I have a confession: I kind of like Twitter. Despite the dumpster fire that rages is several corners of Twitter there are also some really good parts. One of my favorites is local news. I follow several local news outlets, and when I lived in Massachusetts and South Carolina, it always made me feel a little less homesick to read about what was going on in the Bluegrass.
Yesterday, however, I was browsing through the local news and I saw that a local pizza place, Goodfella’s, was given a “0.0” by Barstool Sports (I promise this comes around to Jesus). I had actually never heard of Barstool Sports or their pizza ratings until last week when they rated Pies & Pints. Now I’m someone who tends to believe that the only bad slice of pizza is the one I’m not eating, but I am interested in what others think of our local pies, so I clicked on the article to see what was so bad.
Suffice it to say, it was 99% drama and 1% pizza. What was shocking to me, and why I’m writing about it, is that the response was embarrassing. Hate calls to Goodfella’s, Google and Yelp reviews that we intentionally bad to ruin their rating, and locals circling the wagons to protect their beloved pizza. And all for what? Nothing really. A D-list celebrity gets offended and some ones and zeros get changed in a few computer servers and we need to make hate calls? Then it occurred to me that this isn’t about pizza, it’s about how we relate to one another.
I’ve recently read Paul’s letter to Philemon, and I was fascinated to read this: “Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me.” The short version of the story is that Philemon sent Paul one of his slaves, Onesimus, to care for him in prison, and now Paul is sending the slave back, asking Philemon to free him. The story is not just about freeing a slave, but also about how we see one another.
The line about being useless and becoming useful caught my attention because it reveals something about how relate to one another, particularly in the digital age. So frequently we instrumentalize one another, we treat one another as tools to be used for our benefit. Barstool Sports instrumentalized its fans against Goodfella’s; Goodfella’s rallies their fans around them as insulation against Barstool Sports. And both are monetizing these feelings for their own benefit. This is a rather large example, but how often do we ourselves instrumentalize others for our own benefit? How often do we only see others as only useful or useless to us?
Paul makes the point that Philemon needs to change his view of Onesimus from this useless/useful dichotomy; he needs to see Onesimus as his beloved brother in Christ. We too are called to change our view of how the world can either be useful or useless. We are called to love one another as Christ loved us, as sisters and brothers. We are called to pick up our cross on behalf of the world, not to lay our crosses on others. We are called steward the creation, not exploit it for every resource we can and leave it an empty husk.
How will we let God open our eyes this week to see ourselves, our community, and our creation not in instrumental terms, not in the useful/useless dichotomy, but as integral parts of one another? How will we love one another?