Christians confess

An interesting website has popped up recently. It’s called Christians Confess. Basically, it’s a site where folks can apologize for the ways in which the Church has done wrong. The fact is that I believe there have been huge ways in which the church has done wrong to those within the fold and those outside. It’s not the case, contrary to popular books, that religion poisons everything but it is true that religion has often been delivered with poison. And that’s a sad reality, one which we deal with constantly in ways obvious and subtle.

The idea of confession is an interesting one to me. Confession is a rather non-Protestant thing to do for the most part, however when it happens it can be extraordinary. Back in 1995 Wheaton College had what it called then the Wheaton Revival. Now when we think of ‘revival’ we usually think of tent meetings, and fiery preachers, and healings, and maybe a worry bench, with definite evangelism. The Wheaton revival wasn’t like that.

No. It was public confession. And when I say public I mean in front of 1000+ fellow students and faculty. When I say confession I mean everything you can, and hopefully can’t, think of. It went on for about a week. Stopped late at night but then picked up the next day. All confession, all the time. Wheaton students, the cream of the crop, Evangelicalism’s Finest, let down their guard and spoke their faults. And it was extraordinary. Not because good tidbits could be heard. No. Because when someone finished confessing they were surrounded and prayed for by a group of others. On the weeks end there was musical worship and to this day I have not had such a full understanding of heaven as I did on that evening. Everyone, completely laid bare, praising and singing to God in open community. It was epiphanic.

So I appreciate a good confession. But not the bland, acceptable kinds, the sorts we hear in a lot of Evangelical fortresses where openness is not a virtue. Things such as “I confess I didn’t evangelize enough this week.” Or, “I confess I got really angry when a guy rear-ended me at a stop sign then got out and beat me up.” Basically those are attempts to claim virtue or victimhood through supposed confession.

Christian’s confess isn’t about our personal sins, except as they add up to become corporate sins. Which they do.

Folks have picked this up on their own blogs and started passing the following challenge around.

1. Apologize for three things that Christians have often got wrong. Your apologies should be directed towards those who don’t view themselves as part of the Christian community. Alternatively, apologize for things you personally have done wrong towards those outside of the church.
2. Post a comment at the originating post so others can keep track of the apologies.
3. Tag five people to participate in the meme.
4. If desired, send an email with the link to your blog post at the Christians Confess site, giving permission for your apologies to be added to the website.

So thinking this is a good idea what would I apologize for?

The church has paid attention to all sorts of obvious sins. Made a big deal out of those. And it has seen the sin as more important than the sinner. Love is rejected to be replaced by judgment. The need to be right has overshadowed the need to be gracious. We attack the so-called sins of the barroom and the lower classes while excusing the sins of pride, and greed, and all sorts of things elders do while being pampered with power and acclaim. The Church, I confess, has gotten its conception of sin and grace all out of sorts, and has created massive controversies and driven people away because of it.

The church has long emphasized rich over poor, successful over struggling, popular over hidden. It has made a stated preference of seeking after kings and rulers, in every sized pond. It has made those who do not feel a part of this world also feel like they don’t have a part in the church. Those who do well in this world do well in the church. We have a lot to say to the upper middle class. We don’t have much to say to the poor. Our good news isn’t really all that good unless a person is dealing with a particular sort of metaphysical guilt. I apologize for being a community of the wealthy, for insisting that people dress up and show off at church, for building programs, and tithe driven leadership, and thinking that successful businessmen have an inherently stronger understanding of a Jesus oriented community. I apologize that we don’t heal the sick and frankly don’t want them around because they are difficult and embarrass our smiling communities. I confess, the church has alienated the alienated and embraced the world blessed. Thus turning around the beatitudes for our comfort.

The church has confused liturgy with spirituality. This might not seem something to apologize to non-Christians about, but it is. Because there are times in which those outside the church need answers to unanswerable questions. They seek a depth of spirituality that drives them to move past their present lives. They feel the pull of the Holy Spirit who not only isn’t limited to the church, the Spirit is in fact the most potent missionary of all, working in manifold ways to lead people to God. Yet, the church doesn’t think in terms of the treasure we’ve been given to nurture and grow. We think in terms of sales. In terms of structure. In terms of set lists of actions. We think that those who have been touched with a unique calling of the Eternal God to find some increased sense of the Divine in their lives would find a 40 minute lecture on parenting and a 1/2 hour of mediocre music with repetitious lyrics to be the Answer. And if they reject that we say they have rejected Jesus. I confess, the church has failed to present the fullness of God to those who are drawn to God. And it has left those who seek to wander elsewhere and away, not realizing they didn’t even begin to taste what the true Church should be about. I confess the church has been a bad place to meet God for so long and that we’ve been arrogant about insisting that it’s quite a good place really. It’s not me, it’s you. But it really is me.

So having said that, who would I be curious to hear from?

I guess Eric, Peter, Robert, Amy, and Debby. Christina too, though she doesn’t like links to her private blog.

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