Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Practice Self-condemnation Is Pretty Damning

In practice self-condemnation is pretty damming—and, it seems, surprisingly easy to induce.

The following excerpt from an article in The Economist presents some pretty interesting test results:

People have a strange and worrying tendency to admit to things they have not, in fact, done…
It seems hard to imagine that anyone of sound mind would take the blame for something he did not do. But several researchers have found it surprisingly easy to make people fess up to invented misdemeanours. Admittedly these confessions are taking place in a laboratory rather than an interrogation room, so the stakes might not appear that high to the confessor. On the other hand, the pressures that can be brought to bear in a police station are much stronger than those in a lab. The upshot is that it seems worryingly simple to extract a false confession from someone—which he might find hard subsequently to retract.
I must confess
One of the most recent papers on the subject, published in Law and Human Behavior by Saul Kassin and Jennifer Perillo of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, used a group of 71 university students who were told they were taking part in a test of their reaction times. Participants were asked to press keys on a keyboard as they were read aloud by another person, who was secretly in cahoots with the experimenter. The volunteers were informed that the ALT key was faulty, and that if it was pressed the computer would crash and all the experimental data would be lost. The experimenter watched the proceedings from across the table.
In fact, the computer was set up to crash regardless, about a minute into the test. When this happened the experimenter asked each participant if he had pressed the illicit key, acted as if he was upset when it was “discovered” that the data had disappeared, and requested that the participant sign a confession. Only one person actually did hit the ALT key by mistake, but a quarter of the innocent participants were so disarmed by the shock of the accusation that they confessed to something they had not done…
A second computer-crash test conducted by Dr Kassin and Dr Perillo used this technique [as when police pretend they have proof of a person’s guilt in order to encourage him to confess]. Another person in the room beside the experimenter said he saw the participant hitting the ALT key. In this case the confession rate jumped to 80% of innocent participants. [From The Economist:  False confessions Silence is golden.]

Think about it.  That same human dynamic often occurs in church: women’s groups, youth groups, choirs, disciplinary meetings, pastoral counseling, informally, through the gossip groups  ... you name it.  And the same dynamic occurs when so called "proof" is cited -- an 80% jump in confession rate by innocent people.

Even following the biblical rule of requiring three witnesses to each action/accusation does not insure breaking this dynamic.  As often recorded in scripture, the three witnesses themselves may be making false confessions regarding what they know or have witnessed.  Too often charges and witness statements represent the judgments, yes even judgmentalism, of the accusers and witnesses rather than factual reports.  Happens all the time. Add in the outright false witnesses and mere intimating that there are witnesses and in church, as elsewhere, easily 80% of confession are induced.

Yes, some make false confessions believing that as the truth comes out they will be exonerated, apologized too.  Don't hold your breath. The truth seldom comes out after judgment has been declared. Many many times I have discovered that even when truth has come out exoneration and apologies never were extended.  Rather, a hardened cocoon of silence and embarrassment or politically demanded denial, buries the truth.

No wonder God calls us to seek the Holy Spirit's voice of discernment.  But then - much of the professed "guidance" and many "words" from the Holy Spirit are - through ignorance or failure to discern self-fulfilling prophecies - the voices of false confession and human judgment wrapped in sacrosanct rhetoric. 

No wonder we have garnered the hatred of those injured by the church.  I believe we give ourselves too much credit for having been enlightened when in fact, ignorant of our own human condition, we follow the ways of the fallen human flesh and we fail to surrender to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.

It is hard to accept a gift of transformation when we don't see our need in a given area.
Eli pulling out his hair by © graziella411 @ webshots. com

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