Friday, September 29, 2006

Apologizing: the new apologetic

Last year our friends from Sinners and Saints ran a confessional booth. It was based upon an idea which came from Donald Miller's book "Blue Like Jazz." James brought up the idea, and I loved it, because it fit with my belief that the best apologetic the church might offer today is an apology.

The confessional booth is a reverse confession. People walk into our booth nervously anticipating giving a confession of their sins. Instead they experience a person dressed as a monk confessing the sins of the church through history, and even their own shortcoming to them.

This evening when I returned from showing "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" at The Vault, I found an e-mail in my box asking asking me what things I believed the church needed to apologize for. Below is my response;

"...where to begin...?

Sexual Misconduct
Repeated historic acts of Greed, Violence, Dishonesty, and Pride

but, today it is not much different. Even in my own heart, I sometimes judge other people by what I see, or what I hear them say without taking time to know why they do and say what they do and say. We still pass judgment and determine who is in or out of our little club on the basis of personal preference, or ease of relationship.

Sometimes the church sounds like they know it all. We do a good job of preaching without having learned to listen. Protestant preachers speak of the priesthood of all believers, but their believers still sit in the pews voiceless. We speak of grace, but we often judge people on the basis of fairly petty issues, and chase them away from the church. We exercise heavy handed leadership which may be fine for running an army, but is no good for creating the family which we are supposed to be.

I can not express deeply enough how these things break my heart, and how sorry I am that anyone has experienced a heavy hand of oppression from the very community which should have offered liberty.

This is not to say that the church has not done good things in its history, or that it is not doing good things today. It is merely the acknowledgment that we are far from perfect, and that we have hurt people - people who need to be told from someone in the church that we are sorry.

Every time I roll my eyes in frustration at someone who is peculiar by my opinion, every time I prejudge someone's politics without hearing their story, every time I feel an urge to suggest that someone doesn't really fit with us, I have the seed of deTorquemada the Grand Inquisitor rearing up in me. So the apology is not some distant disconnected issue, but an issue of every humble follower's heart, and it is quite personal to me.

Does that make sense?"

We will be doing the confessional booth again this year. I think it may become a regular part of our lives.


PrincNaliah said...

Hey Pastor Phil! Boy O Boy you said it. ahhh, hey mister, now I feel better. The parade was fun but a little, I mean, a bit scary. So many people all around and making such a fuss- and the noises, like the dead had come back to life and was angry or something. AT ME! Holoween in Salem is scary if'n you don't mind me sayin it plainly Pastor Phil. And your apology helped me to peek out from under my bed after! Thanks

william said...

I know you mean well about the "reverse confessional" but it seems to me to be a mockery of the actual sacrament of confession. For Catholics the confessional is a sacred place where conversion back to the path of Christ takes place and it seems this "reverse confessional is a mistake that mocks the sacrament. It would be like having a "reverse eucharist" where you handed out actual flesh and blood and said this is going to become actual bread and wine.

Pastor Phil said...

Interesting take William, but we live in a heavily Catholic area, and people appreciated the reverse confessional. Many came out crying.

I am sure that at some point someone will feel as you suggest. It seems that the many it helps must be worth the potential few who someday might be offended - but that has yet to occur. I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

I imagine that if you have confessed to priests your whole life, and then have to read in the front page of the Boston Globe almost every day for over two years, that priests were molesting children, you just might find solace in a reverse confession.

We found that many people were deeply touched, and in need of hearing that churches over the ages had been oppressive, and also to hear from a humble Christian an honest confession of falling short of Jesus' model of true spirituality.

The Witches who came into the tents were completely blown away, and were deeply touched. Being able to bridge a communication gap to them was important to us as well.

PrincNaliah said...

confession gives people that are at a jumping off point in their life a means by whitch to repent for whatever. Repentence is the corner stone of spiritual development and inner peace. Just try knowing you father without repenting- Yes father!!