I recently came across MySecret.tv, a website set up by the evangelical megachurch LifeChurch. LifeChurch is a multi-campus church with physical locations scattered across several states that are connected during synchronized worship services by live video streams. MySecret.tv is this internet-savvy ministry’s latest venture: essentially, it is an online confessional, where people can log on to post admissions of sins they feel they have committed. Unlike the standard confessional, though, these confessions are not kept private but rather are posted in full public view, so that other visitors to the site can browse them. According to Craig Groeschel, LifeChurch’s founder, the purpose of this is to “confess to God for forgiveness but to each other for healing” (source).
Browsing the site provides an interesting cross-section of what Christians consider to be sin. The site lists over a dozen different categories of confessions, from “Double Life” and “Past Humiliation” to “Eating Disorders”, “Pornography” and “Substance Abuse”. The confessions themselves range from the hilarious to the heartbreaking to the deeply disturbing. Some examples of the first category:
I daydream (alot). I wonder/fantasize what my future will be like. I’m married with kids but I often daydream about being single again. I often wish I had made different choices when I was younger so my life coud be more like my imagination. I’ve never told anyone.
I used to have a seriously gambling problem losing almost $20 a week
I like porn and masturbate on a daily basis, I’m not sure which sin this is, but I’m sure its a sin some how…
I would like to confess that about 5 months ago while at hastings I picked up a magazine with nudity in it and fliped through it against my better judgement. I was overwhellmed with guilt and shame and put it down and walked out. I have been praying hard to get rid of the sick feeling in my stomach and have needed to confess this. I hope you all will pray for me for continued strength from the Lord so that nothing of this world will come between my wife and I’s relationship. Thank you.
Sometimes when I see other couples, I picture them having sex in my mind. I have no idea why.
I have had sex before marriage. Even though it is someone I know I want to spend the rest of my life with, I know that God wanted me to wait.
I have a hard time not looking at my girlfriend’s anatomy. Not that we sleep together or that she intentionally exposes it before me, but I stare and imagine her naked all the time. I want to overcome this before our relationship goes any further.
I like to masturbate. I would never cheat on my wife physically. When I masturbate I still think of her.
My husband’s secret became my secret almost three years ago. On a Thursday night, God compelled him to confess his 10 year pornography addiction to me. I was devastated. Not devastated like people mean when they don’t make the cheerleading squad. Devastated like Hiroshima.
Browsing the site, one rapidly notices a trend visible even from the above excerpts: the vast majority of sins confessed are related to sex. There are at least five specifically sex-related categories – Pornography, Adultery, Relationships, Sexuality and Lust – and each one of them has dozens of pages of confessions, compared to most of the other categories which usually have less than ten. In addition, several other categories, such as Double Life, Shame, Addictions (to pornography) and more, are mainly oriented toward sex-related sins.
This pattern makes an interesting point about the moral repercussions of strong belief in Christianity. Some of the acts confessed are genuinely harmful – cheating on spouses, for example. But a very great number of them are perfectly ordinary and non-harmful deeds blown completely out of proportion – people who ashamedly confess that they occasionally look at pornography, or masturbate sometimes, or cannot stop having sexual fantasies about people they meet, or had sex before marriage with the person they ended up marrying, or had physical desire for the person they were dating – as if experiencing sexual desire for others was some horrible and unnatural act rather than a normal and universal aspect of being human. Their religious belief is making them suffer needlessly by indoctrinating them into believing that this normal physical drive is a grave sin which they must battle against and struggle to overcome.
Even the people who genuinely seem to have problems, such as those confessing a genuine addiction to pornography that has ruined relationships or cost them thousands of dollars, can be explained with this hypothesis. It is no surprise that a distorted and unhealthy view of sexual desire can lead to such problems: when people try to repress basic aspects of human nature for so long, and when that repression finally fails and the underlying desire bursts out, of course it will tend to emerge in a twisted and harmful fashion, due to all the guilt and fear and self-loathing with which it has been contaminated. Such problems might never arise in the first place in a person with a mentally and emotionally healthy view of sexuality, rather than the ignorant and harmful view taught by fundamentalist Christianity.
A truly saddening example comes from the many confessions of people, both male and female, who experience feelings of sexual desire for the same gender but are trying to repress it, because they believe homosexuality is a sin. Many of these confessions are fraught with self-deception and denial (“I’m not really gay, but I can’t help myself”), although to an outsider, the issue is obvious.
How many times does it have to occur before it gets beaten in my life? How many times have I fallen on my face before God, begging for forgiveness, strength. How many times, do I all of the sudden go from shopping on ebay to staring at porn? As a woman, my mind, my emotions, and my sexuality are in total chaos during those times. What’s wrong with me… I have a boyfriend..I’ve talked to him, he’s loving and prays for me.. but.. why am I attracted to females? But only in pictures, never real life.
I love porn I cant help it but lately Ive been watching gay porn it is the only thing that can keep me interested and I dont know why because im not gay.
I can’t help but get homosexual images sometimes. I’d never act on that, but I fear it consuming me entirely. Pray for me.
I have always struggled with sexual behaviors. I started having sexual thoughts in junior high school, and of course they continue today even thought I am in my twenties. Don’t get me wrong, I love women. I am married and love my wife dearly. However, many of these thoughts I have are homosexual in nature. I find myself “stumbling” across gay porn on the internet and masturbating to it.
These are the saddest examples of how Christian homophobia hurts real people. Notice the denial in each of these (“only in pictures, never real life”, “can’t help it”, “I don’t know why because I’m not gay”, “‘stumbling’ across gay porn”), doubtless from internalization of the prejudice and hatred these people may well hear every day from the pulpit. Rather than teaching these people and the countless others like them to accept who they are and be happy, Christianity’s warped moral teachings turn an ordinary variant of human sexuality into a secret shame that must be repressed and hidden from the world. Both these people, as well as the many other people on this site who speak of loves lost and relationships broken up because of their religious beliefs, are denying themselves happiness needlessly and filling their lives with pointless guilt and suffering, when they could so easily find a better way. (One confession I read expressed a wish to “switch something in my mind to hate sex”. Another said she “felt like a failure” for having sex before marriage.)
I do not condone acts that harm others, but none of the above excerpts fit that description. These “sins” are ridiculous inventions, and it is past time for Christians to stop obsessing over them and start caring about the things that really matter. Theists worldwide, in fact, should discard the false religious beliefs that create this cancerous, unnatural guilt and dread of anything having to do with sex, and wake up to the recognition that there is and can be no sin in anything that loving, consenting adults choose to do with each other. The irrational obsession with sex, found not just in Christianity but in many other religions as well, is based on the bizarre notion that the infinite, omnipotent creator of the universe cares more than anything else about how people’s genitals come into contact – a notion that would be ludicrous if the harmful repercussions of believing it were not so tragic.
To be fair, it is not only sex that these confessions are concerned with. There are many examples on this site of legitimately saddening and heartbreaking stories – people trapped in loveless or abusive marriages, people with serious mental problems of addiction or eating disorders or self-destruction, people who have suffered unimaginable abuse, people who entertain thoughts of depression or suicide – that make any person of conscience wish they could step in and help. (I even noticed a few stories of people wondering if they were atheists; I wish there was some way to contact these people.) However, even here religion must bear some blame. In teaching, as it frequently does, that mental disorders like depression or addiction or self-mutilation are “sins” that can only be overcome by prayer and church-going, there is a very real danger that Christianity will cause these individuals to blame themselves for their inability to solve the problem, rather than encouraging them to get the outside help and treatment they need.