Authenticity

I love how Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day uses the F word. 

Billie Joe’s art is expressed with power chords, high energy and powerful lyrics. Writers express their thoughts and heart in words. For either of us to be effective, we must have one key thing in common.

We must be real.

The reason I love Billie Joe’s use of the F word is simple – It is authentic. Its a genuine, passionate expression of his heart and his punk rock roots. Telling Billie to stop using the F word would be like telling Donald Trump to stop saying “money”. Ain’t gonna happen, so why expect it?

I don’t love the F word, but I love the passion and authenticity with which he utters it. It is heartfelt, spoken with abandon and without fear of reprisal. That is how I would like my writing to be. That is how I would like my life to be.

Maybe that’s why I have cried when listening to “Wake Me Up When September Ends” or felt an adrenaline surge with songs like “American Idiot” or “Do You Know the Enemy”. The energy and emotion in the music makes me want to get up and do something. They inspire me to reach higher levels of artistic authenticity. 

Reach

Whether you like Green Day or not, you can’t argue the results – their music has touched millions. Some may be put off by their controversial lyrics, but in the world of acts that survive on pitch-transformed vocals and elaborate dance productions, Green Day stands out. Nothing fancy here, just raw expression. 

Green Day have stood by authenticity as a core value. In an industry where the norm is to lip-synch at awards shows, they insisted on playing live at the VMAs (the first to do so). Faking it is unacceptable. With that commitment comes a freedom that other artists don’t enjoy. 

When you don’t care what people think, you can take more risks and touch people in new ways. For example, Broadway is the last place you would look for a punk rocker, but Billie Joe Armstrong endorsed and even appeared on Broadway in the play “American Idiot the Musical“. He has done independent projects with artists as diverse as Norah Jones (the Foreverly album). He isn’t afraid to try something new. He isn’t afraid to expose his heart in new ways.

Fear Unplugs Love

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear…” – 1 John 4:18 (NET)

What can we learn from Green Day? We can learn that fear separates us. Fear causes us to live “in a box” and not take risks. Love and freedom go together. Fear and freedom do not.

Freedom lets a punk rock star appear on Broadway. Freedom lets a Christian family invite a tattooed rocker over for dinner. Freedom doesn’t freak out when said rocker comments about “the great F***ing lasagna” you made. 

Freedom allows you to love people where they are just as God loves us where we are – so desperately far from His perfection.

Jesus attracted those who were different from him. He reached those from different cultures (or subcultures). He loved them. He was criticized for it by “the establishment”. He told the establishment that they were a “brood of vipers”.

He chose love of the least over approval of the most.

A Change

Jesus said it this way: “If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different than anyone else? Do not even pagans do that?” (Matthew 5:47 NLT). To be honest, I have totally sucked at this, but God is opening my eyes. 

If you are a “non-Christian” reading this, I want to thank you for your patience and grace with “church people” who are supposed to be clear examples of God’s love for you. We have generally done a lousy job of it. 

If you are a Christian reading this, you probably know in your heart that the church has blown it when it comes to authenticity. We have lost credibility because we have failed to be real. We have marketed an image of “perfection”, whether intentionally or not. We have erected social and economic barriers that keep people out. We have implied in our messaging and imagery that the people who need Jesus the most aren’t good enough to “join our club”.

To be fair, is that true of every church or every Christian? No, it isn’t. But it has been true with enough of them to give Jesus a huge PR problem in North America. 

We have mis-represented Him and failed to communicate His love, but there is hope. 

The hope is that most of us have a heart for connecting people with God. Like me, you remember being “on the outside”. As a teen, I used to sit in the church parking lot during Sunday school listening to Black Sabbath. Black freakin’ Sabbath in the church parking lot! I was the kid who was far from being spiritually “on track”. 

God loved me anyway. He loves you. He loves Billie Joe Armstrong. He loves Green Day fans. If you draw breath and are able to read these words, there is hope for you. Whatever stupid things you’ve done, there is forgiveness. Wherever we have failed to love, there is another chance.

You are good enough for God. Live free.

Jeff McKinney
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Jeff McKinney

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Jeff McKinney
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