Your Authentic is Illusory, of Course

nprchurchListening to a radio story this morning, on a church in Denver that prides itself on being diverse and on the social/political edge — one that, predictably, aims to “create an authentic Christian experience without the pretension that can come with church” — it occurred to me just how deeply reductionist, materialist theories of religion have seeped into daily life. For, despite how dangerous these theories are seen to be by some (when they’re applied to their own lives, that is), they’re surprisingly easy for people to draw upon when accounting for other people’s behaviors and institutions.

For example, from the pastor in the story we learn:

“We’ve been given social conventions, we’ve been given basically the Elks club with Eucharist, or we’ve been given a place to gather on Sundays where basically what we hear is same as the platform of the Democratic Party,” she says. “I don’t think the early Christians martyred themselves for either of these things.”

Listen for yourself and see what you think — people in all sorts of settings use social theory to clear the way for the norm they presume and wish to protect.

One thought on “Your Authentic is Illusory, of Course

  1. In the spirit of the times — Christmas — I would like to contextualise the issue: the discourse of authenticity is particularly alive in ecclesial Christian discourse at this time of the year. Especially aimed at somehow finding a true Christian experience underneath the commercial hype that is Christmas. I have to admit that as a young minister I too succumbed to the discourse. However, over the years I have come around to the position that there is no ‘authentic’ to be found somehow beneath, or beyond, the cultural expressions that is Christmas. The commercialised hype is what Christmas is: the fake snow, the ubiquitous red decorations, the shopfest and its over-abundance offered in shops everywhere (and in South Africa, situated as we are in the southern hemisphere, it is doubly inappropriate so to speak — Christmas here is right in the middle of summer, so much of the imagery is out of place to start with). Rather, the lupercalian character of this particular season of the year is the authentic festival. ‘Religion’ is culture.

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