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  • Writer's pictureJayma Anne Montgomery

RESTORING THE PIECES OF MY FRACTURED FAITH

Today we baptized our kids in the Anglican tradition. If anyone had told me that we would be taking this route five years ago I would have called them a stark-raving lunatic. Neither of us was raised in a tradition that condones infant baptism and, certainly, immersion rather than sprinkling was a must. I recall from my Assembly of God background that baptism is meant to be a public declaration made at some point after you come to salvation as an act of obedience to Christ. I still validate and accept all of this as a good and faithful expression of the Christian faith. And yet, we are consciously making a different choice for them.


Let me first tell you what baptizing our toddler and pre-school aged children is not. It is not a means of obtaining salvation and eternal life for them. It is not an insurance policy against them rebelling or rejecting the Christian faith as teenagers or adults. It is not a way of telling them that they must remain Anglican Christians for the rest of their natural lives. I won’t try to speak for my husband but, for me, baptizing our kids in the Anglican church is the first big step that I am taking toward living out a more authentic expression of my faith. I am working on a manuscript that will detail my journey to becoming what I now consider a ‘Reformed Evangelical Neo-Anglican’ (yes, I made that up on the spot but I like it and I’m sticking with it).


This all stems from the fact that I inherited a fractured faith tradition; it just took me a long time to realize it. All denominations have their issues and shortcomings but I do think it is possible to pass on a healthy expression of Christian faith to your offspring if you are willing to maintain a certain degree of internal criticism and brutal honesty. This was not the case for me. I was handed Evangelicalism as if it was the most perfect and pure expression of the Christian life possible despite glaring evidence to the contrary. It was intact enough to start me down the right path but the Jesus it introduced me to was extremely narrow, warped, and fragile. This Jesus was decidedly American, white, Republican, and wealthy. This is probably why I couldn’t identify with Him for many years. I learned to view prayer as transactional rather than as a spiritual discipline that would mature me in my walk. I was taught to expect GOD to fulfill all of my personal desires and to only expect blessings in life. If bad things happened to me, it was because I had sinned or was being punished. I experienced Christianity as a personal walk completely detached from the hundreds of people that I attended church with on a regular basis. I had no friends at my church and neither did my parents.


I will say that Sunday worship was a good time. The music was festive and there were costumed praise dancers twirling ribbons and flags. Nearly all hands were raised, eyes were filled with tears, and some lay prostrate at the altar. The same three or four people spoke in tongues every week, sometimes with interpretation but sometimes not. To me, speaking in tongues always sounded like the same progression of vowels and consonants strung together in a melodious refrain. And yet, the interpretation was always different. Perhaps this heavenly language consisted of only a few sounds with hundreds of different meanings. I didn’t know because no one ever explained and if I asked questions, I was told I was disrespecting the Holy Spirit. I must have responded to altar calls for salvation more than twenty times because I was never quite sure if I had meant it the time before. None of this provided a framework for how to live as a Christian in the world. All it did was teach me how to conduct myself while I was in church. I won’t even get into the whirlwind of churches that my husband and I were a part of anywhere from 1-3 years amidst a flurry of career and military-driven relocations.


I am not sharing all of this in order to denounce all of Evangelicalism or the Assembly of God denomination. I have a fondness for both and know that they will always form the building blocks of the Christian I am today. I think my parents and church leaders did the best that they could. But because I know that this way of being Christian didn’t work for me, I cannot, in good faith pass it down to my children. Now, amidst the torrent of political idolatry, anti-wokism/discernment ministries, debates about racial justice, and battles over gun control, I just want my kids to see Jesus. If they can look at their father and I and know that we tried to follow Christ as faithfully as we could amidst a community of believers striving to do the same, then that’s good enough. I want them to see Caucasian faces and families and not behave strangely around them. But I also want them to see families who look like us and listen to styles of music other than CCM. I would also love for them to be able to see the world beyond just black and white people, which may require going abroad for some time.


I want them to view our material privilege as a gift from GOD to be shared and enjoyed with our community. I want them to understand that Jesus didn’t just come to save the people that they see in church on Sunday, but also for our neighbors, the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, and the institutionalized. I want them to know that His Body is vast, global, and diverse with a place prepared for them if they want it. When I envision my children in the future, I foresee Ellie as wiry, dark-skinned, curly-headed, outgoing, magnetic, and intense...taking her place among the feet of the body…causing us to run toward the places that the world instinctively runs away from. I envision Ezra…the yang to Ellie’s yin…broad-shouldered, light-skinned, courageous, contemplative, and kind…providing the rhythm of the heart….filling sorrowful spaces with light and cheerful energy. And then I am reminded of the wise words of Khalil Gibran…that I am merely the bow from which my children will be launched and not the Archer. The goal is for them to hit His mark for them and not mine. As I have surprised and distressed my own parents with some (if not many) of my decisions and directions, so too will my children. And so, I am happy to lay a more sound foundation for them than I had, but they will have to build their own houses.




On Children by Ghalil Gibran


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