The Dark Side of Small Group
My dear Globdrop,
I noticed in your last letter that you have been trying to separate the rodent from his little pack with whom he does “accountability.” Your reasoning, although sophomoric, tends toward rational thought. Men and women, walking together in that unbearable “light,” tend to be just beyond our dagger’s reach. Often an entire month’s work is undermined by the Enemy dragging the patients out of our shadows through the intervention of one of his fellow vermin.
But in your case, this would be an amateur mistake. Luckily you do not have an ordinary Tempter as your mentor. Even his little “band of brothers” can be used to our advantage. That which to this point has prevented habitual sin we shall now use to reinforce it. This, dear nephew, is delicious deceit! Let me explain.
Your patient, like most males, goes to an accountability group where the dominant struggle is lust. (If it were a group of the female sex, it would likely be anxiety.) What each means by confessing “lust” is largely unknown, but surely it involves some genre of pornography or sexual fantasy, if not outright illicit intercourse.
Now, if you have referred to the registry, you’ll know that, unlike his fellows, your patient alone makes real strides toward holiness (you have obviously failed to convince him that such sanctity is an absolute bore). But he is outnumbered, and this, my dear Globdrop, is the perfect petri dish to allow the bacteria to grow. Observe.
“When one by one they confess their inevitable ‘fall,’ they coddle one another, because each desires the same leniency.”
Although undetectable to you, the process of spreading the disease to your patient has already begun — vice does infect more rapidly than virtue cures. Through months of confession in his so-called accountability group, our patient has ever so slowly learned that struggling with this sin isn’t really that bad. Of course, no one has said it aloud, but what they never speak with words, they profess weekly with their lives. Every other week, when one by one they confess their inevitable “fall,” they coddle one another, because, as it is easy to deduce, each desires the same leniency when it comes time for him to share.
This is the maxim you must remember: Where everyone is guilty, no one is. No zeal for rebuking lust or anxiety or any other habitual sin can exist when the would-be rebuker indulges in it himself. If one man consistently shoots himself in the foot, disable him from exhorting his comrade to avoid the same injury! (If any has a flash of courage to love his brother above himself, bring the word hypocrite to his mind, and it should extinguish the resolve.) Keep the hug-fest going! Inevitably, this will wear on his defenses, and he will learn that toiling for self-control may be unnecessary after all.
So, encourage him to attend.
This group consists of scarecrows for target practice — of which we want your man to become. They are delicious men of the “maybe tomorrow” and “most definitely next week.” Nephew, do not fear these men. Despite what they believe to be their good intentions, they unwittingly work for us.
They actually operate by an unspoken pact not to pursue the Enemy (in real time and space) nor to take up arms in any actual battle. This invisible pact reveals itself whenever they use one of our favorite words: legalist.
Notice your man — there he sits. One after another the others confess their falls — same old, same old. As Job’s friends counsel each other, notice how your man sits as if castrated. He hears resolves and advice — none of it necessarily false — but he can’t quite discern why all of it reeks of such weakness and frailty.
Well, we know, don’t we? Generality! Few things provide comedic relief in this somber life more than general platitudes thrown around a room for accountability. “Read the Bible more.” “Don’t visit the girl.” “Pray without ceasing!” They stand in the heat of battle and cry, “Shoot your pistol!” “Aim your rifle!” “Win the battle!” Children playing with squirt guns talk this way; men at war do not.
Behold the brilliance: They cannot strategize specifics because of that word: legalism.
Your man grows silent and inactive because to take up his sword and actually fight back would awaken accusations of legalism. He cannot shoot back because legalism makes this a gun-free zone (at least for the humans). As the others amuse themselves, he cannot suggest they load their weapons with real bullets through particular instructions, because to use real artillery to fire at real enemies is, in their muddled minds, loathsome works-based Christianity.
Your task, then, is to continue to confuse them into thinking that sweating in the trenches, training for the warfare — indeed, fighting itself — is contrary to everything that the Enemy expects of them. Make them pacifists concerning the war for their souls. Let them say, “Peace, peace” to one another as we sharpen our spears and aim our darts.
“Do not allow any of them to suggest specifics, for this would lead to planning, and — in the worst case — to discipline.”
Globdrop, it is imperative that you not allow any of them to suggest specifics, for this would lead to planning, and — in the worst case — to discipline.
Maintain this confusion, at all costs.
Let them pet each other: Read your Bible. Pray without ceasing. Don’t visit that girl. Never allow them to play the real soldier. “Read your Bible these next two weeks for at least forty minutes a day.” “Pray without ceasing, especially before work for twenty minutes and twenty minutes before bed.” “Don’t visit that girl whatsoever; don’t even go near the door of her house — we’ll ask you about it throughout the week.”
And if they ever do, cry, Legalism!
Your concerned but expectant Uncle,