Confession and Community

"Take one sleepy seaside town in England, add a pinch of intrigue, stir in a brooding Scottish detective and his engaging local sergeant, and you’ve got the makings of Broadchurch, a British crime drama whose first series was, according to its millions of viewers, basically perfect..."

Last month, our family headed out of town for a week of vacation. We're still figuring out how to do this "family vacation" thing out because neither my husband or I grew up with "family vacation" as an annual reality. Now, before my mother and mother-in-law private message me to take issue with this statement, let me clarify: Neither my husband or I grew up with a specific week built into our families' calendars that guaranteed time away. We always took family trips; we went to visit relatives or went camping, but the idea that you could set aside an entire week at the beach to simply do nothing was not part of our experience.

This is so much outside our experience, in fact, that I didn't realize that you actually have to book a house months, not weeks, in advance. So when we finally decided to plan a "family vacation," we ended up shut out of the area we wanted to visit. Enter grandparents to the rescue. Given our predicament, my husband's grandparents graciously allowed us to use their winter home to go on "family vacation." So we packed up the kids and drove 900 miles to southeast Florida... in August. Like I said, we're still learning the ins-and-outs of this "family vacation" thing.

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Thankfully, there is one aspect of "family vacation" that we became experts at very quickly--the art of doing nothing. Sleeping late, lazy days, fast food, and lots of HGTV, board games, and beach reads. This year this included binge watching the second season of Broadchurch, a British crime drama that is just disturbing enough to be perfect. My husband and I had watched the previous season a couple months ago, so when I found season two at our county library, I threw caution (and late-fees to the wind) and packed it for vacation.

Now, when I say that we binge-watched those eight episodes, I mean exactly that. We have no defense, no excuse; we sat fixated for hours in front of the television; and each time, as the credits closed the episode, my husband and I would look at each other, neither wanting to be the one to suggest pushing play on the next episode, but both of us desperate to continue the story. So after two late (late) nights of watching TV well after the children were tucked in bed, I can officially tell you, "It was worth it."

While there are one or two elements that might be uncomfortable for Christians, Broadchurch delves into the human experience in ways I don't often see in pop culture. Life, death, truth, our need for community--it's all there in one small English village by the sea. If you've seen the series, you'll know what I mean. And if you've seen it, you might appreciate this piece I wrote recently for Christ and Pop Culture about how Broadchurch season 2 shows the importance of confession of sin. And this--the importance of confession--is a profoundly Christian idea. We must confess our sin in order to be reconciled to God and each other. Proof is not enough; evidence is not enough. The wrongdoer must own his wrongdoing and speak the truth about it. Without such confession, our relationships break down and we end up isolated from God and each other.

From the piece:

Within the Church, the term “confession” has two usages. The first refers to the affirmation of a specific doctrine: “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord…”  So begins the Apostle’s Creed, one of the oldest and most foundational of Christian confessions. With such statements, we are able to create distinct communities based in a shared reality. Creeds and confessions don’t define reality, though. Instead, they form the bonds and boundaries of communities: If we have nothing else, at least we know the truth about these things.

Christians also use the word “confession” in a more familiar way: We confess our sins. Whether this happens within the confessional booth, an accountability group, or in the dock, when we confess our sins, we speak the truth about our actions. But often we mistake the confession of sin as an individual act. At its heart, confession—whether of faith or of a lack of faith—is about building community.

Evangelicals, who have traditionally emphasized the individual believer’s immediate relationship with God, tend to focus on the personal benefit of confession; “unconfessed sin,” as the thinking goes, will hinder your fellowship with God and strip you of your own sense of personal peace. Consequently, we’re encouraged to bring our sin into the light so that it won’t have a hold on us anymore. We’re also told that such transparency will allow others to be transparent with their own failings.

What we don’t always recognize, however, is that the confession of sin also serves a purpose similar to that of the confession of faith: It creates and maintains the bonds of community. When we confess the creeds, we speak together about the nature of God and his world. When we confess our sins, we align ourselves with a shared reality about what is right and what is wrong. We align ourselves with the truth that the community holds in common...  Without shared truth, community is impossible.

One other note, there are some spoilers in the full piece so be warned--go binge watch season 1 and season 2 first.