The Emporer’s new clothes

4 08 2012

This story is based on “The Emperor’s New Clothes, a short tale by Hans Christian Andersen about two weavers who promise an Emperor a new suit of clothes that is invisible to those unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

Once upon a time there was a king. He was king over the vast kingdom of Ecclesiastica. This king was known far and wide for his vain delight in royal vestments. Aware of his propensity to lust after the ego-satisfying need-fulfilment of “pomp and circumstance,” two enterprising con-artists offered to stitch for him some royal finery “fit for a king.”

They explained that their product was so extraordinary and supernatural that it was visible only to the elite and knowledgeble, and invisible to those who “did not have eyes to see.” “Take my order,” begged the king. “Money is no object!” The king’s assistants in charge of “quality control” did not want to appear ignorant, unenlightened or unspiritual, so they went along with the con-game. They gushed with praise for the non-existent garments. “Beautiful!” “Inspiring!” “Moving!” The citizens of the kingdom determined that it was in their best interest to “play the game” also. They, too, extolled the features of the fanciful and farcical finery.

Pompous pride outweighed practicality, prompting the king to organize a parade through the aisles of the kingdom. All the subjects were cowed by fear into saying nothing about the absence of clothing. They only repeated pious platitudes of respect for royalty. But one young child had not been “cued” for the pretence. When the king passed by him the child exclaimed, “The King doesn’t have any clothes on!” They attempted to “shush” him, but the unspeakable had been spoken and even and even and everyone knew.

Despite the exposure, the king continued to play out the charade, declaring, “The procession must continue.” With all due respect to Hans Christian Andersen and his germinal thought in the fairy-tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” the  retelling and adaptation of the story reveals much about the state of ecclesiasticism today. The church is caught up vested interests and in “pomp and circumstance.” Rather than being “clothed in righteousness,” the church is naked in its hypocrisy.

Everyone is joining in the co-dependent denial of “I’m OK; you’re OK!” They are living a lie of dependent denial of self-delusion, and such behaviour creates a fraudulent society of dysfunctional socialization. Fear of ostracism and racism and reprisal compels everyone to “play the game” and say nothing. Should anyone be inclined to speak out, the damper of social consensus for the maintenance of the status-quo is applied. Criticism is out of order: “Don’t touch the Lord’s anointed” (I Chronicles 16:22).

Christians tend to see in their church whatever they want to see. It takes the innocence of a child, the “mouth of a babe,” or the intrepidity of a prophet to speak out and reveal the pretence. The world around us already sees our nakedness, our lack of substance, as we parade our pompous piety. To continue the procession after the illusion of “being clothed and in our right mind” has been revealed, is fraudulent delusion enacted by a “deluding influence” (II Thessalonians 2:11).

Jesus, Himself, said to one portion of His Church, “You are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:17). He who has eyes to see and “ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:22).