Posted by: rogermitchell | November 13, 2011

baptism, the originary antidote to the state idolatry of remembrance day

I was baptised 49 years ago today. I was fourteen years old. I still remember it clearly, and right back then I was aware of the sense of confrontation, alternative and an opposite spirit to the jingoism of remembrance Sunday. Baptism as described in the gospel narratives embodied a radical break with the state powers of the day. Later developments which gave rise to what I call the fall of the church, transformed baptism, particularly of infants, into a ratification of the church-state partnership. The confessional ‘second’ or anabaptism of adults initially broke with this but soon became subsumed and institutionalised as the hierarchical ecclesiastical shape of reform movements identified with and legitimated the transformed political expressions of church and empire and the new nation states that ensued. Today baptism rarely carries more than the shadow and memory of this.

In my baptism within the Christian Brethren movement with its peculiar sense of alienation from the status quo, the radical sense remained, but only in a reduced sense of matters of personal morality, not in the consummate political fullness of the kingdom of God. We need to rediscover baptism as death to the imperial order in its contemporary Western form, with its subsequent repositioning of Jesus’ apprentices as gifts to the world not the raw material of its economic, military and legal biopolitics. As John the Baptist put it in answer to the crowds who questioned what this looked like in his day “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” Those responsible for handling the money necessary to the economy of the system he charged not to take excessive profits and the soldiers he charged to use no violence against anyone (Luke 3: 10-14).

Jesus of course took this behavioural advice to its fulness when he made the hungry crowds the responsibility of his disciples, told the rich young ruler to give his wealth to the poor and made the literal fulfilment of the law loving our enemies and turning the other cheek. This is the Way that baptised disciples of Jesus are resurrected into!


  1. I like your timing…dead on 11 am.

  2. Just to add here that when I experienced baptism, it was a radical immersing and washing from my old life (death). I was very aware of it as changing me from an old to a new creation but I still only carried hugely limited revelation of what that meant and it took a later profound revelation of what the kingdom was about before I realised how key baptism is to the release of – to use your words – “the consummate political fullness of the kingdom of God” and “death to the imperial order”. When I began to understand this, my perspective began to change and is continuing to do so, slowly.
    A bit of a journey then. Difficult sometimes. Glad I’m making it though.

  3. Brilliant, Thank You for that! My hubby wrote this a few days ago about Collective Amnesia Sunday

  4. oops, sorry, here’s the link:

    • excellent stuff. c.

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