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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Authenticity and Integrity

The second value of our community that we discerned together came about in a rather unique way. Our two tables, mutually cooperating and in friendly competition, came up with almost an unanimous selection: authenticity for one group, integrity for the other. They are, of course, two sides of the same coin. Whether you prefer to describe the value as "authenticity" or "integrity" probably has to do more about when you were in second grade than anything else. However, for Prairie Table, the value carries a lot of meaning...

Authenticity is more of an active verb, a word you can do something with and actually do. You can "authenticate" something (I'm reading Dan Brown's Angels and Demons again in preparation for the movie coming out soon. There's lots of authenticating going on there.) When you authenticate someone or something you are trying to establish its genuineness, its trustworthiness. Authenticity is the activity of being genuine and trustworthy. For those of you who have been in second grade in the last 30 years or so, you recongize this as THE most important value we have ever been taught. (I did 2nd grade in 1970!!) No matter who you were, you had to be genuine, had to be "true," had to be authentic. Not surprisingly then, authenticity becomes a prime value for the younger folks at Prairie Table.

However, at Prairie Table we also have a few folks that went to second grade even earlier in the 20th Century...now those teachers taught the same value, but they called it "integrity." Integrity is a characteristic, and as such it is a bit more passive and quiet about its trustworthiness and genuineness than authenticity, but it gets at the same thing: what makes someone honest? Genuine? Trustworthy?

In terms of God this becomes quite an interesting dichotomy...Jesus is "the real thing" (to borrow a 70s slogan of authenticity), while for others he is the embodiment of the way to God (that is, he has integrity, to borrow from the 1940s theology of Karl Barth)...and in each case Jesus is the trustworthy friend (integrity) or guide (authenticity) to life with God and God's creation...Now you can begin to see why this value is so important to us at Prairie Table...

It not only functions as a prime sociological value (we pretty much assume everyone is going to be honest in their sharing...except for my constant jokes...such as they are...), but authenticity and integrity are prime theological values we hold for God. So we worship God because we see God as the authentic one or as the one with integrity...but in each case God is the one who is trustworthy, genuine, "true" for all of us...and we hold to that value so that we too might receive the benefits of such a life...and note this: we don't receive the value because we hold to it, or even because we want it...we receive authenticity and integrity because it is given to us by a God who is authentic and the very body, crucified as it is, of integrity...

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