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Monday, July 1, 2019

Looking for Real Authenticity with Mark Galli

Looking for Real Authenticity

“This above all: to thine own self be true.” Thus says Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It has become our culture’s “life verse,” though we usually talk about it in terms of authenticity.
Authenticity is one of the most valued characteristics in our society. As children we are taught to just "be ourselves", and as adults we can choose from a large number of self-help books that will tell us how important it is to get in touch with our "real self". It's taken as a given by everyone that authenticity is a real thing and that it is worth cultivating.
When comes to figuring out our “real self,” things get complicated, as research shows:
While people spend so much time searching for their real self, the stark reality is that all of the aspects of your mind are part of you. It's virtually impossible to think of any intentional behavior that does not reflect some genuine part of your psychological make-up, whether it's your dispositions, attitudes, values, or goals.
One of the saddest consequences of our culture’s search for the holy grail of the authentic self is how it destroys families, among other relationships. Note this piece on CNN, “I Was Married with 2 Kids when I realized I’m gay.”
This is one reason our culture is, as this article in City Journal puts it: “Alone: The decline of the family has unleashed an epidemic of loneliness.”
It is one of the great paradoxes of the Christian narrative that only the one who gives up the self will be able to find it (Mark 8:35).
A Couple of Elusive Presences
This week’s title in my ongoing series is “The Church’s Sickness Unto Death: Our missional activism threatens to kill us. It doesn’t have to.” This completes this series on the church, which has been a series within a series.
Another piece on the CT website of special interest is “The Bonhoeffer That History Overlooked: In 1946 a man named Ernst Lohmeyer disappeared from East Germany. It took me three decades to piece together his story.” James Edwards summarizes his book, Between the Swastika and the Sickle, the search for this New Testament theologian who opposed Nazi ideology and its fanatical anti-Semitism.
Summer Reading Redux
My book recommendation for the week is Love in the Ruins: Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World, by Walker Percy. He was a National Book Award winner back in the day (1962, for The Moviegoer). As the subtitle suggests, this book has religious themes woven through it. Like this passage, after the profligate, alcoholic narrator, a psychiatrist, has made a pass at a nurse:
Later, lust gave way to sorrow and I prayed, arms stretched out like a Mexican, tears streaming down my face. Dear God, I can see it now, why I can’t I see it at other times, that it is you I love in the beauty of the world and in all the lovely girls and dear good friends, and it is pilgrims we are, wayfarers on a journey, and not pigs, nor angels. Why can I not be merry and loving like my ancestor, a gentle and pure-hearted knight of our Lady and our blessed Lord and Savior? Pray for me, Sir Thomas More. Etcetera, Etcetera. A regular Walpurgis night of witches, devils, pitchforks, thorns in the flesh, and unkneed girl-thighs. Followed by contrition and clear sight. Followed, of course, by old friend morning terror.
Here is the summary of the novel at Wikipedia:
It follows its main character, Dr. Thomas More, namesake and descendant of Sir Thomas More (author of Utopia), a psychiatrist in a small town in Louisiana called Paradise. Over time, the U.S. has become progressively more fragmented between left and right, black and white, as social trends of the 1960s run to their logical extremes. Society begins to come apart at the seams, and no one except More seems to notice, and no one, including him, seems particularly to care. More, a lapsed Catholic, alcoholic, and womanizer, invents a device that he names the Ontological Lapsometer, which can diagnose and treat the harmful mental states at the root of society's slow disintegration. However, in the wrong hands, the device can also exacerbate the problems, and a government representative, intent on getting More a Nobel Prize, seeks to put it to his own uses while More attempts to prevent a disaster.
Grace and peace,

Mark GalliMark Galli
Mark Galli
Editor-in-Chief, Christianity Today

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