Almost two weeks ago, we took a trip to a major southern California theme park with my sister, brother-in-law, 3 month old niece, dad and step-mom. I’m not going to say which park because that isn’t important and because the last thing I want to do is put anyone’s job in jeopardy by telling this story. My sister and I were thrilled to discover that there was a building for baby care with changing tables and a nursing area (with a pumping area too!) and some incredibly friendly park employees helping out.
When my sister was leaving after nursing my niece, one of the park employees asked her what the baby’s name was. My sister told her and then, without warning or comment, the woman proceeded to say a prayer over my niece. It was so quiet we couldn’t make out all the words, but it was obvious what she was doing. She concluded her prayer and we left.
My sister relayed the story to her husband when she got outside and they both were pretty unbothered by the whole thing. To my great surprise, my husband, who is relatively tough to offend, was upset by it. He felt that while it is already odd and somewhat inappropriate for anyone to pray over someone else’s baby without the parent’s consent, the fact that it was a park employee made it even worse.
I find myself somewhere in the middle on the whole thing. I didn’t have any interactions with that employee, so she never prayed for Eli. She and I almost certainly do not share religion/faith, but I’m not sure that’s why I’m bothered.
To me, praying over someone else’s baby feels almost a little jab to the parents. Like the baby somehow needs more prayers than the parents or family is giving them and this stranger is somehow helping the child. The fact that it was a park employee doesn’t make it any better/worse to me, it’s really the act of unsolicited, unabashed praying over a stranger’s baby that I’m bothered by. As if everyone’s baby needs to be prayed over.
To me, religion is intensely personal and to put your religion on anyone, in any way, especially without warning, is wrong. To pray over another person, in their presence, without asking if they would mind seems selfish. If you want to pray for me and my baby when we’re not around, please, by all means. And I realize that no harm was done in any way, and that the intentions of this were certainly good in nature, but I am just left feeling uneasy about it.
Am I the only one who finds the idea of a stranger praying over a baby, without asking, to be inappropriate? Does it matter if she was an employee?