In Germany you must declare what religion you are when you move to a new city and register. When you declare your religion, church taxes are taken out of your pay check and go to the said church. I am Catholic, but do not feel that the Catholic church needs my tax dollars, so 4 years ago when I registered I declared that I have "no religion." When I did this, I knew that my children could not be baptized in the Catholic church. The German is a baptized and confirmed Protestant and still pays his church taxes. Therefore, we decided to have the Dude's baptism in the Protestant church.
There was a lot of paperwork to get in order. First, we had to get permission from the local church to have the baptism in the German's home town church. Second, we had to prove that the German was a member of the Church. There is some official letter that I had to get, but could never get to the church office when it was open. Therefore, we submitted our tax return which showed how much we paid in church taxes. Third, we had to provide documentation regarding the Godparents.
Now, we put a lot of thought into choosing the Dude's godparents. We wanted someone that we are close to and someone who would provide the Dude with a good example of a life well lived. Without hesitation we choose Ch-ard. Not only was he living with us when I got pregnant, but he also is one of the toughest and community oriented people we know. However, he is American so the documentation bit would be tricky.
Ch-ard is a baptized and confirmed Catholic. Up until a few years ago, he even went to church regularly (well, more than me). However, since going back to the U.S. last year, he has not really gone to a church. When the German's church asked for documentation that Ch-ard was "in the church," we sent them his confirmation certificate. How much more "in the church" do you have to be?
Apparently a lot. The certificate was not enough. We needed a letter from a church that he attends now in order to prove that he attended church regularly (even though we don't), and here is the kicker, that he donates.
When we had our meeting with the minister to discuss the baptism, I got a little hot under the collar. First, when I filled out the application, I wrote that I was Catholic; old habit and all. But when she found out that I don't pay church taxes, she erased it. In one swoop, my religion was gone. That hurt. Then she informed us that Ch-ard could participate in the ceremony, but the Church would not recognize him because he was not "in a church."
I got very upset. Theoretically, someone who is registered in Germany and pays church taxes but NEVER goes to church, could be the godfather, but an upstanding member of the community who is religious but just does not belong to a church at the moment cannot. To me, it seemed to come down to money.
I expressed this view to the minister. Of course, she did not agree. Then I thought to myself, "Jesus was a radical dude. He hung out with thieves and prostitutes. I am positive Jesus would not exclude Ch-ard as a godfather because he doesn't pay church taxes."
I said to the minister, "It does not seem like a Christian thing to exclude someone from a ceremony because of a problem with paperwork."
She stared at me in a stony silence.
Needless to say, the Dude was baptized and Ch-ard participated in the ceremony, but as predicted his name is not on the official church documents. In our hearts we could not have picked a better godfather, regardless of paperwork. But the entire process left a bad taste in our mouths. This is unfortunate because I believe that a church can play a good and important role in providing community in raising a child. We are going to let the Dude decide if he wants to be confirmed, but I am glad that we had him baptized.
The Dude, Ch-ard, and Mareike (the godmother)