.- Evangelical Christians seem to be finding the value of confession. But they’re not lining up for the confessional or for a minister — they’ve headed online.
Confession websites are not new — they’ve been around for at least a few years — but they continue to increase in number and popularity.
People post anything from abortion, lust, pornography, theft, lying and alcohol abuse — the list goes on.
One site, launched by the nondenominational Flamingo Road Church in Cooper City this Easter, is ivescrewedup.com. The 6,500-member church created the site as part of a 10-week series on the ways people make mistakes — in marriage, parenting, finances — and can learn from them.
"I think it helps people understand . . . that we're not here to point out people's screw-ups, that we're here to help them," Pastor Troy Gramling told The Miami Herald. "The church is made of skin and flesh and people that have made mistakes."
A 23-year-old man who posted on the site told The Herald in a telephone interview that posting his sin "was very cathartic." The anonymity of the site is key to its appeal, he said.
Janet Sternberg, associate chairwoman of the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University in New York, told the newspaper that online confessionals are a natural outgrowth of Internet chat rooms ''where people have this habit of telling secrets to strangers,'' as well as blogs and MySpace pages.
But, so far, more people are reading confessions than posting them.
The Flamingo Road Church gets about 1,000 hits a day, with about 200 online admissions.
The evangelical LifeChurch.tv’s confession website has had more than 6,000 people post confessions but millions more have logged on to read the stories, said pastor Bobby Gruenewald.
The pastor told The Herald that the church has received some criticism from people who think that "we're trying to encourage people to confess to a computer instead of God."
"We just believe it is a catalyst to have people open up to family and friends and God. I think sometimes it can be misunderstood," he was quoted as saying. A recent redesign of the website gives readers the possibility to post prayers or responses to confessions.
Greg Fox, who created the site dailyconfession.com in 2000, says the websites, with their voyeuristic appeal, may fulfill people's need to feel better about their own behavior or moral values. His site averages about 1.3 million hits a day.
"What makes it so popular is not so much the people confessing but people going to read all these things, saying, ‘My life's not so bad,’" he told The Herald.
People have written on the site about abusive relationships and contemplating suicide. Fox said he has tried to direct these people to get help. Others have threatened the president, prompting Fox to call the U.S. Secret Service.
He reviews all of the submissions before posting them, and has a backlog of about 4,000. Fox said the confessions are completely anonymous and that he has no way of tracing them.
The Catholic Church rejects the idea of online confessions. Confession is ''the opportunity to confess sins to someone ordained as a priest who is a representative of Christ," Mary Ross Agosta of the Miami Archdiocese told the newspaper.