What do you do when the emperor has no clothes?


the emperor has no clothes!

If the emperor has no clothes, get him some, quick!

J and I are reading a fascinating book right now, The Big Short, which gives an inside look into how the US markets collapsed, who saw it coming, and how they profited from it.

All of the nay-sayers in Michael Lewis’ fabulous yarn of our run-up and crash lives somewhere between “quirky” (my husband’s kind word) and “rude” (the author’s). He describes people who leave a meeting to go to the bathroom and never return; whose mouth hangs half open at all times as if an important idea might pop out at any moment, like bubble gum from a vending machine.

How could it be that such misfits would be the ones who figured out exactly how the subprime mortgage was going to collapse the economy while Wall Street was briskly walking into its glass towers and continuing to build what one of those misfits would call “the engines of doom”?

Could it be that it takes a misfit to admit that the emperor has no clothes? To dare to say it out loud? And – in the case of this little pack of misfits – to make bets that eventually the emperor’s pale pink flesh would become so sunburnt that he wouldn’t be able to sit down for a right long time?

Most Christians would be pretty offended if I called them misfits. A lot of people wouldn’t have problems assigning us that kind of label. They might qualify it with a few choice adjectives: prissy, priggish, pushy about our faith, hypocritical in our lifestyle.

But for all of the sanctimonious certainty many of us project, Christians really aren’t certain about all that much. We know that:

  • God started it all.
  • God ends it all.
  • God wins.

What comes in between we mostly find out as it happens. But it’s not filler, any more than the plot and characters of great novel are filler between the covers.

God gave us this world to take care of. Because evil runs rampant here, God expects us to be misfits in this world. Not necessarily the kind of misfit that acts rudely, although goodness knows, the Bible shows us more than a fair share of those – from the priest Hosea, who broke the Jewish rules and married a prostitute, to Peter, who always seemed to have at least one foot in his mouth, to Mary, who got pregnant before she was married.

What God expects us to be is the kind of people who don’t fit into evil surroundings, evil doings, evil plans, evil purposes. And God has urged us to be as “wise (shrewd) as snakes” in recognizing evil and as “harmless as doves” among evil-doers (Matthew 10: 16).

That means we should be the kind of misfits who can tell when the emperor’s hinie is getting sunburned. And who bring him something to wear, for God’s sake.

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About Carlene Byron

Writer, editor, publicist, communications project manager ... I've written technology and infrastructure; I used to edit New England Church Life and The New England Christian and I've freelanced to publications ranging from Commonweal to Christianity Today. I'm now living in my hometown in Maine and am speaking about global perspectives on suicide prevention.
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