The Forgotten Sacrament

The Forgotten Sacrament

There’s really no excuse for this blog laying fallow for this long. It wasn’t until yesterday I submitted some writing for review that I realized something had to change. It wasn’t the submission itself, or the process of correction that is on the horizon. Well, that’s certainly part of it. It was the recognition that I had been intentionally procrastinating from being shy. It was a collision course with the truth, a simple truth, but a truth none the less. Easy as air, sharp as knives.

Shyness is one of those strange attributes I don’t hear much about. Perhaps because its kind of cute. Or perhaps because I positively associate it with adorable children or something. It’s endearing? I suppose I don’t think about it much, or rank it very highly in various internal monologues regarding its moral value. Still, a description of it I heard back in my bible college days has stuck with me over the years.

“Shyness is the perverted sense of pride.”

And of course, pride is a sin.

For anyone reading this without a church upbringing, I feel compelled to point out some olde tyme gospel style semantic drift. They don’t literally mean pride in the sense of feeling a sense of accomplishment. At least not very often. Within the evangelical tradition, for various arbitrary and complicated reasons, numerous words have multiple meanings. They are very often divorced from their points of origin. Things become encoded and inferential, a reference to a reference to a reference. Ten years in a pew and you’ll get a really good sense of it. I suspect this is in part due to the history the U.S. evangelical community has had over the last three centuries ridding itself, in some sects, of intellectual rigor as a inherit rejection of class systems reinforced by Calvinist doctrines. Of course this impulse left the church woefully imbalanced for 300 hundred years where the ministers and preachers without education vastly outnumber those who do.[1]. I also suspect, from having sat in way too many sermons back in the day—three times a week in fact—that you wear the tires bald on certain concepts fairly quickly and thus ‘creativity’ is required to keep on preachin’ on.

From the pulpit, and when pride is described within its Webster’s definition, the sin is claiming responsibility for success where God provided on your behalf. That’s the most deft interpretation you can have within an evangelical context. It’s still a rejection of thought of prominent preachers of the late 18th century who posit that the achievements and capacities of man are to be valued (a reaction to the anti-intellectualism of that era).

In this instance, “Shyness is the perverted sense of pride”, the meaning is far more diluted. Pride is being liberally interchanged with the word arrogance. Perhaps this gives the saying some sort of air of scriptural credibility. And within the context of an Assemblies of God Pentecostal learning environment, coding things to fit within certain informal but rigid doctrines is an imperative when truth is found somewhere outside of the bible. Sheltering herself under the awnings of insight during the storm, she seems to have refused the offer of the windowless bible van across the street to ‘warm her up’ with all the other ‘truths’.

Within this line of thinking, to be shy is to exist within a caricature of reality, one where your own value has been catastrophically distorted; thus, the fear of the judgment of others looms larger than it ever should have. It is arrogant to think you were ever so important.

If you’re shy, you’re full of shit.

I am full of shit.

So this blog has laid fallow. I have dozens of entries I’ve squirreled away. Many amusing, many worth revisiting. For example I found an entry about my trip to L.A. last year that was entertaining and engaging to read. There are others. And I make this determination after a long enough period of time to no longer be the same writer who wrote it. I no longer recognize the patterns of thought as my own, and so it reads as if it is by someone else. In that moment, my internal critic acquiesces.

One topic I’ve written about a few times over the course of weeks is confession. I’ve become convinced there’s a lot of value to be found in jailbreaking the Sacrament of Reconciliation / Act of Repentance. And if that seems weird I lump the Catholic in with the Pentecostal, they both belong to me. I have dual upbringings. I’m struggling with how to translate a very Christian, very Catholic, and extremely dangerous (i.e. you become vulnerable doing so) practice into something that makes sense in a magical milieu. But expect for it. I’m beginning to see how the piece fits into our present moment.

Banal as it may seem, and at the core of most personal ethics, I’ve found myself asking, “Is it really?”

Fix it!

There’s something enabling, empowering about confession. Yesterday it was intimately acknowledging my procrastination. Declaring my fear of judgment and embarrassment. After, of course, I laid out a paragraph of reasons I had fallen behind on my writing submission—many valid—but none of them exactly legitimate. Confessing the truth didn’t excuse me either, but I was able to focus in on what precisely had gone awry. It is my capacity to do the opposite, to feign perfection or innocence, regardless of outcome that has crippled my force of will.

Thus there’s more to confession then knowing thy shitty self. Within the Catholic reconciliation is much to unpack and is often implicit, depending on laity to be quite mature in their relationship to the sacrament itself. Within the protestant repentance are some interesting mechanics worth considering.

This is why confession matters. Not forgiveness, not reconciliation, not accountability, but the act of confession itself. Confession can only proceed from this sort of adequately tuned and forceful recognition. And a vibrantly engaged sort of recognition leads to action. This action, unique to the grounding of self then leads to contrition, and contrition blooms reconciliation, and reconciliation mediates forgiveness. Forgiveness of whom you may ask. We’ll get there, and the answer might surprise you. For now, confession is definitely related to Jungian redbooking where our interior reshapes our exterior lives. Within this very human act of self recognition, may help in better describing precisely what’s going on with depth psychology.

And the act of just recognizing that its not good enough created a considerable shift in my efforts in general. I don’t think I’m alone in that capacity, not even a little bit. If I were there wouldn’t so many  animated series focused on exactly the problem of being a bad person and convincing yourself that its OK because you at least recognize the fact. Such is the case with Rick from Rick and Morty, or Bojack Horseman, or even more perversely, Thaddus Venture from the Venture Bros, who feels entitled to being a piece of shit at least in part from resenting his father.

Today we still exist within the fabric of a world painted in shades of ideological zealous puritanism bereft of this process. Where we refuse to acknowledge our failings. Where we shift the blame or equivocate morally some action which excuses our own. That we eagerly punish the heretics tells us something important. While we burn our witches, and attempt to reshape reality for the ‘good’ using the same violence of colonization for our own ends, we must ask ourselves why. Not that there aren’t moments to blacken a few eyes, or to go on the offensive to be sure. But it appears to me that we have one without the other. I think we might just want to have both pillars of mercy and severity if we want our temple to keep standing.

We’re too quick to wage wars against an unseen enemy, peaking out at us from the shadows on every thread on twitter or Facebook, or at the bar for that matter. We should instead orient our efforts to take back that which is truly ours, to wage an entirely different war with a incredibly different scope. We must mobilize and retake our failures.

We must wage an endless war of contrition. Then, see what happens next.


1. ^ Frances Fitzgerald, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America, Narrated by Jacques Roy, Scribd, 2017. Audiobook

Featured Image attribution: Pedro Fernandes


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