Giles Fraser writes in the Guardian in response to proposed changes in the Baptismal Rite in the Church of England which would remove references to Satan.
Unfortunately, however, the Church of England has just agreed to take the devil out of the baptism liturgy. “Those who work with young people give constant advice that references to the devil are likely to be misunderstood in today’s culture,” the Bishop of Truro told the Church of England’s General Synod this week. What a pity. I’m going to miss the devil and all his works. I always thought those passages rather importantly referenced that little bit of Michael Corleone in all of us. And by their omission, we are being taken still further along the road from baptism as an expression of the big themes of death and resurrection to baptism as a polite middle-class naming ceremony. Once again, it feels like the church is chopping off its own balls.
Wickedness flourishes in the dark, when it is not faced or recognised
Baptism is not supposed to be nice. It’s a simulated drowning. The old person is put to death so that the new person can emerge. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus have been baptised into His death?” asks Paul, polemically, in Romans. This is what it is to become a new person, to be reborn – or born again as evangelicals like to say. In film terms, think Neo being unplugged from the Matrix and unceremoniously spat out into reality down that slimy artificial birth canal. His old self had to be put to death in order for his new self to emerge into the light.
And here is the true site of Christianity’s confrontation with secular humanism. Let me put it baldly for argument’s sake. Christians have a generally dark and negative view of human nature. Which is why human beings need to take such drastic existential measures as baptism: death and resurrection. This is not a disparagement of human beings – simply a realistic assessment of the egotistical stuff from which we are made.
posted by Jon White