The word authenticity has come up in a variety of situations lately in my life and from a variety of people. Everyone has offered that authenticity is a good thing. But how does one really measure it? Is it as simple as biting a coin to see if it's a softer and more valuable metal, such as gold?
One of my friends is a secular humanist and a practicing homosexual. He can sense when someone is being fake and he dislikes it when gays are "affected" per se, with the predictable and dramatically exaggerated "gay gestures" and cues. He is extremely passionate about the Trayvon Martin case and seeing "justice" enforced against George Zimmerman, who he is adamantly certain is guilty of murder. What's ironic is that my friend is passionate about justice in this case while at the same time he believes that morality is completely relative with no objective basis whatsoever.
I can see that my friend deeply empathizes with Trayvon's family and friends and how love in this sense plays a strong role in my friend's sense of authentic purpose. I believe we all have a deep sense that we are supposed to love other people and empathize with others. This is one of the highest aspects of the human condition.
But, nevertheless, if there is no objective basis for morality and "no actual right and wrong" as my friend basically puts it, then there does not seem to be a logical touchstone for my friend's critique of affected gay behavior, the outcome of the Martin Zimmerman case, or even a basis for having strong empathy for others.
If there is a true and valid sense of authenticity, then what is it based upon?
According to my friend's views, authenticity is being true to your own feelings. But what if your feelings are misguided? What if a person's feelings do not coincide with true circumstances? Obviously, different people have strong feelings for both George Zimmerman and his family and for Trayvon Martin and his family. Can both sides really be authentic and true? Well, both sides can be true to their own feelings, but, nonetheless, there is a very strong sense from both sides that an objective and just answer to the case does exist and the opinion of both sides cannot be just and valid at the same time. Remember the logical law of non-contradiction? "...contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time, e.g. the two propositions "A is B" and "A is not B" are mutually exclusive."
Passionate feelings alone do not offer a valid basis of authenticity.
Another friend of mine, who is a Christian, has offered that authenticity is more important than being right or wrong in most circumstances. For example, a hypothetical judge and jury may not know all he factual details of the Zimmerman case and may show respect and feel empathy for all concerned so, as my friend believes, it does not matter so much if the verdict of the judge and jury is just or unjust. All that matters is that the judge and jury acted in accordance with the guidance of conscience based upon the information they had. In this friend's case, authenticity could be summarized as follows:
Authenticity is based on doing the best we can with what we have and what we know right now.
So far, I would tend to lean more towards the second opinion. There is an objective basis of right and wrong, but we can only do the best we can with what we know. But there is a third point to consider. Consider the fact that our world view will greatly influence "what we know" about truth, love and justice. A person with an evangelical Christian background would agree that the sin nature influences our thoughts and actions. A major difference between the Christian and the secularist is that the secularist most likely believes that sinful impulses are a part of "who we are" as people. The Christian would likely offer that there are three aspects of human existence: the body, soul and spirit.
"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 5:23, NIV).
True authenticity is based on accepting who we are as people. But each worldview offers a different definition of who we are and what we are made of.
of people. All of the people agree that authenticity is a good thing. And all have a different understanding of what authenticity is based on. I'd like to offer that there are different ways to gauge authenticity and that only one person in history has been truly authentic always, that is, Jesus Christ.
There are different views of what constitutes human existence. Which view is likely true? The most common secular atheist view is that humans are only material beings who are gradually evolving and, for the most part, improving as we learn and adapt. However, if people are indeed improving and becoming socially improved, then why does it seem that corruption continues on as usual as history moves forward? Why is it that the most educated people seem to be guilty of enacting the most effective forms of killing and theft today? Without a touchstone of truth there is no basis for evaluating a person's sense of authenticity. It seems that Jesus Christ lived the most righteous, transparent and authentic life of anyone on Earth. Yet most secularists cringe at the thought of admiring him. Why is this? The scriptures offer and answer:
"And this is the
condemnation: that Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness
rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3.19 NIV)
People have taken on the symbolic gesture of biting into coins to symbolize a test of authenticity. Jesus was tested on all points and found to be not guilty of breaking God's will. They had to use fake charges and fake testimonies in order to judge him and execute him. In his willingness to live for spiritual purposes, Jesus not only affirmed the superiority of spiritual life over physical life, he made it possible for us to experience this eternal spiritual life by having faith in him and following him. No amount of worldly riches or worldly friends can compare with Christ's riches and Christ's friendship.
True authenticity is based upon a desire to live a transparent life wherein the inner life corresponds with outer actions within a framework of moral truth.