I lived for over a decade in South Carolina, either in Columbia (the State capital) or just outside of Columbia. I did my seminary training at Columbia Biblical Seminary and I received my first Pastoral charge at a small rural Church named Longtown Presbyterian Church which was 45 miles outside of Columbia.
Over my decade in the South, I got a real taste of the deep South. One of my favorite stories concerns the first funeral I conducted in the rural South Carolina Church. After the committal service and just outside the gates of the Church cemetery (in the South you’re not really a church if you don’t have a Church cemetery on the grounds) a very elderly woman leaning on the arm of a very young woman hobbled up to me. I greeted her in a pastoral conciliatory fashion certain that she must be grieving. She inquired in a very deep and not friendly voice, “You’re not from around here are you?” I responded with, “No, Maam I’m not.” (I had lived in the South long enough by that time to know that one referred to ladies two generations older than you with the polite sobriquet, “Maam.”) She proceeded to query of me asking, “Where you from boy?” I kid you not. She called me “boy.” Doubtless, this was because she already knew the answer to her question. I answered honestly by saying, “I’m from Michigan Maam.” She raised up to her full height and said to me, “Just what I thought. A Yankee.”
I tried to lighten the moment by offering that I was from Southern Michigan but by the time I offered that attempt at levity she had already pivoted and was walking away from me, no doubt muttering about carpetbagging Yankee ministers.
One thing I learned about the South and that right quickly is that they loved their football. Why they loved football even more than University of Michigan fans. (I grew up during the time of the great Bo Schembechler). If you were a Southern male you were committed to some program (Alabama, Auburn, Tennesse, Georgia, etc., and of course being in South Carolina one was all in for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.) In my first year in Seminary (1984) the Gamecocks rose to #2 in the national polls at one point. People were wild with Gamecock-mania. South Carolinians dubbed it “Black Magic,” because of the black uniforms that had been introduced that year.
Infants and toddlers were dressed in Gamecock onesies. People flew their pickup trucks with Gamecock flags flying in the bed of their trucks. The city shut down on Saturdays during the football game. The front page of “The State” became the Sports Section on Sundays and Joe Morrison (coach) could do no wrong.
All this is intended to lead up to a post on Infant-baptism. As it concerns southern college football no father says to himself when his son is born, “Well, I am a died in the wool Alabama (Roll Tide) fan but I’m going to respect my child and let him decide for himself if he will be an Alabama Football fan.” (I still prefer Bear Bryant over Nick Saban.) No, the son is born and the father wraps the child every night in a “Roll Tide” blanket. The child goes home from the hospital in the jersey of the latest Alabama superstar. The child learns from the tenderest of age about the great Bear Bryant and the litany of NFL stars that hailed from Alabama. The child eats, drinks, and sleeps University of Alabama football and may even reach a point where if Alabama is beat by Auburn the child may get in a fight with some lippy Auburn fan. The child lives in terms of Alabama football. (And unfortunately too many never out-grow this religion.)
The point is that covenantalism and infant-baptism are not dissimilar to all this. The rabid Christian father also immerses his child in the life of the faith. He teaches his children who the enemy is (cross-state rivals). The Christian father wraps his child in the colors of the “team” (Crimson Red). The Christian father teaches his child of the great legacy of the past and the great anticipation for the future. The Christian father’s life revolves around the centrality of the Kingdom and He teaches His son that his life also revolves around the Kingdom.
College football gives us an example of covenantalism (and unfortunately all too often of a rival religion to Christianity.) Christian parents clothe their babies not so much in college onesies as they clothe them in Christ in the waters of Baptism. Christian parents teach their children that Christianity is the home team worth fighting for. Christian parents impose upon their children Christianity, as the parents are commanded by God to impose. Christian parents don’t try to get their children to accept Jesus into their hearts, but rather giving their children the judgment of charity that their children are Christian they teach their children to be the Christians that baptism proclaimed them to be. Christian parents teach their children to sing the fight songs (the Psalter) of their team. Christian parents tell their children that they are part of the Christian family and so the children will be discipled into their undoubted Christian faith. Christian parents know that the children of parents follow the parents and the parents turn their children into what the parents are by passing down a faith to their children.
Baptist thinking makes no sense when it comes to their refusal to embrace covenantalism and paedo-baptism. It’s akin to telling a rabid Georgia “Dawg” fan that he dare not speak to his son of Georgia Football since the Father has to wait till the son is old enough to make up his own mind about what football team he will support. If there is no such thing as neutrality there is no such thing as neutrality in family life. We should raise our children to believe what we believe in and to be little replicas of Dad and Mom. We should obey God and give them the sign of the covenant communicating that “yes we do believe that this child is a sinner and is now claimed by God.” How much more should we do for our Christian children than what Southern College football fathers do for their children?
As for me … I root for anybody but Notre Dame.