Confessions

The following article from RZIM’s Slice of Infinity reminded me of Ghandi’s famous quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” And yes, I’m experiencing a dearth of original thoughts.

What’s Wrong With the World?

In a world of finger-pointing, Tetsuya Ishikawa paused instead to confess guilt.  After seven years at the forefront of the credit markets, he took the idea of a friend to write a book called How I Caused the Credit Crunch because, in the friend’s analysis, “it sounds like you did.”(1)  In the form of a novel that discredits the notion of the financial sector as a collaboration of remote, unthinking forces, he admits in flesh and blood that he believes he is guilty, too.  Though reviewers note Ishikawa does not remain long with his admission of responsibility, he succeeds in showing the financial markets as a reflection of human choices with moral dimensions and, ultimately, the futility of our ongoing attempts at finding a better scapegoat.

Whenever the subject of blame or fault comes about in any sector of life, whether economic, societal, or individual, scapegoating is a far more common reaction than confessing.  Most of us are most comfortable when blame is placed as far away from us as possible.  Even the word “confession,” the definition of which is concerned with owning a fault or belief, is now often associated with the sins of others, which an outspoken soul just happens to be willing to share with the world.  We are interested in the confessions of a former investment banker/warlord/baseball wife because the ‘owning up’ has nothing to do with owning anything.

Perhaps like many of us in our own confessing, Charles Templeton’s 1996 book, Farwell to God, and the confessions of a former Christian leader, is filled with moments of confession in both senses of word—honest commentary and easy scapegoating.  In his thoughts that deal with the Christian church, it is particularly apparent.  Pointing at every sector of the world, Templeton observes that the church indeed has a speckled past.  “Across the centuries and on every continent, Christians—the followers of the Prince of Peace—have been the cause of and involved in strife.  The church during the Middle Ages was like a terrorist organization.”(2)  He admits that some good has come from Christian belief, but that there is altogether too much bad that has come from it.  He then cites the church’s declining numbers as evidence that the world is in agreement; people are losing interest because the church is failing to be relevant.  Pews are empty; denominations oppose one another; the church is floundering, its influence waning—except perhaps among those who persuade by slinging guilt.

Many of these confessions regarding the church are indeed riddled with difficult truths that someone somewhere must indeed own.  Other assertions are not only difficult to posit as germane, but are simply dishonest attempts to point blame and escape the more personal, consistent answer.  As Templeton determinedly points out the steady decline of attendance in the church, it is unclear how this supports his personal confession that Christian beliefs are untrue.  Does the claim of the church’s decline (the veracity of which is debated) say anything about whether Christianity is based on lies, lunacy, or fact?  Jesus spoke of those who would turn away, churches that would grow cold, faith that would be abandoned.  Moreover, if one is truly convinced that Christianity is an outlandish hoax, isn’t odd that so much energy is taken in criticizing the church in the first place—as if one had a vision of what the people of God should look like.

Of course, responding to Templeton’s darker admissions regarding the church, I am at times tempted to make a scapegoating confession of my own.  Specifically, if I could reasonably judge God by some of God’s followers, I would surely say farewell as well.  Like Templeton, I have seen so many lives badly wounded by the pulpit, people trampled by those who call themselves Christians.  I have been more disillusioned within the church than I ever have outside of it.  Templeton confesses in his book that the church “has seldom been at its best,” and on this point, I couldn’t agree more.(3)  But I would add a critical addendum; namely, that I am rarely at my best.  I am a part of this church who fails to love well, who says things that hurt, and falls short of its best on a regular basis.  But if the church is truly meant to be the place where followers learn to become more like Christ, then I also can’t imagine a better place to be.  Failings and all, it is the community that communes with the one who longs most for us to be at our best.  Of he who meets us in this place, it was once confessed: “The righteous one shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:12).

It was with such a conviction that G.K. Chesterton responded to a newspaper seeking opinions on the question “What’s wrong with the world?” in one sentence.   “Dear Sirs,” he replied, “I am.”  In any confession of dark realities, can our own hearts really be excluded?  It was with visions of war and brokenness around him that David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).  This, I believe, is humanity’s best confession.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) Sathnam Sanghera, “Confessions of the Man Who Caused the Credit Crunch,” The Times Online, April 20, 2009, http://timesonline.co.uk, accessed April 21, 2009.
(2) Charles Templeton, Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1996), 129.
(3) Ibid., 127.

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2 Responses to Confessions

  1. Gideon says:

    much gratitude for this fine piece of writing. i have been thinking quite a bit about humility recently, which is the conjugal partner of confession. i hope i didn’t just wordmonger “conjugal” because it is a very important word.

    much love, bro.
    gid

  2. Diane says:

    I have to think of all the Old Testament prophets who took the sins of Israel upon themselves and confessed them before God. They “scapegoated” themselves. Quite the opposite of what we do today.

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