Confessing Our Evangelical Sins

Confessing Our Evangelical Sins July 19, 2023
The most difficult sins to name are our own. Pointing the finger at someone else and calling out their spiritual, moral, and other personal failings is easy. Comparing ourselves to others makes us feel better and maybe superior to those whose behavior we perceive to be worse than ours. The much harder path is to stay focused on our own deficiencies and how we can improve ourselves.

Hardest Sins To Confess Are Our Own

Complimenting myself by condemning others isn’t how our doctrine of human sinfulness works. In the unforgettable parable about the tax collector and the religious legalist, Jesus made clear the only sins that matter are the ones we commit. Doing as the legalist did in Jesus’ story, congratulating ourselves for being better than others–even if we do that quietly in our minds–means committing spiritual pride. Sanctimoniousness was one thing Jesus most harshly denounced in religious leaders.
It should be normal for Bible-believing, born-again Christians to understand this basic truth. One of the premier and rudimentary evangelical beliefs is universal human sinfulness. Thus, our common need for a savior. An evangelical’s faith journey begins by confessing, “I’m a sinner in need of forgiveness.” Plenty violate this fundamental principle post-conversion by becoming holier than thou. In doing so, they do the opposite of what the gospel calls us to do. Instead of being as bad as anyone else, it leads us to think we’re better than anyone else.

How Our Sin Doctrine Is Supposed To Work

When it comes to this core tenet of equality among sinners, I’ve noticed a gradual move away from it over the nearly 50 years I’ve been an evangelical. Today, though, I see a rapid and all but complete departure from it. The Bible warns, “Pride goes before a fall and a haughty spirit before destruction.” Our movement will prove moribund if American evangelicalism continues this arrogantly destructive path.

To help me–and my coreligionists–correct this fatal error, I offer the following list of our corporate sins. I recommend we dedicate ourselves to admitting to them before God and our fellow human beings, making amends for them as much as possible, and pledging to reject the temptation to indulge them again.
Rather than recite a litany of sins by rote, I suggest we sit with each one in silence. In this way, we can absorb the magnitude, implications, far-reaching consequences, and ease with which we and our cohorts commit these sins. We can and must do more, of course. Until we fully feel the effect of these sins and appreciate the damage they’ve done to individuals, families, communities, nations, and the world–until we feel the offense, the fear, the dejection, and the humiliation our sins have inflicted on others, we will not be able to muster or sustain the repentance necessary to turn this terrible situation around.

A Long List of Evangelical Sins

The Sins We Evangelicals Have Committed Before God and Our Fellow Human Beings:
  • We have pridefully convinced ourselves that humbly confessing our sins at a one-time altar experience forever places us in a favored status with God.


  • We have arrogantly compared ourselves to others, concluding their sins are worse than ours. We believe we sin less offensively, less consequently, and less often than others.


  • We have often failed to love God above everything else and to express that love by loving others unconditionally.


  • Instead of loving our neighbors, we treat them contemptuously, especially if they don’t look, speak, or behave like us.


  • We have failed to forgive others as God has forgiven us.


  • We have countenanced and, at times, embraced vengeance, retribution, and punishment over Jesus’ command to love those who would be our enemies.


  • We have shielded abusers, perpetrators, and predators instead of holding them to account in order to sustain our comfort and preserve an appealing image–all at the expense of the vulnerable.


  • We have spurned grace and mercy, discounting them as weak and useless; in their place, we’ve brandished guns, menaced our fellow citizens, and employed violence against those with whom we disagree.


  • We have bowed down to the idols of political power, prosperity, prestige, and personalities.


  • We have coveted what others have instead of generously giving to others out of what we have, including tangible and intangible things.


  • We’ve called evil good, good evil, and defended lawlessness as it were righteousness.


  • We have disdained the love of Christ for every human being and wrapped ourselves in the mantle of Jesus to exploit political power and material gain.


  • We have forgotten our First Love.


“As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah 1:4

About Rev. Rob Schenck
Rob Schenck (pronounced "Shank") is an evangelical minister and former activist on the religious right who broke with his community over guns, abortion, same-sex relationships--and support for Donald Trump. He has spent his entire adult life as an evangelical, was educated in evangelical institutions, and has occupied influential posts in the church world. In his 2018 memoir, Costly Grace: An Evangelical Minister's Rediscovery of Faith, Hope and Love (HarperCollins), Rob explains his three conversions from nominal Judaism to a radical born-gain faith, then to "Ronald Reagan Republican Religion," and ultimately back to the virtues of the Sermon on the Mount with the posthumous help of martyred Nazi resister and Christian ethicist Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Rob recently testified before Congress about the efforts of Christian conservatives to unduly influence Supreme Court justices. You can read more about the author here.

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