"Every religious tradition teaches that the path to spiritual maturity passes through the valley of the shadow and the dark night of the soul.

"Typically, nations, institutions, and corporations do not admit to their mistakes and repent, but after World War II, Germany went through an extraordinary period of examining its war crimes, death camps, and genocide. Its expression of remorse led to the healing resolve to keep the memory of infamy alive in order to guard against repetition. In Japan the process was quite the opposite. Generation after generation of Japanese leaders have refused to acknowledge the rape of Nanking, the kidnapping of women who were consigned to the sexual needs of soldiers, or the atrocities perpetrated against the Korean people. Nor has the United States ever repented for the firebombings of Dresden and Tokyo, or for the use of atomic weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Had we engaged in a prolonged period of honest repentance for the two million lives lost in Vietnam, we might have decided against invading Afghanistan and Iraq. Our inability to acknowledge our mistakes condemns us to repeat them.

"When we confess our personal failures and repent for our complicity in the sins of our community, we learn the comforting lesson of humility. As the ancient creed taught, we must be crucified, dead and buried, before we rise again to new life. Hope sleeps silently in the humus, waiting for the hard shell of the ego-pride, self-righteousness, and the will to power — to be cracked open.

"I confess:

"I am a member of the gang of ecological bandits that has participated in the pollution and destruction of the environment of my fellow humans and other sentient beings. I wantonly enjoy an unjust share of the gifts of the earth and ignore the plight of the powerless and the poor. I have plundered the heritage of my children.

"I am the citizen of a nation that expends its precious resources to maintain the largest and most heavily armed military in human history. I have acquiesced to the unlawful overthrow of foreign governments, to the bombing of civilian populations, and to the waging of unjust, preemptive wars. I have remained silent as my country has committed crimes against humanity and has refused to submit to the international rule of law.

"I suffer from the disease of concupiscence — endless desire. I am never satisfied with what I have, even though I am drowning in things I do not need. I buy. I consume. Therefore, I exist.

"I excuse myself from facing the fate of the downtrodden with the comforting theory that poverty is a structural problem that cannot be solved by the generosity of wealthy nations. I have turned my eyes aside so that I need not see the evil done by those who have acted in my name, who have used my tax dollars to keep me safe from the amorphous threat of terrorism. I have watched while the civil rights upon which my country was founded have been eroded and the international standards of the Geneva Conventions have been violated.

"Of these things I repent."