While I was in Seattle, I watched as a man was punched in the face. He fell to the ground as three or four other men closed in on him. I kept driving.
I didn't stop the car because I was on a really busy street in a town with very confusing road design. I didn't call 911 because my phone wasn't within easy reach and I didn't have a good sense of how to describe where I was anyway. I didn't call 911 once I got back to the hotel room because I figured it was too late to do anything about it. I didn't check the news to see if the attack was reported because because because because . . .
These are not reasons for my failure to act. These are excuses. I acknowledge that and accept it.
In the film Changing Lanes Ben Affleck finds solace, in the midst of a traffic dispute that has escalated into something purely terrifying and terrible, in a confessional. He's met there by a priest who expects to hear Affleck give confession, but instead Affleck goes on a rant. "The world's a sewer!" He concludes, basing his assessment on his own behavior and the behavior of the person whose car he accidentally hit. This is one of two confessional scenes featuring Ben Affleck that I'm aware of, the other being from the film Daredevil, where Affleck uses the confessional not to atone or give penance but to debate the nature of evil and the ethics of justice. I find that I'm tempted toward the same misuse of a spiritual discipline that Affleck is in these movies; I'm tempted to justify or mitigate my behavior or to allow my sin to get lost in the great river of sin that runs through the world I inhabit.
Often I'm successful in my effort to coopt confession and paper over my conscience. But in the case of my failure to act in Seattle I stand condemned of a horrible neglect, a dehumanizing self-interest, a convenient fear. I acknowledge that and accept it.
I've asked God that the man who was hit would be OK. I've asked God that justice and reconciliation would overcome that dispute. I've asked God that some other driver or observer that night would have the moral courage that I couldn't find in myself. And now I ask all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.