Working things out: Authentic or too Self Aware?

Something I'm trying to process and have been discussing with my friend, Bo: is it possible to be "authentic" and genuine in our intentions when we're fully self-aware of what we're doing? I think the self-examined life is the only life, but the practical results of being self aware AND experimental or exploratory in matters of faith seems a sort of detached "wink-wink-nudge-nudge-look-at-me-I'm-Donald-Miller-and-I'm-not-aware-of-my-unspoken-inferences-but-really-I-am" coolness that is far too self-obsessed for its own good.

As am I.

But that's my frustration with Emergent. It's WAY too into itself as it tries to incorporate the ambiance and liturgies of Orthodoxy without BEING Orthodox. That's one of my professor's points that's really stuck with me: "Christians are way too concerned with being relevant."

But if I join a so-called "Orthodox" church, aren't I just playing the same Emergent-hipster game in a different way? Aren't I winking and self-conscious about that decision?

And can anyone with an existential/postmodern worldview really, genuinely participate in Orthodoxy without that detached "awareness" undermining the whole process?

All right, I'm starting to write in circles. Not sure if this makes sense...

14 comments:

Irritable said...

It makes lucid sense, Peter. But I am loathe to simply conflate self-awareness and narcissism. (And actually, narcissism as a personality disorder is decidedly not self-aware, at least of the pathology, but that's a different story). Genuine self-awareness is not something we can shut off if we think it's getting out of hand. It's too much toothpaste out of the tube.

What we can do, however -- and perhaps some of the emergent types could pay attention here -- is shut the fuck up about it.

Peter said...

Heh heh. I'll take that as good advice ;)

Irritable said...

And I don't mean that to scold you. It's just that the whole self-awareness thing is not going to go away. There'a a naivete that is lost -- or escaped from -- and that's a good thing.

I don't use bad language around my children, although I am not shy about such language in other situations (obviously). Am I being hypocritical by not dropping the f-bomb at the dinner table? Is it "inauthentic" of me to pretend to be pure of speech when I'm not?

Hell no! :) I am authentically when and where to use such language.

By the same token, we can authentically draw upon ancient sources because we find them edifying, or we could authentically choose to join a faith community with a rich history because we believe it to be the right choice.

To affirm otherwise strikes me as unnecessarily confusing authenticity with naivete.

Irritable said...

Correction: "...authentically choosing when and where to use such language."

Erin Wilson said...

I tend to think this is coming at things backward (or perhaps I am the one who comes at things backward). I agree completely that much of Western Christianity is too concerned with being "relevant". So much of what we are to be about is entirely counter-cultural.

So if we start with those things we are called to be... following Jesus in the way of peace-making; ushering in justice; involving our lives with the poor, the widow, and the orphan; loving our neighbour... If we start with these things, we will find ourselves in community, we will be with people it is natural to worship with, and the form that worship takes will not matter very much.

David said...

Just be who you are, Peter. Do the things you're passionate about and feel drawn toward. Don't be afraid to admit when you mess up or struggle with something.

But focusing on being aware of doing the right things, that's just a bad idea. That kind of behavior comes across as smug, almost elitist (in my opinion).

I tried a church out that wasn't an emergent church, but did the kinds of ministries that perhaps might be considered "emergent." I was happy to find this church because they had good relations with the GLBT community.

But what I eventually came to realize is what you describe in your post. There was a sense of self awareness that made it difficult for me to feel comfortable. While I was open about my sexuality and they were kind and welcoming, there was an undercurrent of discomfort.

I encountered this in a small group setting, where it seemed like they were walking on egg shells. The group was studying a book on reaching out to GLBT people and I think perhaps my real life example in front of them was perhaps a little too real. I was aware that they were aware and also that they were trying. I eventually left because I just couldn't take it. I regretted being open.

Be relevant, be authentic, and be yourself. And BTW, those comments above? Wow! WAY over my head. Get your heads out of your butts! Sorry... :-)

David

Irritable said...

I know. That Erin, he's such an egghead.

Erin Wilson said...

lol... except that Erin is a she.

Brent said...

The only thing that comes to my mind is something I've notice about myself and I think it may be the same for others. When I was younger I would want to learn a song on my guitar that had a cool guitar riff or etc. But once I learned it I could know longer listen to the song in amazement. The mystery of it was gone, It no longer had any... I can't think of the perfect word. I could no longer listen to the song without concentrating on the different parts and instruments. I was unable to just enjoy the music and take it in for what it was.

Once I reduce it down to it's parts I made it almost worthless. But even though I broke it down, it doesn't take away from its significance. Just because I understood how it was played did not take its meaning only its mystery.

Don't fear being to self-aware because that will only cause you to think more about it, then leading you to being more aware. Just relax, its all good;)

Peter said...

Irritable, I agree: self-awareness isn't going anywhere. Nor would I truly want to give it up if I could. But I think you agree with me, there are at least complications that come with it.

Erin, I like this: "If we start with these things we will find ourselves in community... and the form that worship takes will not matter very much." And that's at the heart of my initial complaint, I think. That so much of the Emergent conversation has yanked us out of a posture where we are prepared to worship humbly, and in communities organic to our faith.

David, that's such a great example of the sort of thing I'm talking about. We get so into "talking about talking about" things that we don't know how to actually to TO them... or more importantly, LISTEN to them. So all this "awareness" can become unnatural, the elephant in the room that no-one can stop talking about.

Brent! Yes! We agree on something ;) "Once I reduce it down to it's parts I made it almost worthless." The only animals you can observe, dissected, are dead animals. Once they're cut into pieces, they're no longer observable in natural behavior and habitat. So with faith.

Thanks, all! Always blessed and stretched by good conversation.

Peter

Irritable said...

Erin -- my apologies. Probably some latent sexism on my part. For some reason, though I read and typed "Erin," I was thinking "Eric."

Peter -- yes. Complications. And how.

David said...

Great thoughts everyone. And Peter, "communities organic to our faith" really resonates with me. And worshiping humbly, I confess that often I don't. It's more like, "do I fit in with these people?" or "does God really want me here?"

I carry my internal conflicts with me everywhere I go and good friends have told me over & over, "who cares about everyone else? just worship God." I thought they were too good for me to be worshiping God with them.

And talking about talking about? Yeah, Peter, you got it! Sometimes the best way to get past all the analysis is to just get to the "doing" part. Do things with others so you can BE with them and not just think or analyze them all the time. In my opinion, Christianity has always been about being relational. God to us. Us to the rest of the Body.

I've gotten way too wordy!

David

Irritable said...

Gotta watch that wordiness. People might think you have your head up your butt or something...

David said...

Hahaha Good one...

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