I like old time radio (listening to OTR is one of the few things I do that might in some way constitute a “hobby”). One of my favorite from old time radio is Jack Benny.
Jack (born Benjamin Kubelsky) had a very interesting concept for a show… the Jack Benny Show.
Jack Benny was a real-life comedian with a real-life comedy show. The radio program was about Jack Benny and his friends as they prepare for and to some extent broadcast a radio program. This sounds confusing. It may be easier to recognize that there is a Real Jack Benny and a Fictional Jack Benny. There is a Real Radio Program and a Fictional Radio Program.
The REAL Jack has a REAL Radio Program. That Program has a FICTIONAL Jack (portrayed by the REAL Jack) who has a FICTIONAL Radio Program.
This may be a novel idea… but it is not unique. To a lesser extent, Jerry Seinfeld (REAL Jerry) did a similar thing with the (REAL show) Seinfeld, where the REAL Jerry, a comedian, portrays a comedian, FAKE Jerry, who lives his life and prepares for different comic interviews and gigs (FAKE shows).
The interesting thing about Jack Benny (and to a lesser extent Jerry Seinfeld) is that he created a fake character who was considerably worse than his real self. The fake Jack Benny was miserly, vain, a wee bit effeminate. This character had little to do with the real Jack Benny… known to be a kind and generous person. Some individuals (like Phil Silver’s and his invented character Sgt. Bilko) have less differences.
There is a risk in doing this. At times, people confuse the real and the fake. Lucille Ball’s TV character Lucy Ricardo was played so convincingly that many people assumed that the character was the character of the comic actress. The similarity of name also probably helped in this confusion.
Now in a sense, all of us have this sort of thing. We all have a difference between the “Real Me” and the “Public Me.” One might say the difference between the Person and the Persona. In missions, there is an added one. There are personas for missionaries. One is the persona that the person has locally. The second is the person demonstrated to the supporters back home.
With the increase of social media and international communication, it is harder to separate the two personas. And in the Information age it is even more difficult to separate those personas from one’s actual person. That is probably a good thing for the most part. Christians are supposed to be integrated… having integrity… so there should not be a huge difference between these different facets of one’s being.
That being said, all humans are incredibly incredibly complex. Any public persona will be a mere shadow of one’s entire self. There will be differences. However, unlike Jack Benny, most of us want the public persona (or dual persona) to be considerably better than our private self.
Is it safe for a missionary to admit weaknesses with local partners? Is it okay to admit them to supporters. Is it okay to live REAL?