Tuesday, May 8, 2007


i recently read an article in fast company magazine about how big brands are fighting hard to "stay true" their ethos/identity.

it seems that companies like starbucks and hagen daas are finding it increasingly difficult to be unique in a world so full of imitators.

the article, of course, reminds me of all the funny conversations we have in the emerging church about authenticity - and i thought i might take a few lines here to delineate the dangers of that kind of orientation

one may be that we're not truly honest about things that are wrong - using, instead, authenticity as a kind of insulation against recognizing our sinfulness. for example, many times i've heard people say brutally horrible things to one another under the guise of "just being authentic and/or transparent", as if our truthfulness to ourselves should somehow excuse our willful harm to another.

another danger of the way we conceptualize authenticity is the way in which we seem to decry everything that anyone else has ever done [as per our frequent criticisms of mega churches and/or successful churches]. we become so caught up in our own brand [which, if we're honest, is still mostly defined by our reactions against the brand of our precedents] that anything that looks/smells like success must somehow be "inauthentic" because we didn't think/dream of it first. this, i think is a very hard truth for us to reconcile with because so many of us have been hurt by the ecclesial machine of american christianity; but, we must repent of this alienation and recognize that much we identify as "authentic" is truly only pride and resentment.

my final notice of our use of authenticity, though, bears the title of this post - 'fauxthenticity' - wherein we participate in the worst kind of fakery by claiming to be authentic with one another but still not really caring about each other. in this scenario, we observe people who are highly familiarized with the concept of "authenticity" and have - ironically - become desensitized to it; so, we use the concept as a frame and a justification for our words and deeds, but have actually stopped engaging the spirit of god and the people around us. we've become fake.

in fact, much of what we [in the emerging/progressional/experimental/lab church] do feels increasingly fake.

we have our own pet publishers
our own conferences
our own blogosphere

and there feels like less and less room for outside influence to penetrate our world

perhaps we've spent so much time defending ourselves against fundamentalists and self-relfecting apologists that we've stopped innovating?

perhaps, in our sincere efforts to be more than just a brand, we've lost the essence of what made us special?

there seems little enough published about interdisciplinary mediums
less about innovations in ministry perspectives/forums/models/rubrics [and, yes, i know model can often be counterfeit measures of spiritual effectiveness, but models are neither wholly good nor wholly bad and criticizing a system/structure/model for being flawed in-and-of-itself ultimately produces the great dual fruits of uselessness and superiority]

to all this i suggest we add to our working vocabulary words like truth and rightness [with all french literary deconstructionist tendencies invoked, nonetheless] and, more importantly, that we add verve, enthusiasm, creative capital, and passion back into our repetoire.

we've become staid academics and rote defenders of an orthopraxy we're no longer reinventing.

sorry for the rant

i'm just being authentic :)

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