Faith Forays What Do Religious Rituals Mean to You? Becca Rose

I was baptized last week. I don’t know what you think of when you hear baptism referenced. Maybe of a naked baby in a bowl getting holy water sprinkled on its crying head? Well, I definitely had clothes on. And I was in a pond, outside under palm trees and stars. A man-made pond, but a pond nonetheless. I made the decision to be baptized again as an adult, because my childhood baptism experience was a result of my parent’s prodding when I was about ten years old.

I wasn’t really sure why I was doing it until I stepped down into the pool. The water came up to my thighs as I waited my turn in line. I asked someone to hold my glasses for me, and waded out to the middle of the pond to get dunked by a pastor. I felt a little silly at first, but to my surprise I found myself crying as I answered the questions of faith posed to me. I went under, I came up, people cheered, and I headed for my towel.

It was all a bit surreal to me. As a rational, logical person, I can’t really explain to you why this religious rite of sorts affected me so much. I just know that it was an outward display of my faith, and my choice to live my life with devotion to my religion.

What I’m interested in is your religious rituals. Had I been baptized last week as a Mormon, they would’ve had to dunk me again since the top of my head wasn’t immersed and therefore wouldn’t have counted. Certain types of Jewish baptisms require many more steps and much more premeditated thought than simply stepping into a pond one night after chapel. What’s the Muslim equivalent to the baptism rite?

It’s really odd to think about how many people take part in these sort of religious rituals. I wonder why we do it. Things like confirmation and bat mitzvahs. We eat bread and drink grape juice in communion and view it as a holy act. Some of us pray facing the ancestral site of the holy city of our faith every day. We fast and feast and repeat. The ways in which we do these things vary from faith to faith, but we’re not as different as we might think. All of us who follow a chosen religion participate in these rituals, these remnants from ancient times. They mean different things to all of us, and they can change wildly even within the spectrum of one religion. We abstain from certain foods, and we view others as sacred.

These rites and rituals and ceremonies that we take part in are each deep and meaningful, in their own way. I really want to hear what your view is on the religious rituals of your chosen faith. What do they mean to you, and why do you practice them? Please share your stories in the comments. I’d love to learn from you this week.

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  1. I, myself, was raised in a Pentecostal church.

    Pentecostals are Christians who believe the day of Pentecost was when God sent down the Holy Ghost from heaven and people filled with the Holy Ghost speak in different and heavenly tounges. (See Acts 2 for a better explination)

    That being said, we are very similar to other demoninations: Baptist, Methodist, etc, in that we have a song service, preaching, sunday school classes, and mid-weekly services. Denominations usually associated with being Pentecostals tend to be Assemblies of God, Church of God, and Church of God of Prophecy(which is the church where I am proudly a member). To me, being born and raised in it, I see it as the norm. Church services filled with movements of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tounges, and(but not including) loud music with joyful tempos and maybe a bit of marching.

    Often times growing up, it was joked that we were the “snake handling”, crazy charismatic, shouting, jumping kind of church. (**WE DO NOT HANDLE SNAKES**) I’ve grown fond of those types of church services were there are not a set amount of songs we sing and/or the preacher preaches until he is done, not til 12(which is the unspoken release time in the church world) for lunch. Are attempt is to follow God’s will and plan for the service, not our own.

    Also, in my church, one’s relationship with God is a personal decision. I was 6 years old at church camp when I asked the Lord to be my personal savior and into my heart. I was first baptized at age 8 or 9(and maybe 4 or 5 times since). Baptisim is meant to be an outward showing to people that you have committed(or recommitted) your heart and life to living for Christ in all that you do. This is not to say that after you are baptized/saved that the world is full of rainbows, butterflies, and lollipops.

    Just because I’ve given my heart to God, it doesn’t mean that I’m not nearly, constantly in a struggle with things. I’ve had many times where I question God and his exsistence and everything. Yet, I always come back to one thing: He is always with me, right beside me, to be my comforter, my caretaker, and my heavenly father to guide me on the path that he has for me. I’m a firm believer that the plan that God has for me is far greater than anything I could dream up for myself. I believe this to be true because I feel it in my soul and I have seen the many people who have said and preach the same things in their daily lives.

    Although, some people I know that claim Christianity and the Pentecostal belief are some of the most ignorant and judgmental people I know. Because they believe what they do, they see no reason to learn and find out what other people believe and why they believe it. On the other hand, some of the most well-read and intelligent people I know share my faith. They, however, are more open and loving to people of different lifestyles and faiths. I am trying to be like that.

    I’m only a junior in college and the university I am at is linked with the Church of God. I’m trying to grow into a woman of intellect and wisdom, through traveling and experiencing other ways of life than my personal sheltered raising at home and current college life.

    I can explain why a rational, logical person like you cried and felt such emotion during your baptism. You felt a personal connection with God. The almightly creator. Yet, in today’s society, it’s being shown that rational, logical people certainly can not believe in one, omnipresent God. That defies rational thinking. Yet, a relationship with God is so much more than just an explainable, logical experience. It’s mind-blowing that this creator of the world and galaxies can care for you and your daily belief and choices. He wishes only the best for you. That’s why you cried. It was beyond explanation. God still fathoms me on a daily basis. But it’s his love for me and my love for him that gives me such a peace that I can’t explain with just logic or reason.

  2. It seems that religion gives people a sense of structure that few other things accomplish singularly. That’s what religion is intended to do, give structure to the chaos in our lives regardless of extenuating circumstances. We all want to understand the seemingly random things that happen in our lives and having some sort of faith fulfills that role for many. Personally that’s not my chosen path yet I will not harbor disdain for those who need a light to guide them.

