A while back I told a story in which my elementary school running buddy Mark radioactivated a spider with the intention of giving the boys in Mrs. Crawley’s class super spider powers. Mark’s other claim to fame was the fact that he had baptized his dog. We were in third grade, and the topic was how many people we had in our families.
“Seven,” Mark said.
“Not seven,” somebody corrected. “You have six people in your family. Three boys plus one girl plus two parents.”
“Plus the dog,” Mark said.
“You can’t count the dog.”
“Sure I can,” Mark said. “I baptized him.”
Mark was the only openly Presbyterian person I knew at the time. I understood that Presbyterians were different from Baptists, but I had never known exactly how. Mark seemed pretty much like the rest of us. But now things were starting to come into focus: Presbyterians baptized their dogs.
I was a little resentful. I had tried to get baptized my own self but failed the initial interview. (Preacher: “Can you tell me in your own words why you want to be baptized?” Me: “Because all my friends are getting baptized.” End of interview.) To learn that even Mark’s dog had beaten me to the punch was just too much.
Years later I was relieved to learn that Mark’s position on canine baptism was idiosyncratic and in no way representative of the Reformed tradition.
Jonathan Rogers is the author of The Terrible Speed of Mercy, one of the finest biographies of Flannery O’Connor we’ve ever read. His other books include the Wilderking Trilogy–The Bark of the Bog Owl, The Secret of the Swamp King, and The Way of the Wilderking–as well as The World According to Narnia and a biography of Saint Patrick. He has spent most of his adult life in Nashville, Tennessee, where he and his wife Lou Alice are raising a houseful of robustious children.