January 2, 2012

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One of the most disquieting
aspects of our secularized society is the way some of faith's most treasured
traditions have become devalued, trivialized and usurped. I vividly recall a
baptism in which the parents, who were marginal members of the congregation I
served, requested four front rows be reserved for friends and family for the
baptism of their daughter. I of course agreed.

The baptism was early in the
service, and it went off without a hitch. But the moment it was over, the 40 or
so friends and family stood and walked out of the sanctuary. I looked at
my watch--it was 11:18. It was only the next day that I learned that the early
departure was due to an 11:30 "baptismal brunch" at the country club.

So I suppose on the Sunday on
which the gospel lesson focuses on the baptism of Jesus, it would only be fair
to the secularists to remind Century
readers that there is now a way for people to choose to be
"de-baptized"--for a simple online payment of $4.50 to the National
Secular Society in the U.K.

It began
in 2009 when, according to the Times of London, John Hunt requested that his 1953 baptism at the St. Jude and St. Aidan
Parish in the Southward Diocese, South London be revoked because he was only
five months old at the time of the baptism, and besides, he no longer believes
in God. Hunt was serious. He even had a "Certificate of De-baptism,"
for which he paid 60 pounds to have recorded in the London Gazette.

The Church of England informed
Hunt that his lack of attendance since age 11 meant his membership had already
"effectively lapsed."  The baptismal record could be
amended with an annotation at his request, the church added.

The C of E maintained, however,
that the baptism couldn''t simply be removed. It's a matter of historical record.

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