Klaver, “From Sprinkling to Immersion”

Klaver, Miranda. 2011. From Sprinkling to Immersion: Conversion and Baptism in Dutch Evangelism. Ethnos 76(4): 469-488.

Abstract: Why do recent converts in new evangelical churches desire to be re-baptized by immersion despite their previous infant baptism in mainline churches? This article addresses this question through a discussion of the observed shift in baptism practices from that of ‘sprinkling’ infants (in Protestant mainline churches) to full bodily immersion of adults (in new evangelical churches) in the Netherlands. Based on an ethnographic comparison of these two baptism practices, I demonstrate the performative effect of rituals as well as the importance of connections between material forms, embodiment and doctrines. The call for different baptism practices, I suggest, illustrates a broader shift in Dutch Protestantism from a didactic to an experiential form of Christianity in which the encounter with the sacred is increasingly located in the body. At the same time, it demonstrates how religious authority has moved from institutions to individual believers.

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