The prompt today was: What are your morning rituals? What does the first hour of your morning look like? I wake up fast and get out of bed before I can begin to think about staying in my cozy warm bed. Then, I feed 2 guinea pigs and a rabbit, maybe eat something, and am at the gym in an hour. I don’t believe in motivation. In fact, I can’t exactly say if I want to do any of this anymore, these decisions were made years ago, now it’s simply who I am & what I do.

Now. Today, we’ll talk about Michael Jackson. Sort of. Do Michael Jackson songs sound different since we know how he conducted his personal life? Does the Cosby Show have the same appeal? Jonathan Majors, the actor who is playing big bad Kang the Conqueror in the MCU, was recently accused of domestic violence – I think the charges have been unfounded and dropped, but if he had been convicted, would we still line up and take the same pleasure in the upcoming movies?

We live in a culture that knows more behind-the-scenes personal information than ever before. When it’s negative personal information, does it matter? Does it factor in our enjoyment of the art? Is Thriller somehow tainted by gross legal charges? If so, why? Should it be that way?

I pastor a faith community, giving sermons every Sunday morning. Does the content suffer if my character is an issue? Is my commentary on the Bible somehow less relevant if my behavior is, um, problematic the rest of the week?

We have all been in situations where works of art have been made by reprehensible people (or people who’ve done reprehensible things). Now what? How do we reconcile that? Do we have to? Does it make a difference if the artist in an NFL player or a politician, if it’s in an arena or a church?

I seek out content in many places, and sometimes the transcript is solid and inspiring, but is much more complex when that same material is given by a flesh and blood human being. If a message about the importance of honesty comes from a wildly disingenuous mouth, well… And if that mouth is mine, you’d have to discern that I clearly don’t believe what I’m saying, and if I don’t believe it, can anyone? Should anyone?

Or maybe that’s too high a bar. Am I expecting perfection from artists? Or am I simply expecting authenticity? Is the problem when Bill Cosby is committing rapes in private AND publicly moralizing? And do the mega church pastors bother us because they’re hypocritically hiding their faults and missteps behind masks of self-righteousness and purity? Maybe our bar is actually embarrassingly low: don’t lie and don’t pretend.

I’ve been asking you all of these questions because I often ask me the same ones, but the truth is none of them matter. Maybe it’s not ok, maybe we shouldn’t, but we do. Maybe our expectations are too high,but they’re there. Maybe the art and artist should be taken separately, but they’re not. Whether we want to or not, whether it’s conscious or not, what we know creates a dissonance. The external context can unintentionally build walls and obstacles. The message is harder to hear from among the deafening noise the artist brings in the baggage of his/her life.

I said none of these questions matter, but that’s not entirely true. They need to be asked. As communicators, we have to acknowledge the potential pitfalls and hidden traps for the receiver. And as an audience, our biases and preconceived notions are things we need to confront. The more attention we pay to destroying any and all inauthenticity will lead to less and less connection interruption. Our images are the biggest, thickest dividers between us and the second the scales fall from our eyes and we see them, we can finally start to knock them down and finally start to really love each other.