Forty is the new Thirty or Twenty. Red hair is the new Blond. The Twilight series is the new, um, help me out–What used to be the gold standard for stuff that sucks? Maybe Twilight is the new Port-a-John at a July chili cook-off. Being that I am 41, it’s great for me that fifty is the new thirty for men. (Pop culturally speaking I’m just 21 right now. WooHoo!) To be honest, I hate the _____ is the new _____ phraseology. It kinda grates on me.
Some time back we recognized that God’s brand was getting smashed in the marketplace. In an effort to fortify God’s PR and to reach out to the non-Christians, a movement of truth has taken root in the Christian world–a movement based in confession and a desire to show that Christians are just people. I think it was meant to keep God from looking so Vanilla Ice (Milli Vanilli, Jessica Simpson…add your own celebrity poser).
It is structured to make Christians seem more approachable. With this new accessibility, the goal is to disciple people while still in the “process” of walking with Christ. No need to be perfect in order to reach out to others, in fact, your imperfections may help. I share how I may be failing in an area and you can see that I’m just like you. You come to trust me, and then I have a much better chance of sharing Jesus with you. It has become fashionable of late to be “real” in Christian circles.
“Authentic” is the catch phrase or word, followed closely by “genuine”. The hot new model of ministry is to be transparent. Pastors have forsaken their suits and ties for the graphic T-shirt and pre-aged jeans to look genuine. Worship music has taken a turn from the traditional hymn to the unplugged acoustic hippie set or to the electric distortion rock anthem, to sound heartfelt. The steepled sanctuary was sidelined in favor of the abandoned night club or warehouse, to offer a neutral, friendly meeting spot. (These are stylistic and I don’t care about them.)
As the entity of church tosses off pretention, it is only reflecting the move to transparency of the Christians themselves. Christians from all walks of life are sharing their successes as well as their failures. It is refreshing to find that I’m not the only jacked-up joker trying to do this walk-with-Jesus thing. We could all benefit from finding out that others struggle and that it’s hard sometimes.
So why is Authentic the new Plastic?
Because Authenticity has become the altar that we bow at. The need to tell every sordid detail of our Christian failures and present them in 3D, hi-definition clarity is paramount. We want the world to know exactly how liberating a life in Christ can be. It appears so freeing that one can scarcely tell the difference between life before Christ and life after Christ.
“No, no, over here, I can drink alcohol and be a Christian.”
“Well, I’m gay and I follow Jesus.”
“Look, I think God is ok with tattoos.”
“Oh yeah, well I can drink LOTS of alcohol and have Bible study in a brewery and be Christian.”
I am making no judgments about any of the above statements. I have opinions on some of them but this isn’t that post.
Authenticity has become the latest genre of one-upmanship. It’s a cash grab on the currency of readership and validation. I question the wisdom in a blog post or a tweet that embellishes, or worse venerates, Christian failing while thinly veiling it in a veneer of authenticity. Make no mistake I don’t think the “sin and hide it” method from before is the right balance either, but should we revel in our shortcomings? Confession is biblical. Celebrating our inconsistencies is not the same. Overtly free grace = a weak God.
This is NOT a bid for legalism.
It is a plea for Discretion. It is a frank opinion on how we damage God’s character that we present to others.
Let’s continue to tell our stories of screwing up big-time ’cause sometimes I need to know there’s hope for me. However, let’s not make our Christianity the new reality show.
Is Authentic the new Plastic? Do we really need to share so much detail? Are you motivated to enhance your stories to gain street cred or readers?