Wednesday, October 26, 2005

round pegs in square holes: individual privatized confession for communal sins

The white people I know often get upset (or keep a tense silence) when one mentions the strength of racism still present in our communities today. They often say in protest, “I’ve participated in cultural awareness in the school systems. I never say nigger. I always treat black people with respect.” etc. etc. When the attention is then drawn to the racist systems in place within society, white people breathe a sigh of relief. They feel better because it was a system that did it. They are relieved of responsibility. In the end, the whole point is lost because people take no responsibility for the system because they do not even perceive themselves as active participants in a larger community. They do not hold themselves responsible as individuals either because they did not do x, y and z or because they percieve themselves to be an individual apart from the system when the system does something bad and as a part of the system when it does something good.

I remember a time in my youth when my family had done something our faith community considered grounds for removal. We were hastily excommunicated. However, since there seemed to be no other option for fellowship and church life, we continued to attend the church from which we were excommunicated. After a year or two, the ministers of the church held a meeting in which the entire community was to discuss our case. We were not there but we had heard some of some of the things that were discussed. One member of the community argued that the community itself was responsible for the marginalization of our family in its daily behavior toward us. Others talked frankly about having excommunicated us hastily and with lack of prayerfulness. They decided to receive us back into the fellowship. When we were brought into the assembly for the first time after the meeting, nearly everyone present embraced us, there were hugs and tears, from people who are traditionally emotionless.

This afternoon I had lunch with some old friends of mine. We were once in an experimental faith community together which has since its better days been disbanded. For most of us it was our first experiment with intentional community. We’ve celebrated the countless good things that have happened and tried to talk about some of the things that could have gone better. However, Minnesota nice took over the later conversation, making it pretty shallow and insubstantial, leaving many of us dissatisfied, including myself. There were numerous ways in which we had shorted each other and fallen into sin (lack of right relationship) together and today as I spoke of my participation and suffering because of the sin/lack of right relationship. I was met with words that should have been more comforting than they were. “When ‘you’ confess ‘your’ sins, he is faithful and just to forgive ‘your’ sins and cleanse ‘you’ from all unrighteousness.”

I walked away thinking...
1 John 1:9 I think the verse uses the plural, we and our instead of you and your.
We keep confessing private, personal sins. What happens to the communal, public sins? Do those just lay unidentified and eventually tear apart our communal soul?
Why does lack of right relationship (sin) become one person's fault?
Is there such a thing as "private" sin or "secret sin"? --C.S. Lewis writes, "all secrets have one destiny--to be discovered".
Why do we not have a system of public confession and absolution?
Does any of this have anything to do with this rediculous notion that there is an inalienable human right to privacy and there exists a inconsequential barrier between public and private life?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

what to say?

No action is taken by a group. Only individuals take action.
To say we need a group sin cleansing is elevating a concept to the status of a person.
What is a group?
If it is a collection of individuals then it would be logical to say that each individual bears the responsibility for their own actions.
If a person is punished by what is called a group I say they are punished by certain people who may be hiding behind a concept that is not designed for such use.
I am not much of a joiner due to my personal beliefs in the area of responsibillity for ones actions. I am not a believer in any one particular faith.
Actually, in terms of religion I have no faith whatsoever.
This has caused me to see things differently than many others I talk to. I have had to learn that I don't share common concepts of what is right and wrong. I have also learned it is usually better to keep my thoughts to myself.
I wish you luck in your search for your own truth.