- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2000

Mea culpa

"Last Thursday, my friend Dave e-mailed me (and four other members of our ecumenical study group) a Reuters article about a Web site that invites people to confess their sins on line.

"The site (www.theconfessor.co.uk) offers sinners a blank space into which they can type their transgressions. The Confessor 'offers no interaction with priests and assures cyber-sinners that whatever they say will be erased when the confession is over.' All that, and no penance!

"The Roman Catholic Church was quick to point out the difference between this and a proper confession, according to Reuters. 'Confession cannot be done by telephone, e-mail or proxy,' a church official said. A few hours later, I received a second e-mail from Dave, this time with his personal endorsement of the site.

"Believe it or not, although it is Christian, I was moved to confess," he writes this from an active member of the Woodstock Jewish Congregation and a devoted Zen Buddhist. I might feel tempted to ask what the world is coming to if it hadn't already gotten there some time ago."

Clark Strand in "Cyber Spirituality" in the July/August issue of New Age Journal

Christian divorce?

"In 1995, Charles Stanley, pastor of Atlanta's First Baptist Church and one of America's best-known preachers, announced that he and his wife of 44 years had separated. He told his congregation that, if the separation turned to divorce, he would resign immediately.

"Well, a few weeks ago, the other shoe dropped. Stanley announced that the divorce was final, a great personal tragedy. But instead of resigning as he promised five years ago, Stanley vowed to stay on as senior pastor. He characterized it as being 'faithful to God's call.' …

"Sadly, I think Stanley has made a mistake, that he should keep his promise and that he should resign. What makes this all the more galling is the justification the church's administrative pastor used in speaking to the congregation. Rev. Gearl Spicer said, 'It is my biblical, spiritual and personal conviction that God has positioned Dr. Stanley in a place where his personal pain has validated his ability to minister to all of us.'

"In other words, Stanley's divorce enables him to be a better shepherd of his flock?

"This is pure Clinton-speak. Those of us who criticized the president for quibbling over words to defend his sordid behavior have to be even-handed. And what was wrong for Mr. Clinton is certainly wrong for the pastor of one of America's leading churches."

Charles W. Colson in "A High-Profile Divorce," his June 13 BreakPoint radio commentary

Pure existence

"When I told people I was writing on Stoicism, I got reactions like 'Oh, that's the stiff upper lip' or 'Stoics they're stone-faced, they don't show their emotions' or 'passionless,' 'a dull, rigid, repressed, musty old-world word.'

"The usual misconception of Stoicism is that of a gloomy, skeptical and death-obsessed philosophy that gives its practitioners the ability to endure difficulties and withstand pain and suffering … .

"Clearly, philosophers like Marcus Aurelius had a view of the world that is radically different from ours. They wanted to live a rational and objective life and to lose the irrational and subjective perception that most people have of the world. They tried to replace the uncertainty of fleeting pleasure with a more enduring feeling of joy in pure existence.

"Their methods aimed at infusing the mind with serenity and tranquility to replace the chaos, frustration and anguish that represents existence for many people. Marcus Aurelius saw philosophy as the only thing that could cure this mental and spiritual suffering."

Mark Forstater in his new book, "The Spiritual Teachings of Marcus Aurelius"

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