When I was still involved in my church, we were always preparing for a revival. An elder, also an engineer, had read enough about revivals to feel he had figured out the formula. Here is the simplistic version:
Prayer + Public confessions of sins = Outpouring of the Holy Spirit (as evidenced by healings, restored relationships, and hundreds of new believers joining the church)
He was sure that we’d had enough years of prayer. Since we were on the third generation of The Move, that gave us about 60 years worth.
It was time for confession of sins.
Easily guilted, I volunteered to confess to the congregation a horrible, secret sin. I called it “intellectual arrogance” which sounded absolutely horrible. In reality, what I meant was not that I was conceited about my cognitive abilities, but that I
1) wanted people to think I was smart (I like smart people, I wanted them to like me)
2) wanted to understand things and didn’t like being told that I should accept contradictory, irrational or immoral things because I wasn’t capable of understanding ‘god’s mysterious ways
3) sometimes didn’t do things because I was afraid of failing
When explaining the depths of my sin, I didn’t use these exact words since we were never allowed to use the word immoral in reference to god. I doubt anyone heard anything after the phrase ‘intellectual arrogance’ since I knew an entire row of people had expressed their belief that higher education makes people arrogant and stupid.
I do regret it now. Not because I could easily be labeled as conceited, but because I may have discouraged people from thinking. A friend who was studying for his doctorate in English whispered to me that I had apologized for ‘sins’ that he ‘struggled’ with. What would all of the teenagers and kids think to hear thinking confessed as a sin? Probably the same things I thought when I heard it, as our flawed human mind was a common topic for promoting blind faith.
The first part of my sin, wanting people to think I was smart, I can now laugh at. How many people would confess to the sin of wearing mascara because they wanted their eyes to appear larger? Or how many people wash with scented soap because they want people to think they smell nice? Its ok.
The second part angers me. I let myself be manipulated into feeling bad for wanting to understand something. I forgive myself. I was brought up hearing this, as were the ones who preached it.
I now see that the third part of my confession had nothing to do with wanting to understand things, but actually kept me from trying to discover things.
To rephrase: I profess to having that wonderful human trait of curiosity, morals and common sense; I profess to liking smart people and wanting to be smart; and I admit to being afraid to fail but willing to anyways.
According to the formula, we need a few more confessions before a revival can start. hint, hint