Authentic is the New Plastic

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.

“Look, I can use a triple-tiered string of profanities and be Christian.”

“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?

34 thoughts on “Authentic is the New Plastic

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  1. My mind was racing as I read this. I’ll try not to write a lengthy reply. There are many people who say they are Christians that want to share what issues they have with their husbands/wives, others at church, or even weakness they deal with – all in the name of transparency. There is a place for sharing things like that, maybe with an accountability partner or someone you trust, but to do it in the guise of helping others who are struggling too? I don’t buy it. It may make me feel more comfortable to know someone else struggles with sin, but is that the point? If I am struggling and sincerely want to overcome, I want to talk to someone who has BEEN where I was but has made it THROUGH it. Not someone who is in the same predicament.

    When the blind lead the blind….. they both fall.

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    1. I like this comment.

      I was watching a documentary the other day (Blood into Wine — which I’m sure one could watch with all its references to sex and paganism and f-bombs and still be a Christian, though my husband and I chose to turn it off, even though a lot of the content was really enthralling), and Maynard Keenan (lead singer of Tool, although I’m sure all the super-hip Christians reading this knew that already) said something to that very same effect, annoyed at the fans who want him to still be screaming and angry and feeling marginalized. He said something along the lines of, “Wouldn’t you rather see me come through that already? Wouldn’t you rather follow someone who has matured past that stage?” That has stayed with me, and I had been thinking of it in terms of Christianity and discipleship (mentoring, whatever), as well. There is a time for transparency (and I, if anything, am too transparent) and there’s a time to admit that I might not be the best teacher for a particular person, if I have the same log in my eye that they’re trying to rid themselves of.

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  2. I was raw and open before it was hip. I think people who use it for anything other than expression of their faith and story are lame.

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    1. I have been thinking about how responsible I am to those reading me or walking with me. What do they get from me that could make their walk better or easier or are they worse after an encounter with me. Thanks for reading my friend.

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    2. Lame is the word I’d use, too. It’s almost as painful to see it go down, as when you see old ladies strutting around in clothes made for teens, or grown men unbuttoning so we can see their gray chest hairs and that shiny goldish medallion. Okay, I’m not hating on the senior citizens, but you get my point. If someone’s have to obviously work so hard to appear genuine, it isn’t exactly genuine is it?

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  3. Ken, I bow down to you sir because this is pure genius. I’m a little miffed I didn’t write it myself. I have felt my skin crawl numerous times as people exclaim “I’m just being real…or authentic…or genuine” while downplaying their own blighted character or worse yet, sin.

    You said “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.”

    This is it! You summed it up here so well. It is what Paul warned us about–dangerously flirting with our freedom in Christ as some kind of pass for bad behavior. This is the struggle present in scripture, as well. There will always be the tension between the libertine and the legalistic. I desperately want to walk with the Lord somewhere in the middle.

    I love this post!! Thank you for writing it.

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    1. Thank you so much. Truth be told(haha) I had a hard time not giving instances to support my thoughts from bloggers I read and my social media circle. Boo on me I shouldn’t want to point fingers but it’s true. That’s just me being authentic.

      I want to walk in the middle too. It’s tough to identify, sometimes, where the middle of this issue is.

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  4. This post makes me think of my middle school days, when everyone was trying on whatever the latest style was (I won’t mention sebagos or parachute pants, so as not to date myself) and looking around to see what reaction they could get. Or maybe even further back in elementary school, when no matter what you do, I can do it better. So yeah, if you curse, have at it. If you like tattoos–hey, me, too. But if you’re pretending to because it’s what all the cool kids do, we see through your parachute pants and can tell you made them out of garbage bags and leftover zippers.

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  5. Man, I could have written this post. I think about this a lot.

    While I LOVE the fact that there is a move away from this “perfect life” Christianity, I do see the pendulum swinging too far the other way all too often.

    There’s a big difference in celebrating grace and celebrating sin.

    I love that as a whole, Christians want to come across as real or authentic or genuine or whatever you want to call it. It is needed. Not just to the world, but to each other. I grew up in a pretty fundamental background and there was a lot of repression of what was going on inside me. I felt like I was a terrible person for feeling some of the things I felt.

    I long for real relationships. Not just the neat and tidy ones that deal with every situation perfectly. Relationships are messy. No one likes fake.

    At the same time, we definitely need discernment. Real does not equal unfiltered. Sure I can tell my wife that she looks terrible in that dress, but that’s just not a wise way of going about it.

