Confession and Absolution: Pastoral Tunnel Vision?

A post by Neil Hart on homosexuality, LGBT, lesbian and Gay stuff and the Lutheran Church of Australia.

When I was a teenager, they said that all us young men had a one track mind. For me, it was true. “Dungeons and Dragons”. Woops! Did i just give up my secret nerdy side? Or…reader… did you suspect all along? track minds. I’m beginning to think that pastors might be kinda tunnel visioned in their approach to things sometimes.  It seems that If it isnt answered by “confession and absolution” then…it just cant be answered.

A while ago  I dared to give a bit of an insight into my soul.

“The person in front of me” says Jesus “Not the Law”

I talked about my darkest time when i was really quite suicidal. I reflected how inadequate the “Christian” response was when the counsellor wanted to address my sin and all I wanted was someone to just listen to me… be there for me. I still have great faith in the Jesus who counts me infinitely more important that any law..biblical or otherwise. But I am slowly loosing faith in a church that seems unable or unwilling to follow his lead.

After I published the article a well meaning pastor (I assume he was well meaning) wrote to me and said that what I really needed was a  pastor confessor. He honestly thought that all i needed was someone to hear my confession and then announce God’s forgiveness and I could have avoided all those years of depression. I’m amazed! How could he possibly read what I wrote and decide that confession and absolution was what i needed? It is a clear case of  “I’m listening to you but before you even finish speaking I’m already squeezing your situation into the tiny frame of reference that I like to call ‘Pastoral Ministry’ or…Confession and Absolution “.

I wonder, was that how I did ministry? I really cant remember. I hope not. But, as i write, a haunting memory comes back to me. I am sitting in my office at the college with a mother and her teenaged daughter. They are facing something pretty difficult. My attempts to help the situation has only made it worse. With no specific training and little background knowledge I had run where angels fear to tread. The teenager said to me “You know, that shit might work in your tiny little perfect world but you have no idea what i am facing”. I hadn’t done anything as ignorant as to offer “confession and absolution” as some magic fix-all but, she was right. My frame of reference was way too small. All I had done was to impose my preconceptions upon her. I had no right to do that.

My second recent encounter with tunnel visioned Pastoral “concern” came from my discussions on the LCAi list. Remember reader? Thats the email discussion forum frequented by overly opinionated pastors and some other long suffering souls. I had been stirring the pot quite a bit about the LCA and the whole gay thing. On a couple of instances, when I thought that people had made unfair or unsubstantiated remarks…I challenged them and wouldnt accept their silence. I kinda rode them until I got a response. So..I got labeled a “Stalker” by one correspondent. (He wont mention my name now. So i have become Voldemort :-) )  One of other members on the list… one whose views are, I think, fairly close to my own wrote the following in an attempt to help the accusing correspondent consider his own sexuality in the context of the discussion. (the names have been blanked out to protect no one in particular)

You seem a bit fragile this morning YYYY. You have been part of a difficult conversation which touches a sensitive and central part of our being – our sexuality – all of us have lots of memories and past emotions surrounding  the topic – fears of our parents, warnings of pastors, guilt and shame over early experimentation with sexuality and love making , unrequited love, rejection, confusion, brief dalliances and affairs – to say nothing of present issues fears and problems of sexuality and relationships

As we know  some of this lurking stuff can come to the surface when triggered off by something in the discussion. And before we know it we are being swept along and lose control – Maybe this has happened in the life of your stalker. Hang in there.

Ahhh… but he was never going to take the hint. Although we might smile at his complete lack of introspection… note how quickly the pastoral “BIG GUNS” come out.

You are right, XXXX.  Most of us have stuff that we have had to deal with.  I would encourage those with unresolved issues to do just that, seek help.  Until things are dealt with, one may continually hurt oneself and others.

I personally have found confession and absolution, along with the loving care of mature, wise, understanding and faithful pastoral councilors…very helpful.  Also good sound biblical commentaries to accompany the study of the word!

Yup! That should fix me up. Confession and Absolution, Bible open in one hand, And Gordon Fee’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians in the other…  :)

Then I saw this from the NakedPastor, one of his Gay Saturday cartoons. You really gotta check him out.

Although the cartoon has David Hayward’s usual class, it was the comments that followed the cartoon that caught my attention, Particularly the comments of one “Ransom” whose own tunnel visioned approach to life got him just a little confused…

Ransom: I agree. lying about sin will do no good. Only confessing it in honesty will bring about any real good.

NakedPastor: oh ya that’s totally what i meant was these guys are unrepentant sinners. guh!

Ransom: I WANT to like your cartoons, I really do. But some of them are just so wrong.  Sin is sin, confess it let God free you from it and move on. SHEESH.

Gary: Ransom said…”Sin is sin, confess it let God free you from it and move on. SHEESH.”

Wow – Hard to believe this level of ignorance still exists. You sound just like the arrogant fundies in the church I left behind. Thank you for reminding of why I will never go back to that place.


I had to laugh. Ransom just didnt get it. His comments were so outa place in the context of this cartoon that he reminded me of a scene from Sasha Barron Cohen’s “Bruno” when he visited an ultra conservative enclave in Israel.

I think Ransom got out of the discussion one second before his lynching as well.

Confesssion and Absolution is a powerful dynamic. But…guys…its not the only thing they taught you at sem is it?  (ohhh…IDK. Maybe it is??)

Anyway…surely a smidgeon more genuine empathetic listening, a pinch less  predetermined outcome and a gram or two of basic human compassion wouldn’t go astray… yeh?