via the Washington Times
by Anne Hendershott
Declaring that the devil has departed from the Church of England’s baptism service, The Guardian reported on June 20 that “a simplified baptism which omits mention of the devil” is now favored by the clergy who have test-marketed it throughout the United Kingdom. Claiming that the traditional rejection of the devil and all rebellion against God “put off people who are offended to be addressed as sinners,” clergy claimed that they found it much easier to ask parents and godparents to make vows that do not mention Satan.
Responding to a population “which sees no pressing reason to spend Sunday mornings or any other time in Church,” the Guardian reports, the new and improved baptism service also deletes the instruction to the godparents that the child will keep God’s commandments, and learn what a Christian “ought to know and believe to his soul’s health” — promising only that the church “shall do all that we can to ensure that there is a welcoming place for you. We will play our part in helping you guide these children along the way of faith.”
The decision to delete the devil from the ritual reveals that the Church of England may be losing its sense of sin — and its need for salvation. More than 60 years ago, T.S. Eliot wrote about the sense of alienation that occurred when social regulators — like the church — began to splinter and the controlling moral authority of a society is no longer effective. He suggested that a “sense of sin” was beginning to disappear. In his play “The Cocktail Party,” a troubled young woman confides in her psychiatrist that she feels “sinful” because of her relationship with a married man. She is distressed not so much by the illicit relationship, but rather, by the strange sense of sin. Eliot writes that “having a sense of sin seems abnormal she believed that she had become ill.”
Writing in 1950, Eliot knew that the language of sin was declining even then. Yet most of us would assume that the concept of sin was still strong because the churches — like the Church of England — seemed so strong. Looking back, though, it seems that the sense of sin was already beginning to be replaced by an emerging therapeutic culture. Within a growing culture of liberation, people no longer viewed themselves as sinful when they drank too much, took drugs, or engaged in violent or abusive behaviors. Rather, such actions were increasingly viewed as indicators that such individuals were victims of an illness they had little control over.
Sociologist Philip Rieff warned in his now-classic book of the 1960s, “The Triumph of the Therapeutic,” that “psychological man was beginning to replace Christian man” as the dominant character type in our society. Unlike traditional Christianity, which made moral demands on believers, the secular world of “psychological man” rejects both the idea of sin and the need for salvation.” The transformation is now complete in the Church of England.