In balance, Post Secret is one of the darker places on the internet. It’s also a curiosity because it combines online interaction with the necessity of snail-mailing a postcard to an address in Germantown, Maryland. High tech, meet low tech. The postcards are handmade, or at the very least, amended versions of commercial products; all containing a confession. (I suspect some send them in envelopes for privacy and protection of their art mini-masterpieces.)
Most of the overt confessions involve some type of sexual infidelity. Affairs or affairs of the heart; cheating on a spouse, etc. Closely following are other transgressions of the ten commandments, including stealing things from a workplace or lying to a friend. Apparently there is a need to come clean to someone, anyone; a need to have someone to confess to; explainable if the person is of Catholic background, but that doesn’t apply to the majority American respondents.
Not all the secrets at Post Secret involve something that the writer themselves did however. Unlike other online confessionals, this one also gets a fair degree of mail from people who have simply been hurt. They may have been someone’s victim, or they may be a victim of circumstances. Or they might just be expressing an anger or an angst that not all is right either without or within.
A surprising number of the thousands of postcards displayed online each year involve a loss of belief or a loss of faith, such as the one above. (Many are more blunt, just saying, “I don’t believe in God anymore;” often with the punchline, “I’m a pastor.”) It’s interesting that while the average person’s ten commandment list would focus on the ‘second tablet’ there are at least some people responding who regard ‘first tablet’ sins — commandments one through four — as equally serious, especially the overarching loss of regard for God Himself.
It is as though this type of confession weighs equally on the heart of the person taking the time to compose the postcard. There is a disconnect that has taken place between themselves and God, and somehow, they know God is not at fault. (“If God suddenly seems distant, guess who moved?”)
Of course what is most sadly lacking, especially from a liturgical point of view, is the assurance of pardon. Ignoring the fact that the confession may have been misdirected — confessing to a stranger or online community of strangers only eases the desire to tell someone — there are no next steps; there is nowhere to begin climbing back to right relationship with either themselves, another party, or God. Not even a Hail Mary.
Instead, the Post Secret simply squats online for a few days — or longer if it gets picked up in one of the print editions — like a traffic accident that no one is bothering to clean up.
In The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges says we never see sin correctly unless we see it “as against God.” In other words, even the casual theft of office supplies is a sin against God. We don’t fail ourselves, or fail our spouse or boss or relative or neighbor; ultimately we “miss the mark” with God.
But the assurance of pardon is that if we confess our sin, with faithfulness and according to a justice we can’t always comprehend, he will pardon that sin and help us to work out that sin-nature that caused it.
If God had a website confessional; people would walk away feeling new, and cleansed, and whole.
He’s got something better.
Wanna read more? Here’s a continuation of this discussion at Christianity 201.
The reason Moses always appears holding two Styrofoam flutter boards is that the first four commandments involve sins against God and the second six involve sins against other people; often referred to as ‘first tablet’ and ‘second tablet.’ See, you learned something today about flutter boards.
So far, no link. I know. Post Secret contains content that is certain to offend some readers of this blog, but if you’re looking for the link, this is it.