Disney's Mulan, originally released in 1998, is the story of a girl caught between serving her family and her country. In order to save her elderly father from conscription, she disguises herself as a man and takes his place in the Chinese military. What ensues ends up making Mulan a great Chinese heroine.
Authenticity is one theme amongst several that underpin Mulan. She is fighting to be true to her family, her country, and herself, all while necessarily disguising who she truly is. The movie ends with a musical number titled, "True to Your Heart," which results in this message being the final takeaway as the movie comes to a close.
That was nearly 20 years ago, yet the theme remains a strong one today. Our culture seeks and affirms authenticity.
Food and Facebook
Authenticity is an undertone of our modern food movements. Yes, we are health-conscious, but there is something more authentic to eating a tomato grown at a local farm. It seems closer to what nature --- and more specifically God --- intended in Creation. It feeds our desire for being real, home-grown individuals rather than manufactured, artificially-induced, and marketed goods like so many super-market products.
It is also a driving factor in social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat give us the space and freedom to express and create our authentic selves like never before for the world to see. Beyond that, they allow us to screen out those things that do not mesh with our individuality. If my authentic self cannot tolerate hateful bigotry, then I will simply "block" or "unfollow" the perpetrators.
This is to make no mention of the role of authenticity in the current political landscape. For instance, Donald Trump's success is in part due to his "authenticity", even if sometimes it is brutishly so. Another example are all the debates surrounding bathrooms and gender. Our culture seeks and affirms authenticity.
Is it Good?
What does our desire for authenticity reveal to us about ourselves?
It shows us that we care about honesty and integrity. Whether the culture at large and individuals in particular accept or reject God ---the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ--- our cravings for authenticity and the honesty it implies are evidence of God's handiwork within us.
We have been created for truth, not for lies. The bitterness of lies and deceit will never satisfy our desire for the sweetness of truth.
Yet, if we trust the Word of God, we know that our hearts are bent towards bitterness. We lie and deceive others and ourselves in order to establish ourselves as gods, as arbiters of right and wrong, when God alone holds this authority.
How do our beliefs shape our authenticity? What does it mean to live authentically and how does the gospel shape that meaning?