ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–“I calculated the total time that humans have waited for web pages to load. It cancels out all the productivity gains of the information age,” quipped Scott Adams, creator of the comic strip “Dilbert.” “Sometimes I think the web is a big plot to keep people like me away from normal society.”
Someone else once observed, “The Internet is a shallow and unreliable electronic repository of dirty pictures, inaccurate rumors, bad spelling and worse grammar, inhabited largely by people with no demonstrable social skills,”
While the aforementioned quotes might be a tad bit cynical, there is a measure of truth to each. The Internet, like any technology, has its pros and cons.
I have on ongoing like/loathe relationship with the World Wide Web. On the plus side, I like the seemingly limitless supply of news and information it offers. “Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant,” Mitchell Kapor, founder of Lotus Development Corporation, once said.
I also like the ease of communication the Internet affords. A friend’s wife was recently diagnosed with cancer. One of his daughters set up a blog for the purpose of posting updates on her mother’s progress. The comments section also allowed friends and family to provide encouragement to her mom and dad.
I also appreciate the ability to shop online. I routinely purchase all manner of goods via the Internet. I have found that it saves both time and money and, in my case, each is in short supply.
But beyond the practical aspects of information, general communication and shopping, I believe the Internet to be totally useless. There are, of course, many today who are seeking spiritual solace online.
In a recent report titled “Confession is just a keypad away,” USA Today detailed how millions are flocking to websites to reveal “abhorrent acts or secret longings that likely involve sex or relationships, embarrassing moments or inner demons.” The report added, “Some of the revelations verge on the indecent. Others are outright illegal.”
At least one of the sites mentioned in USA Today is operated by a church.
Those who believe airing an anonymous confession, before an equally anonymous public, somehow will help them are very deceived. They might feel better for a while, but in the end they will not be changed, which is really what confession is all about.
“Confession is good for the soul only in the sense that a tweed coat is good for dandruff — it is a palliative rather than a remedy,” said American novelist Peter De Vries.
Those providing the confession websites are just as naïve as those using them. At best, they will provide a temporary feel-good for people; however, they will not affect change. Churches who provide such sites should know better.
In the Bible, confession and repentance are like black and white stripes on a zebra — they are always found together. Confession admits fault. Repentance takes responsibility. Confession says I am wrong or I have a problem. Repentance says I will make restitution or I will change.
Scriptural confession occurs in the context of a relationship. A person comes clean with another about his or her fault or wronging. As such, the person immediately becomes accountable for his or her actions. He or she also becomes subject to being judged for his or her wrong behavior, and rightly so. At the same time, a person is also likely to receive encouragement to change.
Biblical confession is not easy. Humility is required and a person is likely to endure a certain amount of embarrassment. Yet the end result is a changed life.
I have a feeling that many people utilizing website confessions are not interested in change; they simply want to feel good about themselves. They don’t want to subject themselves to embarrassment, accountability or harsh judgment; they just want to salve their guilty consciences.
There is no such thing as quick and easy confession. There is no short-cut to repentance and change. Those who think so are deceived and will ultimately be very disappointed.
The Internet is a good place to get information and news. It is also a good venue for communication or shopping. However, it is a lousy place to realize real life-changing confession. That may sound cynical, but it’s true.
Kelly Boggs, whose column appears each week in Baptist Press, is editor of the Baptist Message, the newspaper of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.