    Saw your comment over at Knox McCoy’s site. Glad I found your blog today!

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    1. Wow, the Tony Alicea of “Those That Remain” fame. I am honored that you read my post, I have been stalking your blog for a while. Boo on me for not commenting more.

      You have totally gotten what I am talking about here. I want those genuine relationships too. I am a little aggravated at myself now because you used the word “unfiltered” and I didn’t think of that.

      That is the perfect descriptive for this problem.

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  6. As a “writer” at ExFake and as a guy who wants his Christianity to be real beyond any other classification, you hit on some things that both intrigue and inspire me. The site we’ve started is about “authenticity” but I definitely see a tendency in the Christian sphere to use “authenticity” as a “sin tolerant” existence. The sometimes-not-so-subtle accusation is that anybody that looks good is just hiding their sin, so the authentic guys just go ahead and flaunt theirs. While I don’t by any means speak for all the guys at ExFake, I can personally say that I’m more interested in finding out what “real” means in context of Christianity than I am in wearing a mask of “authenticity” that is just as fake as the mask of superspirituality.

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    1. Thanks for the read and the comments. You have used so many good words to describe what you think of this topic. After reading some of the comments today I need to rewrite this thing. It would be so much better.

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  7. I hate the _____ is the new _____ stuff too. 🙂 I don’t care what it is. It’s never true. Great blog, Ken!

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  8. You’ve definitely shed some light on an issue the Christian world is facing right now. In my personal blog http://www.ambermichellecreations.blogspot.com, I try to be as honest and transparent as possible to not only establish a rapport with others, but to become approachable and respected. I respect those who are honest in every aspect of their life. I do agree, though, that there could be an extreme to that blatant honesty – where it becomes a front just to create a character of yourself. You shouldn’t ever stray away from the person God created you. That’s what’s important to remember.

    I’d love for you to check out FaithVillage.com, a new social network for faith experiences. We’re launching next month, and I’d love for you to be a contributor. I saw you followed us @faithvillage. You can message me your email there or @amberdobecka to find out more info. 🙂

    Thanks, Ken!

    Amber Dobecka
    FV Editorial Assistant

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    1. Thanks for the kind words. I had a few folks I use to follow on blogs and twitter that I found myself cringing at almost every time I read their content. The thought “Stop helping” kept coming to mind. No one is perfect and I surely am not. I just thought someone with around 35,000 followers should be a little more responsible.

      As for Faith Village I followed this morning and have the page loaded now to read about it. Look for the message from me.

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  9. Well yea, of course you are right. The thing is, in almost every case I see, it is so true, the New Authentic is plastic. There is a reason for this, and it is a pretty simple one. Christianity here in the west, is non functional. We do not know why it is non functional, but we inwardly know that it is completely true. What I am coming to understand is this, “God will not bless that which He did not build.” God never intended church, it was not what Jesus said He would build in Matthew chapter 16. Jesus said He would build His ekklesia, His “called out community”, not a building focused christian religion business. So you can pray and plead and do anything you want, but God is not, and will not bless church based Christianity.

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    1. While I agree with several things you say here, I honestly can not limit the “over-active authenticity” that I was referring to just to the traditional/institutional church. It seems the “cool kid” syndrome has permeated the Christian community at large. I also wouldn’t limit the dysfunction to the West. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  10. I just saw this posting on the side. The one thing that strikes me is the irony that in being too transparent, we are following the worldly pattern. Fifty years ago, for all we know politicians didn’t lie, presidents were faithful to their wives and movie stars were always glamorous and we knew nothing of their intimate details. Now, we are in a time where we are constantly bombarded with TMI thanks to a glut of reporters and social media. So really, Christians are not breaking the pattern of the world but following it.

    I think the main reason we should share is to have people praying for us to overcome and I believe that no problem is too small for prayer.

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  11. Solid stuff. I think this is one of the many things that is a tension to be held and not a problem to be solved. It’s not black or white. For too long Christians were fake for fear of being judged. Now it’s swung the other way and we are authentic but not really changing to become more like Jesus. We need to share our struggles but lets also share how great God is and how He’s making us more like Him. Great stuff as always!

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    1. Thanks for the good words, Rob. The thing that prompted me to write this post was the general sense of relishing our “freedom,” almost flaunting it and not appearing any different. If Christ made no difference in our lives then what’s the point. I ended up unfollowing a few folks on social media because of their blatant “look what I can do” attitude just irritated me so. Thanks for the comments.

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