Fessing up

What do Bill Clinton and Jimmy Swaggart have in common? Each made a spectacular public confession of sexual misconduct. And according to Susan Wise Bauer, a historian at the College of William and Mary, their mode of confession took the form that the American public wants—one rooted in evangelical practice. Evangelical culture is so deeply intertwined with American culture that it has provided the blueprint for public confessions, a fact that poses a challenge to those who are unfamiliar with the genre when they get caught with their pants down.

The scandals may be sexual or financial, but when public figures follow the right script, they are more likely to be welcomed back. The current governor of Illinois may want to take notes.


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