Apparently there is growing interest in the practice of ‘debaptism’, reported here on the BBC website. The National Secular Society says that there have been over 100,000 downloads of its debaptism certificate. Then there is a deluxe version you can order online, which at £3 a pop shows there’s money to be made out of the gullible irreligious as well as the gullible religious.
And in all this, the churches are coming in for a fair amount of flak — especially the Church of England which is refusing to comply with people’s demands for an entry to be made in baptism registers noting the ‘debaptism’. (Though with the fee for a register search standing at £19 for the first hour, 100,000 inquiries could come in handy.)
The truth is, however, that the decision to have a baby baptized, at least in the Church of England, would have been made by the parents, not the Church. Indeed, clergy are not allowed to refuse baptism. Even a delay can only be justified on certain grounds.
Moreover, it is fair to say that in the vast majority of cases (as the NSS is keen to observe) this request will have made by people with little church affiliation themselves and who have rarely encouraged it in their children.
The blame should therefore clearly lie squarely on the parents, not the church. And so with that in mind, I offer here, free of charge, a ‘Debaptism Letter to My Parents’ for the dissatisfied victims of infant baptism to download and send to them at the same time as they obtain their debaptism certificates.
Revd John P Richardson
26 March 2009
Dear Mum and Dad (especially you, Mum),
This is just to let you know how much I didn’t want to be baptized, or Christened, or have my head ‘wetted’, or whatever you called it, when I was a baby, and how cross I am that you did this to me.
Oh, I’m sure you thought it was a good idea. Maybe Gran told you I’d grow up with one leg shorter than the other. Maybe you thought it would be a great opportunity for a slap-up celebration with all the friends and relatives. Maybe you just did it because everyone else did. Maybe, God forbid, you actually did it because you believed something.
But, hey — you weren’t thinking about me, were you?
So you phoned the poor old vicar, who knew that if he tried to put you off you’d tell everyone what an awful man he was (they were mostly men in those days, weren’t they). And anyway, he couldn’t refuse you — not without getting into trouble with his bishop if you wrote and complained.
And so although he may not have seen you before, and although he knew he’d probably never see you again, he went along with it, and he visited you, and he tried to encourage you to go to church. And you did a couple of times, but only until I’d been ‘done’, and then it kind of trailed off, didn’t it? Sure, you let me choose not to go to church — let’s face it, when did you go? But what happened to freedom of choice when I was too young to object?
What did you think you were doing? Why make ‘promises’ for me you weren’t intending to encourage me to keep? If church wasn’t good enough for you, why did you think it was good enough for me?
So anyway, I’ve bought myself one of those ‘Debaptism’ certificates, and I’ve written a cross letter to the (new) vicar demanding he remove my name from the baptism register, and I’ve told them I don’t want to have myself counted in their membership statistics.
But they weren’t the ones who asked for me to be baptized, were they? No, it was you! And its you I blame now.
Thanks a bunch.
Your loving offspring(Signed)
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