Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Phantom Price of Authenticity

There can be a very real, tangible price for choosing to be authentic. But what often goes unexplored is the phantom price, the price we pay when we let our perceived opinions of others limit the person we allow ourselves to be. The phantom price exists only in our minds. Yet its impact can be very real indeed.

The past two months have been my busiest and boldest yet since choosing to act upon my own authenticity. Besides speaking at three conferences in October, I also started my new Blog Talk Radio show "The Frontier Beyond Fear".

It is indeed the radio show that has brought me face to face with my own lingering phantoms related to authenticity. The pilot episodes were unflinching and straight from the heart and conscience, basically an experiment in thinking out loud live on the air, all while becoming adept at various logistical details.

In retrospect, the monologues that resulted may have the appearance of being somewhat narcissistic, but I realized that the only way to get the hang of talking live online is to do just that - talk live online.

Even so, I do look forward to interviewing a wide range of guests in the shows to come, in an open and honest format exemplified by the most recent show A Discussion with Su Elliott, organizer of Portland Christians with Questions. Su's group in Portland, Oregon unabashedly takes on questions conservative Christians are often afraid to ask in church, questions such as whether they truly do believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. I know from experience that such doubts can cause intense silent anguish, and Su has created a safe setting where they can be explored, free from judgment.

The recent election pushed me very hard to stand in my own authenticity with regards to openly stating how I feel about the Tea Party movement's dangerous dance with theocracy. For a movement which claims to be all about individual freedom, it is highly ironic that these freedoms only go so far when you closely examine some of its most passionate agendas, constrained within very particular dictates of conservative theology.

Or could it be that a significant portion of the movement isn't exactly about freedom after all? This is what it means when people say they want to re-establish what they think has always been a theocracy - a "Christian nation". What many in the Tea Party have apparently failed to see is that freedom of religion in this country has produced precisely that: freedom of religion - indeed a wide diversity of religious and spiritual faiths, including a wide diversity of opinion on what personal liberty actually does convey. Assuming just one particular faith should be paramount in determining restrictions related to the choices of women or the marriages recognized by the state, for example, while still claiming to be all about individual liberty, is a highly inconsistent message.

Then to top it off, I have started reading a book called "Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement" by Kathryn Joyce. I am only a little way through the book, and I already find it to be addressing the rawest of topics of the utmost importance, topics also related to my own authenticity in choosing to speak, topics that too often people are afraid to talk about at all.

In the most extreme of cases presented in just the very early pages of Kathryn Joyce's book, we are told of women and young girls essentially taught to be slaves, being told that they must "die to themselves" and serve the men in their homes, calling their fathers and eventually their husbands "Lord".

Freedom of religion is paramount in this country, but is the freedom to completely brainwash and enslave someone from birth included? It's a very challenging question. People are afraid to even talk about such things. It's much easier to talk about abuses happening in other parts of the world, instead of looking at what is occurring right before our eyes.

So-called "complementariasm" and other kinder, gentler versions of justifying the diminishment of women using the Bible will never get a free pass from me again, at least when it comes to the expression to my own opinions on the matter. At its best, it is feeding an outdated, disempowering form of indoctrination to young girls (and boys). These views are not just isolated to a particular group either, not if they have an agenda to pass legislation regarding the rights and choices of women.

At its worse, what appears to be the indoctrination and outright enslavement of some (if not all) Quiverfull young women, many never taught to know any better, may very well be a civil rights violation, indeed a human rights violation, and I really don't think that should be ignored, with hardly even a word of criticism. I sometimes think that many today are so very cautious and politically correct, they would have remained silent even in the midst of slavery in the South, so as not to offend or infringe upon the religious choices of the slave owners. Slavery back in those days was justified using the Bible too.

Considering all of this has led me to ponder some very challenging questions related to my own faith in the dawn of a New Age. I can only hope that as Consciousness expands, people will simply come to realize that the subjugation and diminishment of women is an ancient tradition that must come to an end. That's what an expanded Consciousness delivers after all. Enlightenment doesn't force its way on anyone. One day you simply wake up astonished that you ever could have believed anything less, and the old beliefs fade away.

I felt this way on the day I looked back in true horror on how I could ever have even entertained the notion of a fiery (or even non-fiery) hell. More and more people are awakening to the truly unconditional Love of our Creator, a Creator who values men, women and people of all cultures and religions equally, with no one sex or creed placed in absolute authority over anyone else, and that is where I place my faith.

But we must never allow ourselves in the midst of political correctness to suggest that what we all believe will not be shifted by the transformation of Consciousness taking place on this planet. I believe that a day will come when any belief based in fear or disempowerment simply will no longer make sense, not to anyone. Only the unconditional Love will remain. There will be no loss on that day, not even the need to persuade, only astonishment, acceptance and Joy. We will simply Know.

I have to say that I was encouraged by a Glenn Beck program I happened to catch one day where he talked about "I AM that I AM" as the name of God and then applied that to each and every one of us. Amazingly reminiscent of a standard "New Age exercise", Glenn proceeded to write the words "I AM" on his chalkboard, followed by a blank. Then he filled that blank with several positive affirmations, all affirming positive qualities of human individuals. It is this sort of thing that demonstrates how Consciousness is indeed expanding in the most subtle of ways.

But until that day when we are certain the quantum leap in Consciousness has taken full effect, the only way many of us can continue to share what we believe is by authentically expressing who we are and what we feel. The sharing of information is another way to gently shift Consciousness. The judgment of others who believe otherwise, whether phantom judgment or real, cannot deter us. For me, my own choice to be authentic is an expression of pure conscience and Love. Love is the most powerful force in the Universe, and when you choose to stand in the Empowerment of Love, you can never go astray.