March 13, 2008

What does "authentic" mean?

That word has been stalking me through dark alleys this week. First it's in our pastor's sermon. Then it starts popping out of doorways as I walk past. It's a word that's worth some thought though. I think our pastor put it well when he said that authentic people are people who know who they are. An authentic person isn't easily threatened by other people's difference or overly concerned what other people think. They are secure enough to not need a whole bunch of people who look like them in order to validate who they are, but somehow I'm not so sure that's how the word is always used. Can you be authentic if you wear a vintage style jeans from Kohls instead of trying on six million pairs of jeans at the thrift store (should you be lucky enough to live near one)? The impression I get is no. Here's another thing I don't get. It's cool to wear old t-shirts from highschools on the other side of the country or places you haven't the faintest desire to see (correct me if I'm wrong -I'm so not down or up or diagonal on cool. Never really was), but when I wear my old Carlsbad Cavern tshirt (a place I've actually been to twice) I don't even feel remotely cool. It's authentic in a way. Been there, done that, bought the shirt. Am I cool and don't know it? Hmmmm. This is getting sidetracked. I didn't really want to talk about shirts.

It's just that there are some people who sweat authentic(TM) -mostly philosophy/art majors and the people who hang out with them. They read books like Blue Like Jazz and know how to make pop culture references. I read Blue Like Jazz but way after everyone else did, and I can't say that it radically changed the way I think about Christianity. Putting the Amazing Back into Grace and Evangelism and the Soveriegnty of God did that for me, but they're just good books and aren't "on the cutting edge of a post-modern Christian culture" or whatever gritty Christian books are supposed to be. Don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking the book. It's really good for us to examine our assumptions from time to time and have our eyes opened to our blind spots. I guess the question I want to ask is this: Can the housewife that I am (with all that I am) ever be authentic? According to our pastor's definition I'd say absolutely see you when I get there. Culturally I'm not to sure. I don't even know if I could do that with the "authentic" Christians -some of whom I'd like to question as to whether they are really authentic, genuine people comfortable in their skins or whether they (like so many of us) have merely found another group with a more palatable brand of patter to validate their cultural preferences. I'm betting there's a few, and if anyone says otherwise I just might point and laugh (unless that's not an authentic thing to do). For those of you who just happen to be really awesomely authentic people who love shopping at Goodwill and aren't threatened by someone who buys knock-off vintage off the discount rack at Kohl's, I say wait up and give me a chance. I want to be comfortable enough with my non beer drinking, thrift store shopping, housewifely awesome, scatterbrained self to really meet you face to face. It's slow, but I'm getting there.

When you think about it, for Christian, the one thing that's deeper than anything is the reality of God's love for us. We can be authentic about how sinful we are, because it's just so amazingly obvious that we contintually are failing God, hurting others, neglecting our duties, and generally makes a collosal mess. That's sort of 2am theology for me sometimes. I think the harder thing for us to be real about is the amazing blessed abundance of God's love. I know I certainly can't hardly grasp it in more than a general "I affirm what the Bible says way." But I sincerely think that's the best way to be really, really real.I don't want my sin to be realer than God's love. I want my authenticity to be flavored more by a blissful realization of God's love than by a haunting feeling of my own inadaquacy. Of course to understand God's love is to understand the price He paid to bring us into fellowship with Him. I don't plan to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Ideally the two would be in perfect balance, each informing and moderating the other, but if I err let me err on the side of love.

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