Christian Authenticity

what is the truth?photo © 2005 marya | more info (via: Wylio)
[dc]I[/dc] think it was my friend Karen who turned me on to Jamie’s writing. I was hooked by the title of her blog:

Jamie – The Very Worst Missionary

She lives in Costa Rica as a missionary. What I like about Jamie is she is very authentic – she talks about her very unreligious thoughts, her family fights, and her struggles, both temporal and spiritual. On twitter a while back she was talking about her urinary tract infection.

Most religious professionals act as if they never get urinary tract infections. Or, in fact, ever urinate.

For instance, here is Rick Warren’s twitter feed:

This feed could be a bot. There is nothing here to indicate a real person is running it. It is promotional material, recycled Bible verses and “How Great I Art” messages.

Here is John Piper’s:

Same thing.

You don’t get the feeling that either of these guys ever had a bad thought, ever had any problems, and ever ate a bad lunch, even. Can you imagine either of them ever talking on the internet about a fight with their spouse?

I am not criticizing these two people, specifically. They are just two very public evangelicals that a lot of people listen to. Rather, it is indicative of the larger trend: Lack of authenticity.

I get criticized from Christians for being “negative”. Non-Christians praise me for being honest and transparent.

The Buddha said, some 500 years before Christ, that life is suffering.

Christian leaders: The people who look up to you, who you claim to care about – they experience this suffering. They have lost jobs, they have sick family members, they have work related stress, and they are tired single parents.

They don’t need your recycled Bible verses and tired clichés. They surely do not need to know how great your life is.

They need hope. They need to know they are not alone. They need to know that life is hard, but it can be overcome.

We Christians profess to know something about that.

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  • Reply

    Amen and amen! (To your original post, not the immediately preceding comment…just want to clarify that.)

  • anonymous

    I don’t get what you’re implying here. Rick Warren and John Piper, and any other pastor for that matter should not feel like they have to talk about bad things that happen in their lives in order to be able to relate to people that have issues going on. Sometimes, it does feel nice to be able to see a positive, uplifting message when I’m having a bad day. It’s nice to know that even if I am upset that God can turn it all around. Also, I don’t think that those pastors have to rely on “twitter” or “facebook” to get their messages across. Maybe they are simply sending an occasional Bible verse or an uplifting message?

  • Ben Pavan

    Wow! I know Jamie and her family personally, what you said about her is right on! She is very authentic, personable, likeable, readable, and all of the rest of
    “ables” you can think of. Maybe a little harsh about Pastor Warren, but that’s ok, I forgive you.

  • Reply

    In John Piper’s case I think his inauthenticity is mainly because of his general dislike of twitter – her explains his twitter philosophy here:

    I think it is a shame he isn’t more authentic – in our culture words without authenticity can do more harm than good. Twitter is no different from any other kind of communication – it should be genuine, two-way, and be between real people, not a monologue of abstract “truths”.

  • Scott

    Well said! Very well said!

  • Josh

    Of course, John Piper has talked publicly and repeatedly about his shortcomings as a husband and father, so it seems incorrect to cite him as inauthentic. Before and after his recent sabbatical, he referenced his need to strengthen his marriage and improve his relationships with his sons. He seems to me to be quite an authentic person, unafraid to admit his personal failures, and eager to use them to remind people of the good news that Christ lived the life of perfect holiness and love that we have not not lived, and died the death we should have died so that by faith we can be acquitted of all sin and have his righteousness counted as our own.

  • Zoe

    Completely agree. Way too many people refuse to show the other side of their lives just because they don’t want to seem negative. But by trying to project a false positive image round the clock, they come off as fakes. It’s all inspirations and fluffy clouds all the time. Sometimes you just gotta tweet about the UTI’s and the fights. (And I have, on both counts.) I lose followers all the time for being too abrasive. But every time I ask, “Am I going too far?” the people who still follow me says, “No, you’re doing fine. Keep going.”

    As a transsexual woman and a victim of long-term physical and emotional abuse, I had to get out of the habit of pleasing people and saying what would make them happiest. Now perhaps I sometimes go too far to the opposite extreme. But if someone says they don’t like me because I offended their sensibilities, I would laugh at them and cheerfully ignore them My happiness comes before their entitled need to not be offended.

  • Reply

    This is a completely correct and valid sentiment, but totally unworkable. Most religious professionals all have one, if not several, core characteristics that their parishioners or employers would find unacceptable. The default online posture is one of weaksauce neutrality because people get fired all the time over absurd, non-theological, none-of-anyone’s-business junk. Until congregations can be counted on to not be hysterical reactionaries to the REAL private lives of religious professionals (they have sex! they have political opinions!) this phenomenon won’t change – if anything it will get a lot worse.

  • @RevBug

    The lack of authenticity described stems from crap Christology that may mouth the words ‘Fully Divine & Fully Human’ – but fails to capture the reality (totality) of what those Words signify.

  • Hugh

    @Taylor –

    Thanks for reading! I know just what you mean.

  • Taylor

    Coming from a non-christian, I can completely understand this post. I live with two other “very” christian roommates, and find sometimes that they search or idol themselves after Christians that seem, “bulletproof”. It is just something I never understood.

    I think the object of authenticity is crucial. We all go through high’s and low’s and those that can share with others these events candidly, seem, I don’t know, REAL.

    Thanks for the post!

  • Reply

    Well said Hugh.

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