Dirk, acting as a lookout from the church window facing the parking lot, watches congregational members leaving for home having been inspired by another great Sunday service and sermon. “Looks like they have all left the premises,” shouts Dirk to a small and secret group of parishioners, who are taking seats among chairs arranged in a circle.
Dirk rushes from the window and takes one of the seats for himself and sits down.
The group begins to eye each other, looking for something to say.
Suddenly, one of the parishioners points to Dirk and calls him a lazy bum. Dirk’s face turns a little red for a moment but recognizes the statement as being inwardly true and actually thanks his critic for the insight.
Soon everyone chimes in, all making less than flattering statements about the others in the room.
Unbeknownst to the group, Debra, one the members of the congregation who was leaving for the parking lot remembers that she left her cell phone on one of the pews and comes back into the church building to look for it.
She is shocked to find some of her church members seemingly belittling each other in an adjacent room. Even the minister is there!
“What are you all doing to each other?” asks Debra.
“We are creating an environment that allows us to point out each other’s faults. Since everyone here is equally taking a part in this purifying process, we help to promote introspection. “
“But our church is a community of love,” replied Debra.
“Yes, and that includes supporting each other’s spiritual regeneration—not just being outwardly pleasant to each other. For love to be genuine and spiritual, one must first confront and remove his or her personal faults,” said Dirk. “This makes room for God’s heavenly love to flow in. Since everyone can observe another person’s faults more easily than their own, we each can offer valuable insights to each other through this unflattering and uncomfortable ego-popping process.“
Seeing that Debra looked unconvinced, the minister of the church got out of his chair, walked over to his library and pulled out a special book by Emanuel Swedenborg called True Christianity and pointed to a verse which states that removing sins is the first step of love and charity. “Most people overlook this theological principle,” said the minister.
Furthermore, the minister told Debra that without making this first effort, getting hugs, affirmation and support from the other church members can actually “put the kibosh” on genuine inner growth.
“Why haven’t you explained it this way in your sermons?” questioned Debra.
“If I told this truth to the other members of the congregation they would never come back. People come to church to feel better about themselves—not to look deeply into their dirty laundry as Jesus taught. It is my duty to increase membership and attract more people to this church. People want what they want! So I create a sacred and happy place for them. Hopefully, some of them who have joined will later gravitate towards taking part in the real action of spiritual re-birth like we offer in this group.”
“Are you saying that love for one’s neighbor is wrong?” said Debra in an annoyed tone of voice.
“No, you don’t understand the real obstacles to spiritual growth and acquiring spiritual love,” replied the minister. “There is lots of love being generated by this special group. We’re just trying to make love count towards our inner transformation. We want our hidden agendas and all forms of pretense to be exposed during these meetings. What our group is doing here represents real charity to the neighbor because we are supporting each other’s spiritual futures—not simply making ‘nice-nice’ or tickling each other’s vanities and sensitivities.”