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August 11, 2006

Comments

Zossima

Greg, in a recent post you mentioned or quoted Jacques Ellul. I've never read anything by him, but the topic of this post brought that to mind. What would you recommend?

Leighton

For people with distorted or nonexistent senses of personal boundaries, confessing impersonally on an electronic forum can be indistinguishable from talking to an actual person. I remember back in my college days when I'd browse internet fora running my connection through two different anonymizers (one in the Netherlands and another in Finland), and I was still pretty sure that (e.g.) my completely technology-illiterate grandparents could find out everything I ever wrote if they wanted to--I just wanted it to take them a little longer, when the reality was that posting online guaranteed that they'd never see it. I couldn't even imagine that possibility until just a couple years ago.

It's unfair to say that this sense of having no personal boundaries will be typical of people who grow up in a lot of American churches, but there does seem to be a hell of a lot of overlap. I think you're absolutely right that this is useless and voyeuristic for people with healthy senses of who they are as people and the proper barriers between themselves and others, but being honest pseudoanonymously (in general, not specifically with this site) really is a good intermediate step for people who are used to having their identities determined in totality by their reference groups.

That said, if I were younger and had more energy I'd be infuriated with the flippancy of idiocy like "Now that you’re free from your secret...", when any responsible counselor would say "Well done, now here comes the hard part." I read the news a lot, and I don't think I've seen anything this month so callous, blind and careless. How dare they.

greg

Z,

The False Presence of the Kingdom is perhaps the best place to start.

Leighton,

Good stuff. I do tend to forget that megachurch denizens don't always have a healthy sense of self, nor do denizens of most churches for that matter.

bob smietana

The confession site, notproud.com, predates post secrets, I believe.

This might be church run site, though.

Confessing anonymously online probably has cathartic effect on people-- that seems to be the case at Post Secrets. The folks at notproud said in the past that some of the people posting their sins online seem to do so because they are proud of them, not ashamed.

We're all a sad lot, though, aren't we?

greg

Bob,

We're broken in so many ways I've lost track. Post Secret quickly figured out that they needed to make resources available for suicidal confessors and the victims of childhood sexual and physical abuse. It was a wonderfully responsible thing to do for a site that started as a community art project of sorts.

jamie

The message is in the medium. That site is going to have unintended consequences.

ambrose

Okay, and these people think I'm crazy for going to Catholic confession?
And speaking of that, if someone admitted something illegal on that website, since it is under the auspices of a church, does pastor-penitent immunity apply?

bobstevens

I have 3 Ellul books so far... Presence of the Kingdom, Subversion of Christianity, and Anarchy and Christianity. Very thought provoking, as he's coming at things from a much different viewpoint than I have traditionally. While I think no one has it all right, Ellul might be pretty close.

http://www.jesusradicals.com/library/ellul.php has some of his work online, for the person who was interested.

Joel the Awesome

I quote: "Except that confessing your secret to an impersonal, anonymous medium is not Christian confession." What exactly is "Christian confession?" I guess God doesn't have much of a part in it since it clearly centers around telling other people about all your dirty secrets. Rules, rules, rules.

And I'm afraid I must disagree that there isn't an in-between step between secrets and confessions. Confession in a process that takes many in-between steps and thoughts to get to that point - confession is a culmination of the "intermediate steps."

You see, the reason that this works is because people convince themselves that there isn't a problem. In private they realize their secrets and act on them, and then they go out in public repressing them to the point of psychotic denial. It's not just double-life but double-mind. The intermediate steps reconcile the two.

I'm a perfect example of this. Before I "came out" I had two altogether separate sets of morals, ideas, thoughts, and actions. The intermediate steps lasted years. In my mind I was, in fact, straight when I wasn't by myself. I had to realize that my secret wasn't separate from myself. It wasn't in a box that I could hide away - I carried it with me. It was talking with people online at various faith-based sites that eventually ended my dissociation.

I think the site could be useful. The main problem I have with it is one you fail to mention: The church has made discussion of these issues taboo and then calls it confession when they're mentioned. In addition, many people keep these kinds of secrets because of guilt imposed on them by their own religion. I felt particularly saddened by one "confession" of a man who has tried for years to not masturbate and just can't help himself. Perfect example of church inventing a "sin" and then punishing people for it. Some confession...

greg

Joel,

I agree with much of what you say, but as you know, there is a point at which you must just make the confession. You can tell people all kinds of "intermediate" secrets, but none compare to the big one, whatever that one is.

Christian confession is perhaps poorly phrased. By it I mean the ancient discipline of confessing to a friend or confidant for the purpose of growing in grace and overcoming sin. As you may know by now, I would not include homosexuality in that list, so coming out sort of misses the point of this post.

greg

And I don't think we need to dispense with the notion of sin; we just need to properly identify it, both at the personal and systemic level.

Brandon

I'm just trying to picture for myself a whole shitload of pastors in a brainstorming session trying to come up with a top-list of all the worst sins...and nowhere in that top-list appears materialism, greed, racism, sloth, etc.

Fantastic.

