On Canine Baptism

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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.

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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.


9 Comments

  1. Dave

    This is a problem with being merely evangelical. We evangelicals will visit pet stores, where we buy sweaters and bejeweled collars and treats to the point of canine gluttony, all without feelings of shame. But can we baptize our dog? Hardly. Perhaps if our theology made room for canine baptism, it would have less tolerance of canine bling.

  2. Brent

    Small nitpick: I believe the proper theological term is fidobaptism. But otherwise a delightful and informative article.

  3. Scott Richardson

    We used to have a black lab that would regularly engage in fidobaptism, but typically, she would initiate (and complete) this ritual by herself. This is known as autofidobaptism, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the Reformed tradition. It often involved the heaving of a wet, slobbery tennis ball into the water in order to initiate the otherwise holy, solemn ritual. Her name is Noodles, by the way — she was partner to Schnitzel, the black miniature Dachshund, who NEVER, ever engaged in this practice, and was also violently opposed to sprinkling of any sort. (Schnitzel and Noodles were two of our favorite things)

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