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Hans Christian Andersen's delightful story The Emperor's New Clothes tells of a country where everyone (including the king himself) agrees that they can see the king's clothes (when he actually is wearing nothing) because some clever crooks have told them that anyone who cannot see the magical clothes is unworthy of their position in the kingdom.

It shows how people in every culture pretend to believe things they have never really experienced. School children try to convince their peers that they are popular or cool. The rich boast of their 'hard earned' wealth. And the rest of us try to keep up with the Joneses.

From birth we are pressured to conform. Few of us are strong enough to question norms or to say what we really think. We are too afraid of what others think.

This subtle fear and the dishonesty it creates permeates our whole personality. Rather than change, most of us justify it and even become self-righteous about it.

The sum total of all this fear and dishonesty in society characterises what we Jesus Christians call the "system". The evil in our society is not just drug dealers and porn peddlers. We need to question the kind of forces that make us "proud to be Australian"; that make us ashamed to wear unfashionable clothes; that make us feel guilty for having more than two children.

Jesus Christ was not afraid of the system. As a consequence, the system hated and eventually killed him. He said that anyone who follows him will face the same opposition. So if we cling to a hope of eventually becoming popular, we are defeated before we start.

There is a great spiritual battle between the "prince of this world" and the King of kings, and we need the simple, honest faith of a child to speak the truth without fear of public opinion.

A Christian once said, "I do not want to be popular in a world that has rejected my Lord." Are you prepared to confront your fears of what people think in order to find real truth?

(See also The Social Conscience Part 1.)

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