"Real" People Make the Best Fiction

As I've mentioned before, my wife and I are hopelessly addicted to "24," the Kiefer Sutherland drama that packs more heart pounding drama than a pacemaker with a turbo gear. A new season of 24 premiered on Sunday and Monday, and Kari and I were settled in our seats at promptly 7:00 to start the 24 hour saga that will fill our Monday nights for the next several weeks. We weren't disappointed.

After watching the Monday night edition, our adrenaline levels were at dangerous levels, so we flipped channels to see if there was something on that would calm our nerves. Believe it or not, we have sixty something channels on our satellite package and couldn't find anything better than "The Bachelor." (which speaks more to the lack of good programming on TV than it does the quality of "The Bachelor)

I've been promising people for a long time that the Reality TV phase is on its last legs, but somehow these shows keep reappearing. And sadly, America still seems to be interested in reality shows ranging in topic from washed up TV celebrities who want to learn to ice skate to desperate singles attempting to win a marriage proposal.

I don't know what the fascination is with Reality TV. Personally, I think of it a lot like I think of a really gory car accident. You know you shouldn't look, and determine to drive by, but at the last second you always sneak a peak.

But there's something fundamental that bothers me about Reality TV: It doesn't picture reality.

Maybe some of you had a budget the size of NBC's, or ABC's millions of dollars behind you when you lined up the fifty girls who wanted to date you so bad they'd quit their jobs and leave everything behind to travel to bite, scratch, and pull-hair over who would get your hand in marriage on national television. I missed out on that bit of reality.

Maybe your first job out of college was one where you worked in a swanky building, got chartered around on a private jet, and pitched your proposals to high-ranking executives of the world's top companies, in hopes that you would impress a boss who has more power than the President of the United States, but who obviously doesn't have the authority to hire a decent hairstylist. But for the vast majority of Americans, that's not reality.

Where am I going? I'll tell you.

Authenticity is one of the things I value most in my life and ministry. I feel that others deserve a pastor who approaches them with an appropriate level of openness and vulnerability, and expect that from others in return. That means being "real" with the people I serve, rather than someone who preaches down to people from a podium set high above them. I'm not talking about guys who feel the need to turn their public speaking opportunities into confession time, but about being a real person who leads a real life trying to do the best he can to bring glory to a real God. After all, if people don't perceive me as a real guy leading a real life, why should they perceive the God I speak about as being real?

But television is attempting to redefine authenticity. The conversations with "The Bachelor" are supposed to reveal him as a "real" guy who's having a difficult time choosing between fifty of the hottest girls on the planet. We're supposed to feel for him. He has a tough task ahead of him.

Who are we trying to kid?

That guy's not real. He's not revealing his innermost thoughts. On national television? Yeah right. The rare parts of the show that are not scripted are still a part of the game. "Authentic" comments are calculated; guarded. There's not an ounce of reality there, but we're supposed to think there is.

We're supposed to identify with the reality that television is creating - a reality in which "authenticity" is just a part of the game.

That's scary. When authenticity because a part of the game, it's no longer authenticity. When we become self-revalatory because of where it will get us, we're denying who we really are: selfish, self-absorbed, insecure manipulators who will pretend to be "real" to enhance the charade. And that type of authenticity, frankly, is conceived in the pits of hell.


Johnathan Makovicka said...

Well, I could have said it as good as you but hey, why try to compete right?