Lana Del Ray. I’d vaguely heard of her, but I’d not heard of who she was before she changed her name, that is Lizzy Grant. Lana Del Ray is the new, next big thing on the American music scene, or so it seems. Lizzy Grant is someone who tried to get her musical career to take off, but found she needed a new direction. Nothing new in any of that, and nothing new in the popular music industry in changing one’s name. But what caught me about this story was the vitriol being directed towards this young woman because some were suggesting her whole journey was planned and therefore manufactured. Manufactured talent in the pop business? What ever next?  I’m old enough to remember the Monkees! Not just manufactured but “assembled” according to Wikipedia.

Apparently, according to an article in the Observer, the backlash directed at the singer “reveals a cultural obsession with the ‘authenticity’ that fans, artists and corporations prize above all else.” Maybe I’m cynical – perish the thought – but it seems to me that if corporations value authenticity they do so because it sells! That aside, it seems to me a good thing if there is mileage in authenticity, mileage in being real, in being true to ourselves and others, being true to God for those of us who put a name to that which is beyond us.

There are all sorts of pressures on every one of us to be other than what we truly are, pressures to conform or even pressures to rebel. It takes a considerable sense of purpose and maturity of spirit to be true to oneself, but to do it in a manner that does not hurt others, that allows them space to be real also, is a step further again. Being true to oneself is not mere bloody minded, say what I like and you get what you see bluntness.

Good religion helps us in this process. Bad religion gives us yet another set of pressures to conform to – wearing Sunday best and so on.  The Jesus way, it seems to me, is about recognising the divine spirit within ourselves and within others, for Christians as uniquely exemplified in Jesus, and living in such a way as to let that spirit shine as brightly as possible.

Whether we’re religious or not, whether we are Jesus followers or not, what do we make of the idea of being real and helping others be the same? Often at baptisms I will ask people to promise with me to help create a world that will allow the child or person baptised to be all that God means them to be, to reveal all that divine potential within them. Wouldn’t the world be different if, together, we could make that happen for each other?

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