More Public Confession

May 01, 2013

In my book on confessional politics (Presidential Campaign Rhetoric in an Age of Confessional Politics), I noted the use of public confessions as a metaphor for what I argued presidential candidates do during campaigns. Among the examples I highlighted were evangelical groups using a public reverse confession to apologize to people hurt by the church (a concept popularized by Donald Miller in Blue Like Jazz), megachurches encouraging people to confess on public websites or in videos to be played during services, and Catholic priests holding private confessions in public places like shopping malls. Each of these helps illustrate our confessional society. Religion News Service offers another example in a new article about a priest in Connecticut. Reverend Janusz Kukulka noticed that there used to be two old-fashioned confessionals at the rear of the church building, but they had been removed in the 1970s to add air conditioning units (that story could be an interesting metaphor as well). Since then, confessions were held in a private room. So Kukulka decided to install "a visible confessional" to encourage more people to participate. And it worked! Although the confession is to be private in either space, there seems to be something about heading to the public space. It is this type of religious expectation that bleeds over into the political realm and impacts our expectations of how candidates should bare their souls and private lives to we the people.