baby will break water and enter the world under a spotlight, screaming in justifiable rage, trembling and trying to find my scent amid the smell of antiseptic. Baby will be tossed, scrubbed, pricked, weighed, wrapped and finally placed in my waiting arms. But I won't be able to hold my baby for as long as it takes to keep him or her safe. I don't have to list the dangers of being born brown; the world outside my waters is cold and unfit for this child I already love.
There are also dangers in being born-again female in a holy patriarchy. I project my birthing fears onto my godsister, my heart's daughter who will rise from the baptismal pool trembling and trying to find the holy Mother's essence in a religion that has all but erased Her in the antiseptic scripts of the fathers. She will be asked one question before baptism: "Do you believe that Christ died for your sins?" Her affirmation will mark her readiness for transformation, for acceptance into the large community of Christians and the small community of my home church.
I offer a few more questions that she should be asked just so she knows what she's getting into:
Do you believe that God has gendered your participation in the body of Christ- that little girls should be ushers and little boys should be junior deacons? That ushers will eventually grow into church mothers and deacons into preachers and pastors?
Do you believe there is only one right way to love- that you should neva, neva, eva kiss a girl even if standing close enough to smell her strawberry conditioner makes you feel all special inside?
Do you believe in not telling- in the protection of black men and boys at all costs- that the boy who corners you in your new Easter dress is just being a boy and should not be reprimanded by the pastor?
Do you believe in the sinfulness of flesh- that your self-exploration (a healthy step in child development) should now be halted in the struggle against Onanism?
Do you believe in the holiness of suffering- that God knows how much each of us can bear and just happens to really, really, really trust the backs of the colored, the poor, the women, and the otherwise oppressed?
Do you believe in the perversion of sacred texts- that though Jesus stooped to draw in the sand, women should still be publicly stoned for imagined crimes?
Do you believe in the game "Pastor Says"- the adult version of "Simon Says" that renders you immobile outside of one man's understanding of the spiritual texts?
Though her acquiescence may be expected later, I know from experience that my godsister will not be asked any of these questions on her big day. GP only asked me one question twenty-two years ago, the same question that he will ask her. For that, I'm grateful. Since the unity of believers is based on the public vow to one question, agreement to the others is not required. There have always been dissenters in flowered hats and thin stockings that bag around the ankles. I've met a few of them in the past weeks- church mothers and ushers who have called to protest GP's shame, to encourage me, to cry with me, to tell the truth and shame the devil, to trouble the waters that birthed me into their community for better or worse.
Although I swore to never step foot in my home church again, I'm ready to don a large hat and attend the baptismal with my uterus protruding and my head held high. I'll bow only to pray- that once water is broken, my godsister will sniff out the Holy Mother essence as I did. I'll pray that someone's arms will protect her against this world she enters without suspicion. Finally, I'll pray that though a man took her to the water, a woman will call her to the Clearing and teach her how to love that which is despised out yonder.