Helpful Tidbits for Organic Church Life                                                  July 20, 2009
Radical Baptism
My Reflections
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Dear ,
tzitJesus was a cult leader - just ask the Pharisees. What in the world are you doing Jesus? Are you an anarchist, allowing common fisherman-types to baptize? And what, exactly, are these rag-tag followers of yours baptizing these people into? What's that? A kingdom at odds with our religious system(s) and the political might of Rome? Are you crazy?
Yes, Jesus was a cult leader. And baptism was an act of radical allegiance to his Kingdom. It was a dangerous proposition, to be sure.
QUESTION/TOPIC IN FOCUS: The radical baptism
Cult: a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc. 
Radical Baptism
Excerpted from Sharing Faith by Thomas H. Groome
Groome_2Many historical influences caused the demise of the universal ministry of all Christians. Most significant, perhaps, was that as Christianity received preferred status in society, baptism and confirmation [Groome writes primarily to the Catholic Church] lost their radical meaning of a call to holiness of life and to participate in the apostolic mission and thus the ministry of the church. Infant baptism became the ecclesial norm and expected cultural practice, with children submitted for baptism more to wash away "the stain of original sin" than to incorporate them in the Body of Christ, its mission and ministry. As the formal functions of ministry became increasingly clericalized and hierarchalized, laypeople were seen not as agents of ministry but only its recipients (1991:312).
My Reflections 
undergarmentA few years back a friend of mine visited Israel and brought me back a tallit katan; essentially, it's a tank-top type undergarment with four tassels at the bottom, two in front and two in back. Although the undergarment isn't prescribed in the Bible, the tassels or "tzitzit" certainly are.
"The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God'" (Numbers 15:37-40).
Well, anyway, I wore my tallit katan out once. My destination was Chipotle, a fast food Mexican restaurant here in California. Talk about self-conscious. Although I know people weren't gawking, that stick-out-like-a-sore-thumb feeling did overwhelm me...at first.
Recently, a handful of my believing friends started wearing tzitzit - freaks (i.e., Jesus freaks). Now, let's not get hung up on the theology for the moment (after all, we Gentiles are grafted into Israel, not the other way around, per Romans 11), but rather consider the sore-thumb aspect of their new accessory. Not only are they seeking to obey the Lord, they're essentially declaring, we're a peculiar people, separate from this world. This, of course, is something baptism is supposed to accomplish, but for all kinds of reasons baptism has lost its edginess. It must be recovered.
Here's something to think about. If Jesus is a cult leader, why are most Christians not identified as being part of a cult? My suspicion? We've not been baptized into anything that's too threatening - either to the religious systems or the political might of whatever government we're presently subject to.
Hope this was of some benefit to you.

Traver Dougherty
The Banqueting Table