The abandonment of confessional wisdom

These two things can be true at the same time:

1) certain groups including but not limited to women, minorities, and LGBTQ individuals have been systemically and socially harmed by patterns of power and control that devalue, diminish, and even dehumanize persons within each category.


2) there are those who a) do not realize that their existence, through no fault or choice of their own, falls outside of any category whereby their lives would be subject to any of the forces that have harmed those in 1) above and b) never participate in any overt or specific actions, words, or desires by which they might participate in the harm done to others.

Within the vapid individualism of modern society, there is no space in which it would make sense that a person from the second category would be expected to do anything for or even say anything to those in the first. If we are radically individualized creatures, the only thing we could be responsible for responding to or making amends for would be the choices and actions through which we have actually done harm to others. In other words, if you feel harmed and I didn’t do it, it’s never up to me to say or do anything about it.

But the church necessarily creates the space in which something is spoken across the divide – confession. Baptism is the washing clean of whatever keeps us broken, whether caused by us or not. Communion is the space where we confess all that we have done, left undone, and didn’t even know we were part of and in response are met by the grace and redemption of God. The confessional stance by which we approach baptism and communion is one of the most essentially Christian practices. Confession is the radical rejection of the idea that we are able to live perfectly and the subsequent rejection of any notion that personal responsibility means anything apart from communal healing. Confessional wisdom undercuts the very notion of individualism at the heart of modern life and replaces it with a reminder that we are community first.

That we have lost the ability to respond with confessional wisdom to systemic and deeply harmful societal patterns is one of the clearest signs of the church’s failure to be the church. The power of Christ was never meant to exist in the form of an empire imposing its will on those who don’t look and think and act like “us.” The power of Christ is a kenotic way of self giving and empowering love that first assumes we are all one body, second works to ensure the love and acceptance of God are known and present, and only then asks who must take what specific steps to work for the health and healing of all God’s children. That we have lost the ability to embrace our imperfections and create the space for pain and healing is the clearest sign possible that we have lost the humility whereby the love of a crucified savior could ever be manifest.

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