Tuesday, January 7, 2014

#@$%*! Authentic

"The road to hell is paved with Adverbs." ~ Stephen King

"Substitute [expletive deleted] every time you're inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be." ~ Mark Twain

Writers are obsessed with words. Finding just the right one, or the right combination. Words that paint a picture but resist the tendency to paint with neon colours when more subtle tones would be preferable.

Some words, however, have been mercilessly beaten with pointed sticks in recent years. Their once-rich meanings have been diluted, co-opted, and/or caricatured into completely new connotations.
Authentic/authenticity would be among them.
To be "authentic" used to mean that you were trustworthy; that you weren't two-faced; you were not the kind of person prone to -- as the Mennonites observe with both pith and eloquence -- "Saying me 'yes' but doing me 'no'". In other words, you could be counted on.

In the early 21st century, however, we've done something truly bizarre to a once-meaningful word.

Today, to be truly "authentic" as a Christian, your speech needs to be well-peppered with profanity. You ain't real if you ain't cussin'.

Perhaps you've noticed how people's eyes light up, and they say things like, "You dropped the f-bomb! NOW I can take you seriously as a follower of Jesus!"

What's wrong with this picture?

Actually, this isn't a rant about Christians justifying the use of profanity (well, not entirely, anyway). But I would like to go out on a limb a little bit here, and make an wee observation:
If we think authenticity = cussin', perhaps we need a better definition of "authenticity".
au·then·tic·i·ty [aw-then-tis-i-tee]; noun
1. the quality of being authentic; genuineness
  • au·then·tic [aw-then-tik]; adjective
    1. not false; genuine; real
Jesus seemed to view authenticity much more like the dictionary definition:
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit." (John 1:47)
When I think of people who exemplify authenticity, it has everything to do with their character, their trust-worthiness, their consistency in how they treat others. They are "what you see is what you get" kind of people.

I'm not on a crusade regarding Christians cussin' up a storm -- although I do wonder how Ephesians 5:4 fits -- but I would like to see us have a deeper expectation and understanding of what makes a person truly "authentic".


  1. I've noticed a trend in young worship leaders to be lazy, come unprepared, and as a result deliver a "performance" that's less than they are capable of. They then lean on saying they are being authentic, and open to God's leading.
    It's almost like if they work at something to become good at it, it somehow is no longer authentic. To me, their authenticity is simply an excuse for laziness.
    As much as i agree we must be authentic, I too, am very tired of hearing that word.

  2. I guess you might say they were being "authentically lazy"? :)

    I wonder if this might be something of a push-back in reaction to worship bands that are so professionally polished that they appear to be soul-less karaoke bands rather than worship leaders?

    Even if that's so, I'm with you on NOT equating "authentic" with "lazy/sloppy/unprepared".

    I wonder if "authentic" (as used by Christians) will fit into this year's "Most Annoying Words" list, along with Selfie, Twerk, and Hashtag? That would be sad.

    Maybe we should come up with a new way of saying it, before it's too late. :)