The church was dressed in the banner, “Community of Love,” and the sermon was exquisitely crafted. She argued in favor of the need for integrity. Our insides had to match our outsides - what we say and do. Anything less is hypocrisy, and it can be smelled for miles.
How to achieve integrity? This is where things got a bit fuzzy. The preacher admitted that she didn’t always carry herself with integrity. Sometimes, the image that she was presenting to the world didn’t match the internal substance, but this dissonance is just an unavoidable product of the complexities of the age.
However, she did finish her sermon with some admonitions about acquiring integrity – walk in the rain, feel the wind and even taste some soil.
Perhaps it was only me, but I found something lacking and wondered if others sensed as much. I approached some of the congregants as winsomely as I could, although I’m sure that others would have performed much better than me.
After assuring them that I really was very impressed with the sermon – and perhaps this was somewhat lacking in integrity – I asked if they were satisfied with the pastor’s final admonition? However, they seemed to be a bit confused by my question, and so I spelled it out:
- By advising people to merely feel the wind and the rain, even though she just meant this poetically, do you feel that she was able to give the congregants something that they needed?
The first two gentlemen were evidently not intrigued by my question and promptly excused themselves. The third gentleman was more patient. He explained that she was trying to be a peace-maker, rather than instructing people what they had to do. Perhaps, puzzled by m question, he asked about my religious background, since I clearly wasn’t a Unitarian.
I explained that I am a Christian, although I had been raised Jewish. I was hoping that he would have asked me for my testimony, but instead he asked, “What type of Christian are you?”
I didn’t want to be overly provocative by answering with that despised term, “Fundamentalist,” and so I answered, “Evangelical.” I went on to explain:
- It is so true, as the pastor had preached, that integrity is so elusive. There are just so many things pulling upon us – so many psychological forces that prey upon us.
He nodded approvingly. I wrongly took this as encouragement to continue:
- Integrity had been completely unreachable for me for many years. I so desperately needed the approval of others that I could not longer distinguish façade from the reality of who I was. It was only through the assurance of the love and forgiveness I have found through Jesus the Messiah that I have been able to accept the truth about myself – that I am not the deserving person that I had tried to believe that I was.
The gentleman cut me off:
- Although I can respect the fact that this has worked for you, everyone you see here is unable to accept this answer, and you can’t expect them to!
I wanted to explain that some realities are just so forceful and pervasive that we aren’t free to choose our own ways. Instead of inventing another more congenial way, we have to conform to that one reality. Like\wise, we are not free to re-envision the laws of physics to suit ourselves. Instead, we have to conform to them. We can’t jump off of a building, expecting that gravity is going to conform to our tastes. Instead, we have to conform to the workings of gravity.
However, with a good-bye touch to my shoulder, he too was gone, and I also left the church, passing the “community of love” banner. I guess it was "just an unavoidable product of the complexities of the age.”