Lazarus and the Rich Man by Bonifacio de Pitati, c. 1504s
Lord, I come before you now to repent of the sins I have participated in, specifically the corporate sins of American Evangelicalism. Forgive us, for we have desecrated your name in the eyes of the world. Forgive us, for we have made a mockery of your salvation.
Those outside our faith say we are immoral, and, Lord forgive us, they are often right.
I come before you again to repent of my sins. Today, I repent of worshiping the works of my own hands. Not idols of gold and silver, but my own efforts, my own achievements.
I repent of every stereotypical word I’ve said about the poor, of complaining about people who aren’t disabled, but who don’t work, live on welfare, etc., etc.
Like almost everyone else who says those things, I was raised in a very solid family, went to decent schools, and was instilled with a work ethic and a sense of hope from a young age.
I was not raised in a tenement, with extended family shoved into a small house or apartment, with “father figures” coming and going.
I was not raised by people with no job skills, no understanding of how credit or money worked, and no understanding of the basic etiquette and work ethic required to succeed in any job.
I was not raised in a crime zone, where murders, drug raids, and beatings were a regular part of life.
I was not schooled in a failing, de facto segregated school with a culture that lionized teen pregnancy and demonized academic achievement.
The American dream worked for me, and I thought, cruelly and stupidly, that it worked for everyone else who wasn’t lazy or crooked.
I repent that I ever said or even thought to complain about my taxes going to these “leeches.”
I repent of every time I offered up private charity as an option, and then failed to give sacrificially to actually help the poor. As a symbol of my penitence, I’m giving $500 of my personal spending money to World Vision (and trying to raise some additional money by matching donations).
I repent of tithing to churches that put 95% of their offerings toward administrative expenses, new high-tech buildings, or worse, investments, so they can trust their savings accounts instead of trusting God to provide.
I doubly repent of tithing to those churches and then thinking I’d done enough.
I repent of ever thinking I was worth more than any life on this planet.
I repent of ever thinking I own any of my accomplishments. Had I been born in Biafra or Cambodia in 1975, would I be here now? Had I been born in Ethiopia or Somalia in 1975, would I be here now? Had I been born to a fourteen year old single mother, whose own mother had not yet turned thirty, just down the road from where I was born in Mississippi, would I be here now?
God forbid I ever boast. God forbid any of us ever boast.