There we were, all dressed up and appropriately suited. A large crowd was gathered. The music was playing. The lights were bright and glowing. Faces were radiant.
Everyone was just like me and I like them. Everyone dressed and acting the same. We truly did fit together. We all seemed to be anxious for the show to begin! It would not be long now. Anticipating a great performance, we had all packed in to find our favorite seats beside the people we knew best!
The curtain fell and the show began. How captivated we were seeing the actors play their parts with such magnificence. Speaking with such eloquence, they mesmerized us and rendered us awestruck at their performance. There was much applause and joyful outburst from those of us who looked on.
There were many actors on this stage, most of which had played parts for many years. Those who had acted the longest had passed along their skills to the next generation of actors. They were mirror images of their teachers. Most young actors even maintained the same gestures and language.
In this moment I looked and saw one of the lead actors trip and fall. Upon looking closer I saw that this actor had been wearing a mask. His mask was shattered! I had not even realized that it was a mask for it looked so real. Picking up the pieces of his former disguise he revealed his true face. Unlike the happy façade that his mask created, his face was weary and worn. He looked as if he was not pleased about loosing his mask. It seemed as if his security was in the character he was playing. After the actor had lost his mask, he demanded that they get him a new mask that would not break so easily. After all, the show must go on.
No more than a few minutes later a young actress forgot her lines. All the practicing to be perfect had not helped her. It was performance time and she could not perform. Those of us watching were angered that someone could mess up this masterpiece so greatly. The crowd began to scoff and belittle the actress who had not fit the part that she was placed in. In such a perfect place with such perfect actors this was unacceptable. As she was being mocked she quietly took off her mask and revealed her hurting face. The young actress never acted again. In fact she dropped out of performing all together.
I began to have a feeling of disgust in my soul. Something was wrong. I did not know what it was or why I was having these feelings. I just knew this was not how it was supposed to be. How could it be that the actors could treat two of their own this way? Could the level of perfection that they expected be attained? And why the masks? Could not the actors use their own faces and personalities to make this performance creative and real? Why was the actor who had fallen been so afraid of loosing his mask? Was he told to hide or did he choose it for himself? Who was the director of this masquerade? Was he or she masked as well? Was one mistake worth all the ridicule that the well meaning young actress had received? And why had she taken off her mask before leaving the stage? Had she hidden long enough? So many questions with no answer seeming to do justice. Suddenly the performance had lost its appeal.
In a moment of reflection I came to a startling realization. I had become so enthralled by the perfection and charisma of the performance that I myself had put on a mask. Not only had I joined this sickening masquerade, but all of the others had as well! The picture had now become clear. I came to see a performance, but it was a trick. These lead actors had swindled us in to performing for them! We were the show and none of us had known it!
These leaders had made us into their image and had stepped back and watched their masterpiece come together. They had made their art manipulation and control. They had perfected this art through restriction and regulation. They had made us wear masks because they were ashamed of their true selves. They maintained a façade of perfection and made it an unrealistic expectation. They could only control what they knew. Instead of personality and creativity they had advocated conformity with masks and costumes.
I sat in disbelief and utter antipathy for the remainder of this presentation. I felt as though I was the only one who had such an aversion to their behavior. At the conclusion of the act the lead had returned to the stage for one last speech. He proceeded to invite those who so desired to come forward and join the act. There were other actors in front that were assigned to assist those who came forward with new masks and costumes. To make things worse people actually responded to this invitation. They flocked forward and received a manual, mask and costume. All they were asked to contribute was a weekly donation to the cause. Their contribution would be used to make the show bigger and better each week.
At the conclusion of the act I tried to tell as many as I could what I had learned. Not only did they not listen, they also told me that I was out of my mind. They were so caught up in this routine that they could not notice. They had always come to this show and they would continue to come. It would remain static and never veer to far from what it was.
As I was leaving this great performance hall an usher approached me and stated, "We hope you enjoyed the show today, and we look forward to seeing you in church next week…