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being baptized into a new social order

 

For my generation, draft cards are the stuff of myths. I am sure they existed, but I have never seen one, except maybe in a museum. But in this country's not-too-distant past, draft cards were an important social marker. It meant the government had deemed you a worthy warrior. In the heat of the Vietnam War, some Christians decided that they would not be named "warrior" by the State, and burned their draft cards as a symbolic act. The burning card became their initiation into another social order, one marked by nonviolent dissent.

 

I have been reading a commentary on Mark by Ched Myers, and in it he sees Jesus' baptism a "renunciation of the old order." It cut against the regulated systems of redemption put into place by the religious leaders of the day. Being baptized in the Jordan by the wild-man John was against standard protocol. Myers says that Jesus' baptism is similar to the draft card burnings duringVietnam, which inducted people into the antiwar movement. He justifies this reading with what happens in Mark 1:12-13. Immediately after Jesus' baptism, he collides with the ruler of the world-order, Satan. His baptism somehow marks him for apocalyptic conflict.

I am not sure how to process this perspective, but I am captivated by it. Often baptism seems like such a quaint and safe activity. On the surface, it does not appear to cost much for those in a tolerant society like America. The comparison to draft card burning teases out the implications of an inducting rite that removes people from on order into another.

For the 16th century Anabaptists, no analogy would be needed. They thought that the Church had become so intertwined with the State that the only way out was to be re-baptized (which is where they get their name). This willful refusal to participate in the State's legitimating religious rites made them a targe for persecution. The Powers of their day would not tolerate dissent from their social order, so they killed them. 

All of this reminds me of just how dangerous it can be to follow in this Jesus' steps.