Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Confession

Stephen Webb in "Theology as Confesssion," a chapter in To Teach, To Delight, And To Move, writes,
Christians typically confess their personal sins in private, with a priest or directly to God; and they typically confess their faith in public, with others, in the church . . . This double structure of confessional acts is broken apart in modern culture . . . Today, ironically, the public confession of faith has been privatized, while the (normally private) confession of sin has been increasingly publicized. Indeed, we live in a hyper-confessional culture, in which many people seem to want to divulge their private lives, but nobody has anything really interesting to say. [p110-11]
Which strikes me as being a spot-on observation. His critique continues,
Without forgiveness, confessing becomes another form of rationalizing. We turn our failures into a coherent whole by dramatizing them through a plausible plot . . . Confessions are public, but only in the sense of blurring the boundary between what used to be private, making us all into voyeurs. Confessions are not public in the sense of forming a community of those who seek the truth. [p116]
Where I think we see this the most is on documentaries and reality TV shows where people expose their damaged inner selves in front of large audiences who are only viewing for the sake of entertainment.

Webb's critique is good, but his construction seems underdeveloped. He draws on Kierkegaard's "rejection of inwardness as a criterion of authenticity," and comes to the conclusion that, "The truth does not come to us from within. It comes from our transparency to the divine that is outside us." [p125] Which is great as far as it goes but hardly as concrete and useful as his critique of modern culture. Still, a useful article and I think an important insight into a way in which today's Christian community should seek to contrast with the wider world.

let me know what you think :-)

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