Posted by: Aaron McCarter | July 9, 2007

Scarlet Letter

An interesting, if not mildly disturbing story I ran across today:

Mom Makes Teen Wear Sign Confessing Sins:
A Tennessee mother fed up with her daughter’s misbehavior took an unusual tack in for latest punishment, making her stand on a busy street corner with an attention-getting sign.

Tashara Wilkins, 13, held a sign Sunday reading, “I don’t obey my parents, I’m a liar. I steal from my mom. I have a bad attitude.”

“All other resources haven’t worked, so I’m making her be publicly humiliated today,” mother Cherie Wilkins told WMC-TV in Memphis. “I hope this works for her. I love my child. … I could be beating her to death, but I’m not.”

Tashara said having to wear her offenses was eye-opening. “It might even work,” she said. “I’m gonna start (behaving better) because I don’t want to be standing out here with everybody looking at me like I’m crazy with this sign.”

The mother said her daughter would go to church Tuesday night wearing the sign.

Every cell in my body wants to take this opportunity to rail against this woman. Every cell. But in the spirit of kindness, and with the knowledge that the last thing this world needs is another angst-filled blogger, I will relent.

Instead it makes me wonder what church might look like if we all wore our scarlet letters as part of our Sunday best.

You could build an argument that it would make it better. That all the pomp and self-righteousness of Bible-belt church would be checked at the door. That our sin would actually be dealt with, that openness and transparency wouldn’t be optional. And while it’s true that much of the power our sin holds over us is found in the secrecy in which it’s often shrouded, I doubt that once the initial shock wore off, that it would really make much difference.

The difference between sin exposed and sin confessed is vast.

I wonder how much true confession we do at the church I lead. Or any church for that matter. A lot of confessing I see going on seems flawed. Some may confess ‘lesser’ sins as if that’s all their junk, and it’s really a round about way of saying that they don’t have much sin in their lives. Others seem to confess in order to show that they are willing to confess their sins, and that they are open and transparent. In small pockets of church-folk, such pseudo openness and vulnerability is considered the height of spiritual maturity. These people form lame accountability groups where you talk about your sin over breakfast or a slice of apple pie…then conclude that you all have screwed up a lot…breath a sigh of relief as you find comfort not in God’s forgiveness but in the assurance that ‘everybody else’ does it…then chat about the weather or sports…then come back the next week and do it all again. Is that true confession?

I find that there are precious few forums for true confession. As an idealistic pastor, I hope and pray that it happens organically all the time…but I have my doubts about how common it is…and I’m at a loss as to how to better facilitate it in our church. Small groups should be the answer…but I’ve found that groups with that kind of safety are scarce, and take a long time to form.


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