Friends for Rent
Christopher J Wiles
writer | speaker | servant
It used to be that if you wanted to ride the see-saw, you could just ask one of your friends. Thank goodness those days are over. Now we have the convenience of being able to rent a friend.
RentAFriend.com offers up friends for hire with prices ranging from $10 to $150. If you need someone to go to a movie with, go for dinner with or be a wingman on a night out with, you can just search the site and connect with someone who’s willing to do it with you—for a fee.
I haven’t seen the site. Frankly, I’m really curious about who sets the price. I think it would make more sense to do it as an auction, but that’s just me.
Time Magazine observes (rightly, I believe) the inherent absurdity of the whole thing:
While some of the suggested uses for the site do seem pretty practical (having someone show you around town or teach you a skill), many of them seem a bit like a crutch. Has social networking changed real-life interaction to the point where we need to pay someone to be a real-time friend? Is this the next step in social networking fads that continue to kill, you know, being social?
In his popular book, Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam describes what he calls “social capital,” the idea that “social networks have value.” “[S]ocial capital,” Putnam writes, “calls attention to the fact that civic virtue is most powerful when embedded in a dense network of reciprocal social relations. A society of many virtuous but isolated individuals is not necessarily rich in social capital. (p. 18)”
Basically, what it all means is this: our quests for individualism and self-esteem has only led to a profound sense of isolation, a state that author Douglas Coupland refers to as a “cult of aloneness.” The end result is a society where friends may be requested, added and even (apparently) rented, but deep relational connections are few and far between.
The friend-rental site already has 200,000 members, and climbing. Clearly there’s something to this. The good news here is that the church can provide opportunities for deep social connections, both within generational boundaries and without.
Though I suppose I should warn all my friends out there:
I’m billing you all retroactively.
Christopher J Wiles
writer | speaker | servant
Chris is a writer and speaker from the Charlottesville area. He regularly serves as a research writer for Docent Research Group in addition to doing some guest speaking.
Human beings, as we’ve just noted, bear God’s image. We “take after” God, so to speak—much as we might say that a child “takes after” his earthly father. It means that we share with God some aspect of his character, his nature, even his gifts. In the immediate context of Genesis, this means two things. Because man bears the image of a Creator, we share in his capacity for creativity. And because we bear the image of God’s divine community (Father, Son, and Spirit), we share in his capacity for relationship.
Or perhaps “capacity” is too clinical a term for such elemental gifts. For these qualities are indeed divine gifts, just as human language likewise has its origin in God himself. In his recent work on the clarity of Scripture, Mark Thompson notes that “God is himself the source of human language. He is the first speaker and invests language with a deep significance for generation and nourishing personal relationships.”
If language is a divine gift, writing becomes a liturgical practice. It is through language that the human needs for creativity and relationship are brought together. Surely writing is not the only means of human communication, but there is a uniqueness to the craft that cannot be so easily snuffed out by a so-called “post-literate” world. When we write, we write to engage the world—or at least our small corner of it. We write in order to hone our God-given skills of creativity and make a meaningful contribution to humanity’s collective imagination. We write because it’s in our blood, in our hands, in our soul.
Christianity says that God’s Word shaped God’s original creation, but God’s Word likewise takes prominence in God’s new creation. “In the beginning was the Word,” John tells us—cribbing lines from the opening pages of Genesis. The Word of God, once confined to the page now takes on human flesh in the person of Jesus. Christianity calls this the incarnation, meaning that in Jesus God literally became a human being to walk among us, to share life with us, and to give his life that we might live.
Writing is part of the way we engage and share the gospel narrative. Writing is therefore an incarnational practice, a means by which the story of God is translated into the various languages of human culture.
Living the gospel narrative means not only “take and read” but also “write and give.” Every voice is different. Every voice matters.