Tuesday, November 13, 2007

a little more on authenticity

i've recently read david kinnaman's book "unchristian"

it's a fine book and i recommend it to anyone curious about the latent attitudes of american christians in the early 21st century; but my real interest in the book was more in his sidebar commentary on those within the church, than those outside of it

in one section [pp.56f] he talks about the hallmarks of authenticity, noting especially that "even transparent people have boundaries"

here are my cliff notes on his opinion:

1. there are situations in which caution makes sense
being transparent and authentic requires real balance
authenticity is not synonymous with graphic detail

2. the basis of authenticity is scripture's clear teaching that we do not attain perfection in this life
the adage 'christians aren't perfect, just forgive' is a cop out
we can never prove our worth, we are deeply fractured
our gratitude to god ought to produce the effort to please him

3. the motivation of transparency is important
it's not about being candid or blunt [this is just self-centeredness]
it's not about shock value or personal entitlement to express your true
our candidness should be motivated by a desire to please god

4. the outcome of our transparency should be restoration
it should produce more of what god wants in our lives

kinnaman does a great job of laying this stuff out in ways that make sense, and it leaves us all with some questions:

when, and with whom, is it appropriate to share my deepest and darkest secrets? could those ever be hurtful to someone?

am i using my brokenness as permission to disregard the commands of scripture to live well?

am i being truly persuing authenticity? or just looking to out-do the others around me with a glorification of my flaws?

am i being transparent because it feels good? or because i'm hoping that sharing my own pain and experiences will bring comfort and act as a conduit for the spirit of god to other people?


...this is a big word within spiritual circles, particularly within the last 15 years.

what i love about this word is the accompanying recognition that we're all flawed
all broken
all imperfect
all on a spiritual journey of discovery, healing, and progressive wholeness

but i hate that the word has often been diminished into a license to do/say whatever we want

instead of being a word that ascribes values to transparency and honesty
it's become a word that allows people to be thoughtless and unkind
selfish and ignorant
all in the name of being 'true to themselves'

the word 'authenticity' actually has the same root ['aut'] as the word 'autumn'

autumn means to bring to harvest the earth’s increase: the ripening of crops, the ripening of identity.

the “autumn” of life should mark the coming to maturity of sun-ripened character and being.

“authentic” literally means “by one’s hand:” something not copied, but created as an original

in fact, every relic is supposed to carry with it what are known as “authentics:” little handwritten slips of parchment that identify the origin of and establish as genuine these holy relics.

we're being authentic, truly, when we offer our energies to one another
for mutual enjoyment and benefit
aware of their limitations
but not parading their flaws as a badge of honor

we're being authentic when we share our hurts openly with one another
it's the fragility here that makes it 'real'
not the accompanying bitterness we often enjoy spewing

we're being authentic when we critique the varied manifestations of christianity
in love, with the intent to be greater formed into the image of god
and recognize that we're also - somehow - critiquing our own flaws
not when we ruthlessly scrutinize churches to point out how irrelevant, hypocritical, out-of-date, unexcellent, and inconsistent they can be

authenticity is about the subtle and frail truths of who we are struggling to become
and what often prohibits us from becoming

it is a value that honors the development of each person
and draws attention to the struggle and formation of each soul

but it does not glorify the struggle beyond the desire
nor elevate the heartache above the spirit

whenever we romanticize the negative things of ourselves and our world
we only further alienate the beauty that god is trying to grow within us

you can only be in love with one thing
and you can only serve one thing

will it be Him?
or the counterfeit safety of struggling to find Him?

Friday, November 02, 2007

types and hypotheticals

i've noticed a real weakness on my part

the weakness is the difference between my actual self and my mental self
you see, mentally i'm a much better person than i actually am in real life
i imagine myself living better
i always hold my tongue [in my mind]
i rarely hurt others [again, in my mind]
and i'm totally committed to the way of love [once again, IMM]

but in real life
i'm nowhere close to these nobilities.

i think my problem is that i find it easier to love certain types of people when i can think about them safely from a distance, instead of actually being forced to talk with them.

i think i'm more generous with people of other faiths, other sexual orientations, other belief systems in my mind than i ever am in real life.

when i think of these types of people
i'm really only thinking of hypothetical examples
not real circumstances

in my hypothetical mind
i love everyone and genuinely cherish they individuality and perspective on life
i listen well
and try to find common ground

now, to be fair, i really do want to do these things
i even think they're the things christ wants us all to do and do my best to teach and advocate

but in real life

i typically just ignore people that bother me

i'm more likely to just walk away than pick a fight
but i find myself walking away more and more and more
instead of fighting
or even arguing
or even disagreeing
or even having an opinion
or even talking

which scares me

if i'm totally honest,
i know i'm actually retreating from encounters with real people [versus types and hypothetical people] more frequently because i'm exhausted, discouraged, and trying desperately hard to protect the world from my irritability.

but i think i'm learning that even though i'm not at my best
or even close
there is still an obligation on me to try and love the world more comprehensively
if i'm serious about following jesus.

dingos stole my baby

coming up with original theological reflections is like trying to make a superman movie that doesn't suck.

everyone grew up with superman
knows who he and is what he stands for
feels a sense of iconic connection to him
wants to see more of him
but also knows that superman - in the way he's always been viewed - seems oddly out of place in our modern world

the perceived need on the part of filmmakers to try and reinvent superman
[or batman, or spiderman, etc...]
which they often do poorly

but - if one of them ever does superman well - it is a crowning achievement

this is like theology

we all know and love jesus
we understand what it means to be saved
we know that our spiritual lives are in constant evolution as we increasingly try and give ourselves over to the spirit

but we need new ways to articulate these things in order for them to stay fresh in our minds, in our ambitions, etc...

so, when you [as a pastor, theologian, etc...] finally find a way to say some of these things that is new, original, fresh, etc... it feels like a major achievement

particularly, if you're someone like me
you know, unfamous, unwealthy, unknown

it's like giving birth

you labor and labor to come up with meaningful ways to say meaningful things
striking out more than making it to first [feeling comfortable with mixing metaphors along the way]
but finally having some kind of theological brain child that you can be proud of

you might work for years before you came up with one thought that really felt like it was yours and yours alone and that it actually helped someone

so...given that
imagine my sense of hurt and confusion when [twice in the last month] i've seen two of my children being touted around by their theological foster parents.

once on a blog
and once in a transcription from a pastor's conference
[and one, lesser, time where i read an article that looked disturbingly similar to the materials i presented in doxa]
i found my children being claimed by someone else

i won't bore you with the details
because they're likely to seem small to you
and this isn't really the place to "make my argument" for copyright or license etc...

this is just the place for me to air my grievance
[is it festivus already?]

it's funny
i'm not typically concerned with getting credit for things
i'm more concerned with things simply being done for the kingdom

but it feels very different when someone takes your work and the credit for your work
and passes it off as their own

it's just plain dirty.