Laura

Tell your sins to each other. And pray for each other so you may be healed. The prayer from the heart of a man right with God has much power. James 5:16
Having come from places of deep sin I'd have to say that THIS verse really did it for me. I heard of the site you're talking about just this morning on the television news. My first impression is the voyueristic side of it all. It is very much like chat or chatroom confessons. The potential if it is not expertly handled is that it will be used to "get off" or hook up. It happens everyday in newsgroups, blogspots, chat, IM, text messaging and the like.

greg

Laura,

Thanks for posting, but I'm not going to let you post a web site that promises to "cure" homosexuals. Your comment, sans link, will remain intact.

Brandon

Now I'm curious. What exactly does Laura (or her site) promise to cure homosexuals of?

greg

Brandon,

It's a local ministry called First Stone. The ministry allegedly leads people out of homosexuality and into heterosexuality. They also do good work with some sexual abuse and sexual addiction issues, but it's the "we'll fix you" thing that I don't care much for. I had a good friend go through the program many years ago; he's still gay.

Joel the Awesome

"...Coming out sort of misses the point of this post."

Ehh...not really. Especially since it's mentioned several times on the Mysecret site. It's also a great example of spiritual abuse by the church: a problem that's not a problem that needs confessing.

greg

Joel,

I mean it misses the point if you don't think of being gay as a sin.

JUNE R.

I'VE READ THE CONFESSIONS AND APPALLED AT THE FACT THAT YOU BELIEVE THEM. HOW GULLIBLE CAN U BE.

greg

Yes, June. All of those confessions are inventions. There aren't people in the world who would actually post a genuine confession in an online forum or send a postcard to a blog. Nope. Thanks for reminding us what a bunch of rubes we are, June.

rjm

I think it is silly to put a box around the definition of a confession. One person may know it as something you do in church with a priest or pastor, while some may know it generically as 'the sharing of guilt with someone other than oneself.' How it is done has different meanings for different people. It seems harsh to consider oneself better for confessing in person to a priest as being more 'authentic' than submitting an anonymous confession that the whole world can see. Don't put confession into your own personal box and limit it's use - it has many forms and it means different things to different people.

I find it hard to believe that people discourage the open sharing of guilt in a world filled with sin. LifeChurch.tv is doing something that most churches are not - giving it's audience a medium to interact with a message outside the body of the church. I can hardly disagree with an interaction that has the possibility of leading a hurting person toward the healing of Christ.

It also seems as if there are those that put the blame of the content on LifeChurch.tv. But the content of the site is written by those who feel broken and in need of Jesus. If censored, the posts lose their authenticity and therefore their overall purpose. By making all messages known, those who struggle with a similar thing may not feel as alone and therefore may seek help.

Though the message shown after a person posts is naive in it's approach (to only point people to sermons and not to professionals), I hardly call it self promotion. Yes, it points to a resource created by LifeChurch, but that message is one that shares the message of Jesus in an immediate form. Put that message of Jesus into a video that is more receivable to a person of this age and you have Jesus being shared with those who normally wouldn't feel welcome in a church.

Jesus didn't come to save the righteous, but came to save the sinners. If you find a better way to reach out to 15,000+ unique visitors and receive the confession of several thousand, please post it here. Otherwise, stop criticizing a LifeChurch.tv for sharing the message of Jesus with those who don't feel comfortable within the bounds of a traditional church.

greg

rjm,

You're right. I'll stop.

The Fuse

This thread shows how passionate we all are about what true confession should look like. Anything that doesn't fit into our perfect world is viewed as somehow deficient. Are some of the posts on mysecret.tv disengenous? For sure. Is there a danger that some may resort to voyeurism and read the posts for purely purient reasons? Certainly. However, you have to grant that many of the confessions are true and that these are real people posting their sins. Some of these people may be coming to grips with sin for the FIRST TIME. For this we should rejoice because it may lead to them coming to know true forgiveness in Christ. The site is merely a place to be introduced to be introduced to the one who forgives and cleanses sin: Christ.

Craig Groeschel, who founded the website, has penned his own book of confession "Confessions of a Pastor: Adventures in Dropping the Pose and Getting Real with God." Without the luxury of being anonymous, Groeschel speaks of the 'dark side of a pastor's life.' A few of his confessions:
"I have to work hard to stay sexually pure, I hate prayer meetings, sometimes I doubt God , and I can't stand a lot of Christians." Sound familiar? (Hint: look in the mirror)

http://www.amazon.com/Confessions-Pastor-Adventures-Dropping-Getting/dp/1590527208/ref=sr_11_1/103-4766638-8699063?ie=UTF8

Jeff

I know that for the doubting bloviators on this blog what I am about assert is going to seem but a sliver of their own spiritual greatness and accomplishments:

Mysecret.tv was one of the first steps that I took towards God and out of a double life of homosexuality on one hand, married and living as if I had no problems on the other. I have been walking in freedom for sometime now and although I can not say that confessing on the website set me free, it certainly brought me huge leaps towards the kind of freedom that I walk in now. I am thankful that Jesus met me where I was, at the level of faith that I could muster and did more with that little bit than I ever imagined possible at the time. I see now, after many years, that the NY Times had used my anonymous post to ignite fires of controversy. Silly how the world uses sin to color the pages of history. Far more disturbing is that so called church leadership would use the e-confessions or the start of genuine life change as a way to build their own spiritual prowess. I guess we have seen this type of behavior before from tax collectors...

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