Oh, get a grip! Of course I didn’t mean to imply all groups in all churches are full of vice and dissension and we should just let them get on with their own journey to Hell. Would that it were so. No, no, no – you must remember that churches are also full of saints, and saints-in-the-making, each of which can have a pernicious effect on the rest of any group they are in. Any church is a danger to us. Any church group is a threat to Our Leader’s great and glorious plan. You see, in any group at all (not just church groups but professional, social and familial groups) which contains a single servant of the Enemy there is a whiff of h-----. The others may not feel it directly, but they will be influenced it. This rot-filled individual does not even have to do or say anything specific: just by being there, they bring the Enemy into the circle. Sometimes with disastrous effect. Now, in a church group you can multiply that whiff of h----- by the number of people who have committed their lives to the Enemy. The impact of this is an appalling volatility. Despite all our careful planning and preparation, dreadful things can happen without warning.
Let me give you an example. A skilled but junior tempter I was once mentoring, was caring for a patient whose primary driver was power over others. He wasn’t aware of this, of course – we’d taken care to develop in him what he saw as an almost impregnable sense of justice and righteousness. In other words, he thought he was saving the world, when in fact all he was trying to do was establish his control over those around him, and extend his sphere of power. What fun we had working with him! He had no difficulty at all in saying, in that prayer they’re all so keen on, “Thy will be done” because he saw his will as being indistinguishable from what he called g--. Which it was, because he had invented that god, unbeknownst to him, in his own image. For years, even though he was an active and influential member of a church, we had him well in hand, and he was a wonderfully destructive force in his community.
Then he joined one of these small, church groups. He joined for quite innocent and admirable reasons: because there were members of this group who he wanted to bring under his influence. We weren’t even worried. And then one day, in this group, almost as if a light had been shone on his soul, he saw what he was. That appalling whiff of You Know What, which reeked out of the saints around him in that group, had undone years of fine work on our part. We never got him back. It was a terrible tragedy. And his act of repentance had a profound effect on others, and the ripples of his revelation were felt through that community like an earthquake. Soul after soul escaped our grasp. I lost a fine tempter because of that group. Let that be a warning to you.
Now, sadly, to your dossier. I have to say it looks bad. We have much to concern us here. She has joined a bible study, which means she will be directly exposed to the Enemy and his teaching. And what’s more, she was invited to join this bible study by someone she genuinely admires and likes – not by someone she sees as useful to her career, or someone she envies and resents, or someone she feels patronising about. And this person is, I’m appalled to say, someone who is deeply immersed in the Enemy camp. What were you thinking of in letting her sit next to this woman on Sunday? She’s flattered to have been invited to join, and excitedly sees this as a step toward becoming more immersed in the church community – and yet not in such a way that she feels she’s been invited to join an inner sanctum of power.
And when I look at who is in this group, my heart sinks. The whole group stinks of smugness and righteousness and charity and faith. They enjoy one another’s company but they don’t form a clique. They laugh at each other’s jokes, but they don’t laugh at other people. They are more educated and dedicated than their pastor, but they honour his authority. They work hard – but they also find a way to work for the church. They are – well, words fail me. Of course, it must all be a con at some level. They must all be taking secret advantage of one another somehow. But we cannot yet see how. It will be our first priority, Blankweed, to figure out what they’re really up to.
What, then, to do? Our first priority is clear and simply, we must stop her from actually getting there. She has many other demands on her life, and other priorities. Can you arrange for her to be offered new responsibilities at work, which would require her to work at home in the evenings, without her reflecting on whether this will impede her ability to attend this group? You also need to stop her from even entertaining the question of whether attending this group might be more important than professional advancement.
The Enemy, of course, will try to draw this to her attention, but with enough distraction from you, and subtle hints about the importance of this new work, we should be able to counter him. I suggest this work strategy because she’s ambitious professionally, and subject to flattery, so she might easily be distracted in this way. If she’s working at night, she’ll have less time to spend with her family and husband, so she’s likely to feel guilty about leaving them for another evening each week. Even without the extra work, can we work with her husband’s tempter to stir up opposition in him about this group? He might be persuaded to feel slighted, or jealous, or excluded. Use the pressures and conflicts of her ordinary life to make attendance too difficult.
If you can’t stop her from getting there, then we need to work on her feelings while she’s there. Now, I can give you broad advice here, but it’s really up to you to think on your feet and use the material that presents itself on a minute-by-minute basis. The key is to pay attention, Blankweed. Every thought that flickers across her mind must be instantly analysed and taken advantage of where possible. She will feel anxious and socially inept: these people are in so many ways her superiors that she will feel out of place. And her awareness of their superiority will make her feel insecure. Can you persuade her that these are not really her sort of people? That she’s out of her depth? They will be kind to her: can you make her think they’re not kind but patronising? They all know each other well and have many ‘in’ jokes and shared references that she cannot as yet share. Can you make her feel there is no way in and it’s a waste of time trying. Especially when she’s so very tired. Humans are always tired, Blankweed – remind her of how demanding and chaotic her life is. Does she really need to make effort in the evening after a hard day at work?
tempt her to unkindness....And when she gets home and the house is a mess, or she still has to start preparations for the next day, and her husband is lying on the couch watching a trashy movie, can you tempt her to anger and self-pity and unkindness? Of course you can! Get to it. Pay attention, remember your lessons, and enjoy the mayhem.
Your affectionate friend