  3. I wanted to have two posts because now I want to talk about how I feel about religious rituals. Judaism has a lot of them and I love them. Whether I’m actively choosing to not eat the seafood in front of me or lighting the Shabbat candles or fasting for Yom Kippur, I’m aware of my connection to an ancient tradition that goes back 5,000 years and to all the people who practice today. The Jewish people have had to fight against a lot of people and institutions who have tried to destroy them and yet we’re still here. I think of my ancestors in Eastern Europe who died in the Holocaust who said the same prayers in synagogue; I think of the Jews during the Inquisition who had to practice secretly. So, yeah, rituals mean a lot to me.

    • Elisabeth, that’s beautiful and eloquent. I am also Jewish and feel a sense of comfort and peace in doing the rituals, such as lighting Shabbat candles. I like the way you connected it to all our ancestors who were not able to do this freely and openly.

  4. Jews don’t have baptisms in the traditional sense. If you are born to Jewish parents, you are Jewish and boys are circumcised and a new-ish tradition for girls is to have an official baby naming. If you want to convert, it is very difficult. Tradition states that you have to ask a rabbi on three different occasions that you want to convert. Then the convert goes through a rigorous study process. This culminates in answering questions in front of a beit din (a panel of 3 well-respected Jews) and going in the Mikveh. The Mikveh is most like baptism in that the convert goes under water. The person has to be naked (only one other person needs to be in the room and it can be anyone) and has to go under three times. In between each “dunk,” a prayer is recited. Afterwards, the person is Jewish. Now, because of the subsections of Judaism, mainly Reform, Conservative and Orthodox, Orthodox Jews may not necessarily see someone who was converted by a Reform rabbi as Jewish.

  5. I’m Mormon, and I was baptized and confirmed a member of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints when I was 8 years old. It has been one of the single most important experiences of my life. When I was baptized, I made covenants with God to do my best to follow the example of Christ, and that has been a huge blessing. I am constantly aware of these promises, and because of this I sincerely do my best to help others and to make good decisions. I’m definitely not perfect, but I try my best to be a good person. Through this mentality, along with constant prayer, I have gained what I feel is an intensely personal connection with my Father in Heaven, and it is a relationship that I would be lost without. I know without a doubt that my prayers have been answered, and that divine guidance is very sacred to me. I have many friends who do great things and live good lives without the influence of any type of religion, but for me personally, I have found that my happiness and quality of life are dependent on following the teachings of my faith and engaging in symbolic rituals such as baptism.

  6. I am Roman Catholic, I was one of the screaming babies and had water poured on my forehead three times. I took religious education classes when I was younger and was more fascinated with the history of Catholisism, I prayed and felt the faith, but not very strongly. It actually wasn’t until I went to medical school on this small island called Dominica that I felt my faith strongest. The island is very Catholic, and though I feel there were many issues on the island, such as a lack of a well established sexual education, they taught me that faith, without reason or logic, is sometimes just what we need to feel whole again. I felt very alone when I first went to that island, I didn’t know anyone. My grades were suffering. I felt disconnected. At first I laughed inside when Dominicans would tell me that if I prayed, I would succeed. Little did I know how true that would become. By giving my struggles and stresses to a higher power, by attending mass and finding many friends there from all different cultural backgrounds, I was able to find my place on that island, as well as the added bonus of having a way of connecting with my new patients and friends, the Dominicans on the island. Now when I pray, I heal, and hope that I’m healing those that I pray for. It’s cheesy, you don’t expect to become one of those cheesy people, but when it happens, you feel free.

  7. I was raised Catholic. My parents baptized me as a newborn and had my first communion and confirmation at twelve. Going to mass was a chore that was only alleviated by watching Hercules and The Red Green Show. Somewhere along the way religion was lost to the sands of time. So, if and when I get married I’ll eventually have to get confirmed in order to be wed through the church. I’m not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination and am content without religion.

    However, I feel a strong desire to carry out the traditions of my family and culture as a Catholic and a Mexican.If this means going to mass and bible study classes than I’ll do that. It may seem insincere to do so but traditions bind us to our ancestors, bloodlines, culture and identity as belonging to a group. Because lets face it we all belong to a group whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Each tribe has it’s own customs, traditions and symbols that bind them together. Even if you believe you’re with the counter culture you still belong to band of like minded misfits.

    Religion transcends ethnic and geographic identities and ties people from across the world to the same culture who worships the same deity and shares the same beliefs.

  8. As a rational, logical person, the most spiritual ritual I have in my life is my morning coffee.

  9. Hi! We don’t have baptism or an equivalent in Islam. The minute we’re born, the mother or the father whispers “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” in our ear, and that’s basically it. This is the statement that qualifies someone as a Muslim. Anyone looking to convert to Islam is only required to say this in front of an Imam (kind of like the Muslim priest), and we as Muslims are encouraged to say this sentence on our death beds (if we can, of course). As for baby/young boys, when they go to get circumcised, a religious man recites a little of the Quran during the process, so I don’t know if that’s related. Thanks for a lovely post. x

    • Mae, that is very interesting. We have something similar in Judaism: the Sh’ma. In English, it is “Hear O Israel, the L-rd is G-d, The L-rd is one.” We should say this upon waking and upon sleeping, and like you, upon our deathbeds if we can. I was taught this by my parents when I was three, and it’s one of the cornerstones of our faith.

    • Wow, that’s super interesting! Thanks for sharing :)

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